Name: Robert “Robin” McGraw
Award: Irish Person of the Year
Occupation: Deputy Sheriff, Opiate Task Force
Other Positions: Senior Director of the Donald C. McGraw Foundation, President of Black Rock Foundation
Board Member: Volunteers in Medicine, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Berkshire Healthcare Systems, Hospice Care in the Berkshires, and Mystic Seaport Museum
When Robert L. W. “Robin” McGraw first got the call from Jerry Burke, informing him he’d been selected to receive Hillcrest Educational Foundation’s “Irish Person of the Year” award, he didn’t believe him. “I honestly thought he was kidding,” Robin said.
After Jerry assured him there was no mistake, Robin realized it was an opportunity to acknowledge the hard work the people on his teams do every day for the good of Berkshire County.
“I am incredibly grateful and I feel that in accepting this award, you know I’m a member of several different teams. So every team, everybody that I work with will be represented in me winning this award,” Robin said. “And I’m on some really, really good teams. And to me, the acceptance of this award is really saying thank you to all those teams for what we do. That’s the cool part about it.”
A Family Legacy of Service
Robin’s commitment to community and public service began when he was a child, from his mother’s influence. “I grew up in a family where community service was part of our DNA. We grew up in a family where my mother said you [have a lot] and you need to give back. My mother got us involved in all sorts of things. I grew up in a family of four boys. And it was just a part of how we grew up and what we were expected to do.”
Robin’s mother impressed upon him the importance of making a difference in whichever community he called home. And since returning to the Berkshires in 1990, he’s dedicated himself to the area and the people who live here.
Providing Aid During Emergencies
Robin began his career of giving his time, energy, expertise, and resources as an EMT.
When he moved back to the Berkshires, he immediately joined the Egremont Fire Department as a volunteer. He went on to be a 16-year paramedic, a 20-year captain in the fire department, and a pro ski patroller for 26 years.
These days, he’s a Deputy Sheriff and member of the Opiate Task Force, specifically developing programs for “success upon re-entry.” One creative solution he’s currently working on is an aquaponic greenhouse, which will provide job skills and development, as well as a course around economic development with aquaponics and hydroponics, for the inmates.
“They have to be able to change their story and be involved in something new and different,” Robin says.
“We came up with an idea for how we can help our high-risk, high-needs guys. I enlarged this idea to have this aquaponic growing program. So aquaponic growing is using fish to pull the nutrients into the water. We’ve been building this greenhouse for 2 years…That’s a big thing that will touch a lot of lives in Berkshire County, which will be great.
[A]nd it’s not just the inmates and the former inmates and that’ll be affected. [The greenhouse] will bring the county and the jail closer together in terms of what we do…That food will feed the House of Correction, it will feed homeless shelters, food banks…, and then when we really know what we’re doing we’ll sell some of that food and that money will go back into [fighting] the opioid crisis.”
Robin and his team are trying to draw the community in so they’ll truly understand what the House of Correction does, which is rehabilitate people to help them become active and successful members of Berkshire County.
Robin believes being a first responder is the foundation his volunteerism as an adult was built upon.
Teacher and Coach
While his love of soccer runs deep, Robin believes his primary work with Black Rock Football Club is to teach the players skills that extend far beyond the field.
“A lot of my work wasn’t just about coaching on the field, but about coaching these guys to become better human beings, better citizens, citizens of the 21st century, better men… and better community servants,” he says. “My focus is leadership and talking about, not about what they’re doing on the field, but about what does it means to be a good man? What does it mean to be a leader? Community service is a part of this club. And they benefit from it.”
Philanthropy with Focus
While Robin’s resume boasts an impressive list of boards, projects, and volunteer positions, he’s the first to tell you he can’t be everything to everybody. “I can’t fix everything,” he says.
So he chooses to focus his energy, time, money, expertise, and passions into human services, education, and health care. Whether he’s coaching young athletes on the field or problem-solving in a board meeting, he knows the best way to create change is to stay focused.
“[W]here I try to use my influence is I’m not asking anybody to do anything I wouldn’t do…I’m asking you to stand shoulder to shoulder with me to make this happen. If 20 of us stand shoulder to shoulder together, then what happens? That’s how we’ve been able to get where we’re going.”
Robin is an extraordinary member of the Berkshire community, dedicating his time and resources to the causes he’s passionate about. We at Hillcrest are honored to be presenting him with our “Irish Person of the Year” award.
Please join us in celebrating Robin on March 27, 2019, at our Robert “Bees” Prendergast St. Patrick’s Reception. We’ll enjoy cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres, a full online auction with bidding through text messages, and live music.
RSVP here by March 21, 2019. See you there!