The 2016 recipient of The S. Michael Yasutake Award was Thomas (Tom) P. Robb, who received the award at the 179th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago in November. Nominated for the award by the Rev. John David van Dooren, former rector of Church of the Atonement in Chicago, Mr. Robb has been an activist for peace and justice for 45 years.
Staring in the 1980s, Robb worked to assure medical care for children of poor families and children of migrant farm workers, serving on the Medical Advisory Committee of the State of Illinois’ Medicaid program, working with the American Academy of Pediatrics, and developing a national network of volunteer physicians for children of migrant farm workers. In the 1990s, inspired by then Presiding Bishop Browning’s request that parishes in the U.S. assist families from Bosnia, he organized a pool of open homes in Evanston to meet the need. In addition to housing, he led efforts to provide transportation, access to schools, rental housing and developed an English as a Second Language (ESL) program at St. Luke’s. Through this work, Robb was able to form an employment partnership with refugees, providing jobs painting, rehabbing and cleaning homes and apartments. He was a leader in the development of the Bosnian/Hercegovina American Community Center and partnered with the Wisconsin Methodist Annual Convention, which placed more than 80 refugees in Wisconsin.
Since 1994, Robb and St. Luke’s have sponsored refugees from Kosovo, Iran, Liberia, Somalia, Burundi and the Congo. He worked with the “Lost Boys of Sudan”, including the forming of the Chicago Association of Lost Boys of Sudan in his living room, and enlisting resources from across the diocese and beyond to help meet the unique needs of this group of 125 young Sudanese men. This has included the organization of jobs, educational opportunities, and acculturation to the U.S. and Chicago.
More recently, Robb has worked to help resettle refugees from Iraq, Syria and Burma. As a member of the Episcopal Church of the Atonement in Chicago, he is now helping to organize that church’s mentoring and support of a refugee family through the Refugee One resettlement program. Now retired, Robb continues his work with parish and community partners to help “ignite in oppressed and marginalized people their own sense of worthiness so that they may claim their rightful place as loved members of God’s creation.”