BOLINGBROOK – Joann Robinson had a heart for at-risk youth.
The Bolingbrook woman founded a six-week community training program to give a second chance to kids ages 12 to 18 who had gotten in legal trouble, said Darryl Anderson of Wisconsin, Joann’s brother.
“Basically, she set out to provide community service and have young people’s records expunged,” Darryl said. “They would get in trouble with the law and she would basically go in through the courts – it was run through the Will County court system and DuPage County.”
Darryl said Joann worked with the kids to ensure they could go forward with their lives. Joann ran the program for 17 years.
“She would tutor them, rehabilitate them and teach them basic skills,” Darryl said. “Then she would go before the court and have their cases dismissed. Before that she ran a boot camp ministry. She did this all on her own.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Joann moved to Bolingbrook in 1977. As she saw kids in the community getting into trouble, Joann started Spiritual Boot Camp Soldiers for children ages 5 to 12. She took that program further in 1999 by founding H.E.A.R.T.
According to the H.E.A.R.T. website, the program meets every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evening at the new Village of Bolingbrook Community Center. Its students are trained in juvenile law and its consequences, as well as social and life skills. The program also offers anger management classes.
H.E.A.R.T is supported with in-kind donations from the village of Bolingbrook, DuPage Township, public donations and private contributions, its website stated. With a tagline of, “Keep the cuffs off the kids,” Joann apparently did just that.
“She graduated over 3,000 students from this program,” Darryl said. “She kept in contact with each one of those students. Each year, those kids received a handwritten birthday card from Joann Robinson.”
Yolanda Jamison of Bolingbrook said Joann’s program helped her son. What really impressed Yolanda was the level of self-respect she instilled in the students.
Whether they attended her meetings or court – and Joann accompanied her students to all their court appearances, Yolanda said – the students had to dress the part.
For instance, boys had to wear dress shirts, pants and shoes, as well as ties.
“She was a fantastic lady,” Yolanda said. “She was a fantastic role model for Bolingbrook.”
According to the H.E.A.R.T. website, Joann hosted an award-winning cable show known as “From the Heart Show” that aired on channel six in Bolingbrook.
Joann also was awarded the John F. Whiteside lifetime achievement award from the Will County Sheriff’s Department and the Seekers of Justice Award from the Black Bar Association.
She was voted Citizen of the Year by Mayor Roger Claar and was also honored by the American Association of University Women.
In 2005 and 2006, she received the AT&T Beyond the Call award and was awarded Female Citizen of the Year by DuPage Township. She was honored by the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church for her work with at-risk youth, as well.
Darryl said Joann also was a devout Baptist. She had one daughter – LaShonda Brinkley of Tennessee – and seven grandchildren. Joann was 60 when she died April 11. It was her love for kids that kept her going, Darryl said.
“Joann just had a soft heart for kids and she wanted to keep youth out of trouble,” Darryl said.
For information about H.E.A.R.T., visit www.heartorganization.org.
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