Like a virtuoso, Althea Robinson, executive director of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce, deftly orchestrates promotion of Garden City, sponsorship of a multitude of community events and an unwavering commitment to nearly 400 chamber members.
A scribe at heart, she began her career as a copywriter. Once she married and had her first child she began to volunteer for causes such as TWIGS.
Her journey as a volunteer led her to seek outside employment. "I'm a writer so I sent a letter to the Garden City News," she said. The Morgans, then new owners, hired her to cover school board and village meetings.
She dived into this opportunity and explains, "I've been going to trustee meetings for 40 years! Now, I represent the chamber."
She was then hired as assistant editor of the Garden City Leader where she had her own column. The paper folded shortly after her arrival and fortuitously she was hired as the executive director of the chamber.
Robinson is a life-long resident. She lives in the village with her husband, Jack, and raised three children here. Proud of her roots and modest, there is one thing she does boast about - Garden City - the village she's proud to call home.
The chamber position was a perfect fit and she has held the post for 34 years. It is the largest and one of the most innovative community chambers on Long Island with membership tripling during Robinson's tenure.
As Robinson states, "My goal is to keep things moving and contribute to the vitality of the business community. We want to keep stores filled."
Says John Wilton of Garden City Properties and chairman of the Garden City Merchant, Professional & Retailers Group, "Althea is the energizer bunny. She is focused and sensitive to the needs of not only the mission of the chamber but each and every tentacle."
He continues, "She is a sterling representative of the historical value of the village. She attends virtually every meeting not only as director but as a committed resident. She has the skills of a corporate executive blended with motherly love - the village's needs are always first - yet she strives for solutions to benefit all parties."
Robinson has raised the bar for communities across Long Island. The chamber sponsors community favorites such as the Fall Festival Street Fair, Village Holiday Tree Lighting, Easter Vintage Car Parade and the Belmont Festival.
Luncheon programs featuring business leaders, after hours networking for members and the annual Pineapple Ball are all mainstays.
This is in addition to the day-to-day work of ribbon cuttings and press releases. No stone is unturned when it comes to the success of the chamber's members.
As editor of the Community Guide & Calendar of Events and the Business Bulletin Magazine, Robinson has evolved both publications into striking and informative publications.
When asked what she thinks of Nassau County's new "Main Street" and development of downtowns, Robinson says, "Our village has been at the forefront of many of these initiatives."
She also shared this historical tidbit: "Garden City premiered 'off street' parking - unmetered parking behind all public buildings in the Central district. When this initiative was unveiled in 1937 people came from as far as California to see it."
Recognition for her achievements has resulted in numerous awards. Most notably, she has twice been awarded the Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary's highest honor, in 1992 she was bestowed the Garden City Chamber of Commerce Community Achievement Award and there are many more.
She has been involved in a multitude of civic/charitable organizations. Robinson is one of the first two women to be inducted into the Mineola-Garden City Rotary Club.
Her passion for Garden City and her efforts on behalf of the village are truly unprecedented. Yet, it is not just her industriousness that sets her apart but her graciousness - like the village she represents - that makes her so special.
(Editor's Note: Patch Chat is a bi-monthly column spotlighting who's who in your Patch of the world … from activists, board members, teachers, neighbors and more. If you'd like to nominate someone, e-mail author Vilma Sceusa.)