By late summer 2017, Robin pretty much knew what to expect from life.
Homeless? Yes. In pain from a chronic back condition? Most definitely. Pretty much tired out? Of course.
But actress? Who are you kidding?
But actress she became — and that was only one of the positive changes that happened to Robin, 56, when she came to the Julia Greeley Home in fall 2017.
First — who is Robin? She is a mother, grandmother, and a former professional bookkeeper with the city of Denver. She went to Ignatius and Annunciation grade schools, and graduated from Manuel High School.
Robin worked for Denver’s Waste Management Division until excruciating back pain made work impossible. Her injuries — which eventually required surgery — were caused when she became a target of domestic violence.
“But I didn’t want to have the back surgery until I had raised my kids,” Robin says. After her children, Aaron, now 27, and Veronica, 30, were grown, they found her an apartment. That seemed like a good solution until her rent skyrocketed and became impossible to pay—and Robin had three days to find somewhere to live.
What followed was six weeks of temporary shelters and living conditions, until Robin was referred to the Julia Greeley Home. Now she has the time to learn new skills while she weighs her future. Staff is helping her to explore independent job and living conditions so she can move closer to her dream to have adequate work and her own apartment again, one big enough for her children and grandchildren, too.
While easing into life at the Julia Greeley Home, something unexpected happened — Robin founded an unlikely calling as an actress.
Robin was chosen to play Servant of God Julia Greeley, our home’s patron, in the first annual “Night at the Cemetery” program sponsored by Mt Olivet Cemetery and the Archdiocese of Denver. The program was put together as a drama for middle school and high school youths as an alternative to the creepy and disturbing Halloween fare common during October. Instead of goblins and ghouls, the students were led in a nighttime walk through the cemetery where they encountered “saints” who included Therese of Lisieux, the patron saint of France.
Another figure to appear was Julia Greeley, who used to be buried right in Mt Olivet Cemetery until her remains were transferred last June to the Cathedral as her cause continues toward canonization.
But who could play Julia Greeley? Christi Grebenc, parish relationship coordinator in the archdiocese, started scouting around. The Julia Greeley Home seemed like a good place to look.
“When I received a call, I immediately thought of the person that I felt would be perfect for the role of Julia,” said Leslie Collins-Pottebaum, who is staff director at the Julia Greeley Home.
Robin “squealed with delight” to be asked, said Collins-Pottebaum.
Robin was given several pages of dialogue to absorb and narrate, but soon the role of Julia Greeley took on a life of its own. Robin set aside the script and, taking on the persona of Julia, she delivered a passionate and accurate account of the future saint’s life to the fascinated audience of students and teenagers.
The organizers of the event, and the staff and residents of Julia Greeley Home who came out to see her, were amazed at Robin’s mastery of the complex material and her ability to bring Julia Greeley to life.
Robin shares her heritage with Julia Greeley as an African-American woman, but beyond that, she knows little about her family background. As far as the family’s distant past more than a century ago, “I’m sure we were born into slavery, but my mother took a lot of secrets to the grave with her.”
Whatever life holds, Robin knows one thing — she has already been asked to play Julia Greeley next October.
“It was a privilege,” she says. “I will definitely be there next year!”