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Resource head truly does it all

By JoAnne Poindexter

Friday, July 13, 2007

If she were in another business, Robyn Dobyns would be a one-woman wrecking crew.

She battles insurance companies, hospitals, doctors’ offices and the
Social Security Administration on behalf of residents of Botetourt

She finds clothes, food, furniture and anything else someone tells
her they need. She handles crises — paying utilities and buying
medicines — and coordinates the food pantry for the Buchanan Area
Ministerial Association, a group of 14 churches.

In the eight years that she has served as the only director — and
employee — of the Botetourt Resource Center, Dobyns has built a
reputable center, said those who work with her. The center was formerly
known as the Buchanan Resource Center.

There are bingo games, step aerobics classes, a new brain fitness
program to improve memory, a free wood program and "the ongoing
recycling of household goods, clothes and appliances," according to
information Dobyns passes out.

The center has become a vital part of Botetourt County, especially
in the Buchanan area, which has a large older population, said Mary Lou
Mullis, the county’s director of social services.

Dobyns "has helped so many; she’s a real champion for the whole
county," said Mullis, who serves on the advisory board for the resource

Dobyns doesn’t focus on any particular segment of the population,
though the majority of the center’s clientele seem to be older
residents with limited income and citizens with mental health issues.

"I do everything," Dobyns said without appearing to boast.

She weeds around the Bedford Street center; mops and cleans the
interior of the building; fields phone calls; picks up day-old food
from the Daleville Kroger store to deliver to residents; and writes
grants, seeking funding for programs at the center.

She has even found a television antenna for one family and sent volunteer J.D. Day to pick it up.

Dobyns recruited Day through a friend at church about four years ago.

Since then, he has replaced house doors, and finished bathrooms and bedroom walls for clients, among other jobs.

"If we can do it, we will get it done. If we can’t, she tries to find a way," Day said of Dobyns.

Day described Dobyns as "energetic and very stern in what she wants
people to do. She doesn’t mind helping out but they have to help

Dobyns, a guitarist and professional singer, also has worked with almost every social service agency in the Roanoke Valley.

But she and others say the center is in dire need of funds to meet
the needs of those who come for assistance and recreational activities.

Dobyns said the center needs more volunteers and more local government and business partnerships.

Several center projects originated with funding through the center’s
connections with the Roanoke Council of Community Services and United
Way. The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors gives the center about
$3,000 a year, which Dobyns said equals about a month’s operating
expenses. And the town of Buchanan leases the building to the center
for free.

Still, Dobyns must raise about $42,000 a year through grants and
donations for operations, maintenance and even her salary. She gets no

One of the biggest problems for lower-income Botetourt residents,
said Dobyns, is transportation to places where they can get assistance.

Annie Linkenhoker, an 82-year-old Buchanan resident with degenerative arthritis, called Dobyns a "miracle worker."

When the wheels didn’t fit her new wheelchair, said Linkenhoker,
Dobyns got on the phone to solve the dilemma and drove to Salem to pick
up the replacements.

Linkenhoker, who hasn’t been out of her home since November, said she also depends on the center for clothing and some food.

Dobyns’ attitude has been "don’t hesitate to call me to see what I might have," said Mullis.

"She is very, very serious and very, very consistent," Mullis added.

"I hurt for these people who are hurting and don’t have resources,
especially in this highly technological age," said Dobyns, 54.

She’s passionate about assisting others but borders on being livid when she sees people being taken advantage of.

"People go silent because they don’t know how to negotiate through the maze," Dobyns said.

By the time she is contacted, she said, "you kind of know there’s
been a mistake or something. I know that at that point, I need to be
their advocate."

 The Roanoke Times

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