BY KERRY FIRTH
It was really no surprise that Terry Roberts was nominated by pro shop manager David O’Kelley at the Saints Golf Course for the National Philanthropy Unsung Hero award. He is, after all, the first person golfers meet when they arrive at the course as he helps unload their clubs from their cars and gets them settled in their carts.
His smiling face and engaging personality energizes them for their rounds of golf and sets the tone for the rest of the game.
“We rely heavily on our volunteers and Terry is always dependable and very knowledgeable about golf,” O’Kelley said. “As a hospitality attendant he’s responsible for making a memorable first impression. He’s all about customer service and an invaluable asset to our organization.”
While Roberts was honored, he humbly admits that he gets more out of volunteering at the golf course than they do.
“I love the camaraderie with all the different guys from all over the United States,” he said.
“I come from a recreational background, but others are lawyers, teachers, accountants, and from all walks of life. The diversity of the volunteers and players is stimulating and I look forward to every Monday and Saturday when I spend time with them at the course.”
Roberts is no stranger to volunteering. He’s been doing it in one capacity or another for nearly half a century.
“I started volunteering in my late teenage years coaching sports and participating in civic organizations,” he explained. “I fell in love with helping others.”
While in college Roberts briefly worked in construction.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life,” he said with a chuckle. “I decided to follow my heart and pursue a career in leisure services and did that for 37 years.”
He worked with parks and recreation departments in Arizona after college, lived in California for three years, the Midwest for seven years and ended up in Florida for 15 years. Most of those years were spent with the Boys and Girls Club, which is how he ended up on the Treasure Coast.
“I spent two years at the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Pierce before I joined the recreational team at the City of Port St. Lucie,” he explained. “And I had 10 wonderful years with the City of Port St. Lucie before my retirement just two years ago.”
One of his duties as recreation supervisor for the city was to recruit and manage hundreds of volunteers.
“When I started, one of the biggest challenges was getting volunteers for the basketball program,” Roberts said. “We only had the Minsky gym and the PSL Civic Center available, so we expanded our program out to the schools in order to serve more children.
“Finding dependable volunteers to coach, score and assist with running the leagues was a full time job itself. It was up to me to manage their time scheduling and make sure they were committed, because without them the children would be the ones deprived.”
Having been with the recreation department for so many years, Roberts knew of all the volunteer opportunities out there for retirees.
“Volunteering at the Saints Golf Course was a no brainer for me,” Roberts said. “I love to play golf and I love the companionship of the golfers. Not only do I get to socialize while I’m helping golfers with their gear, but I get the perk of playing golf on my days off for free. It’s really a win-win situation.”
O’Kelley presented Roberts with a basket of golf goodies and an enormous tray of desserts and pastries.
“I left all the edible treats at the pro shop for everyone to share,” Roberts said. “I wasn’t going to take that home because I’d end up at the dentist for sure. Besides, all of the volunteers share in this honor.”
National Philanthropy Day is celebrated in more than 500 locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico. The Treasure Coast Chapter has hosted its National Philanthropy Day celebration since 1995.
Since its inception, nearly 200 outstanding groups and individuals from the Treasure Coast have joined the elite group of recipients. The volunteers and donors are nominated by their peers and honored at small gatherings during a multiweek celebration in November. Roberts was one of six philanthropic volunteers nominated for the unsung hero award in St. Lucie and Martin counties.
Family: Married with two sons
Education: Bachelor of science degrees in leisure services and secondary education from Arizona State University
Hobbies: “I love golfing, walking my dog and tinkering with projects around the house.”
What inspires you? “Giving back to the community and helping others.”
Something people don’t know about you: “I played high school and college football and we only lost one game in four years of high school and one game in four years of college.”