Director of Franklin/Hampshire Vocational Services, ServiceNet; Age 34
Shawn Robinson was 12 years old when he walked by a music festival in a park and was recruited into the Berkshire Coalition to Prevent Pregnancy.
At age 15, he wrote an application for and won a grant from the United Way to launch a free Culture Camp for kids that he ran with his peers, and a year later he was named to the Berkshire Coalition board of directors.
Robinson was exposed to people with diverse abilities throughout his youth because his parents worked for the Department of Developmental Services, and clients shared Thanksgiving and overnight stays with them. Those experiences, combined with parental values and his involvement in church, Boy Scouts, youth groups, and two missionary trips to Haiti during high school and college, fueled his passion to help others.
“I’ve always had a deep sense of wanting to make a difference,” he told BusinessWest. “I want to do anything I can to help the community, and often find myself getting involved in things without thinking, although I try to serve on only three boards at a time.”
Robinson and his wife, Jill, are parents to Sofia, 6, and Jake, 3, and he has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County since 2008. He co-founded the Pioneer Valley chapter of Young Democrats, and served as president and was named Massachusetts Young Democrat of the Year in 2010.
In 2011, ServiceNet asked him to develop a program to improve client health outcomes through fresh-air and outdoor work. He spent a year working with a disabled man who lived in a house in Hatfield with plenty of acreage, and they converted the property into Prospect Meadow Farm.
Today, it employs 70 people with developmental disabilities, autism, or brain injuries who raise chickens, sell eggs, manage one of the state’s largest log-grown shiitake-mushroom operations, build and sell wood products, and operate catering and community landscaping services.
Robinson is president of the board of Highland Valley Elder Services and serves on the Ethics Committee at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, the town of Hatfield Finance Committee, the town’s Mental Health Awareness Committee and Council on Aging, and ServiceNet’s Diversity Committee. He has received awards from United Way of Hampshire County and the Mass. Department of Developmental Services. And he’s not slowing down.
“In the next few years,” he said, “I will look at new ways of engaging in the community.”