Carolyn Robinson, a cashier at Littlefield Patio Cafe, keeps a family portrait tucked safely inside her wallet at all times. The photo shows Robinson dressed in a pink blazer, sitting proudly next to her son, daughter and three grandchildren. But the people she’s cared for in her lifetime extend well beyond the photo’s crisp, white edges.
The photo doesn’t show Randy, a boy she treated like a son. He was her favorite of all the people she spent 21 years caring for at Travis State School, a facility for people with mental disabilities. Randy used a wheelchair and could not speak. Every morning, she prepared him for school, and on the weekends, she invited Randy into her home to spend time with her family.
Also while at Travis, she helped hundreds of people with mental disabilities acquire jobs. She spent several years assisting with supported employment, which helps people with various ranges of developmental issues enter the workforce.
After the state school closed down, Robinson worked for three years as a local caregiver. She spent her days taking one woman in a wheelchair to the LBJ Library or to shopping centers. She spent her evenings helping another man bathe and get to bed.
Her experience supporting people with disabilities doesn’t end there. For the past 13 years, she’s awarded individuals from Marbridge, a community for adults with mental disabilities, with the Philip Bunton award. The award honors dedicated athletes in the community’s sports department. Marbridge asks Robinson to annually present the award in memory of her brother and former Marbridge volunteer coach, Bunton, who died of a heart attack.
Now in her second semester working at UT, Robinson spends her days at Littlefield Patio Cafe smiling and conversing with students — the students she feels honored to be around.
“I really feel privileged to be able to look at all you young people every day — tomorrow’s future,” Robinson said. “I love my job.”