With seemingly boundless energy, steadfast determination, and the biggest heart in the room, Bruce Robinson has made service to his community more than a full-time job.
Now entering his 7th year as Board Chair at Lowell CHC, he is still finding new ways to care for Lowell.
“I was born at Lowell General,” says Bruce. “I’m about as local as it gets!”
Bruce shares his passion for community health at Lowell CHC’s African Community Celebration.
If you had told a young Bruce Robinson that he would spend nearly his entire adult life in Downtown Lowell, he would have politely shaken his head. He spent his childhood “just down the road” in Chelmsford. His father worked in the Southwell Mills, where he spent many a hot summer day sorting wool in tin sheds.
During those early years, his world felt small, but comfortable. A leader at Chelmsford High, service to his community was always a priority. “I have always wanted to support the area around me,” he says.
But Bruce also dreamed of experiencing a world beyond what he knew. The first in his family to continue his education past High School, he headed to Colby College in Maine after graduation. He didn’t take the opportunity lightly.
Bruce enjoyed every minute of his liberal arts education – and the new worlds and ideas it awakened. After college, he needed a job. Responding to a a blind ad, he ended up working at MetLife in Boston.
“Helping people, that was what drew me in about insurance,” he recalls.
The job may have been a product of chance, but something about the work clicked, and Bruce was quickly promoted to Sales Manager. The long commute did not click, however, and soon family friends connected him with the Fred C. Church Insurance Agency and yet another new world: Downtown Lowell.
“I learned deeply, quickly, just how much need was out there. There were so many people who deserved our help.”
For more than 30 years, Bruce embraced every aspect of this community. Insurance was his day job, but his volunteer work soon consumed his heart – and more and more of his time. From the Health Center, to Girls, Inc. and Big Brothers Big Sisters, to Lowell General Hospital, and D’Youville Health & Wellness Community, Bruce never doubted that it was time well-spent.
“If someone’s life goal is to do what you enjoy most, well, that’s just what I get to do,” he says with a quiet chuckle.
While Bruce became intimately familiar with the inner-workings of Lowell’s non-profit scene, he’ll be the first to admit that, for many years, he had not fully understood the complexity of Lowell Community Health Center – or its mission.
All that was about to change. Ten years ago, he was approached about joining the Board. The Health Center had been an insurance client for many years, so it only took a minor amount of arm twisting to convince Bruce to serve. Almost immediately, the experience opened his eyes – yet again – to another side of the city he loved.
“The more I learned about the Health Center, the more I learned about the mission, I absolutely fell in love with it.”
Soon, that love affair translated into a larger role, and he eventually took over as Board Chair. It’s given him a new perspective, and a reinvigorated sense of purpose in his “retirement.”
“We are a city founded on immigrants and diversity. When people arrive, if they don’t speak the language or understand the system, the deck is stacked so hard against them,” he says with compassion.
“It’s critical for Lowell CHC, as a welcoming force, to be a gateway to help those who need help and healthcare. That is why we are here.”