TEL HI’s gymnasium officially renamed the “Lee Roberson Gymnasium”

January 4, 2016

On Saturday, August 28, 2015 the TEL HI gymnasium was officially renamed the “Lee Roberson Gymnasium” in honor of Randal “Lee” Roberson, who served as TEL HI’s Youth Director from 1970 to 1989. The following article was written about Lee and the passion he had to make a difference and the impact he had on “his kids.”

They Will Always Be His Kids                                                           

There are many kids that need help finding their way in the world, and there are many ways to help them. Lee Roberson spent a large chunk of his life working with disadvantaged children, and he found it rewarding in a special way.

Lee saw a lot of kids go through Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center (TEL HI) and a lot of change during his nearly 20 years at the Center, but one thing always stayed the same: “To be successful,” he says, “You have to put your heart and soul into the job.”

Lee put his heart and soul into helping disadvantaged kids at TEL HI, and the hundreds of children whose lives he touched were better because of it. Most of the kids lived in public housing and many belonged to single-parent families. Some of their friends and relatives wound up in prison or strung out on drugs, but few of Lee’s kids went down those paths.

Lee was a long-time Youth Director for TEL HI, joining the Center in 1970 and working there until 1989. He originally came to TEL HI after meeting their Executive Director at a party and hearing a need for someone to take the kids to summer camp.

Lee took that on, never suspecting he would work at TEL HI for the next two decades. His first goal was to gain the respect of the kids.

“I told them if you respect me, I will respect you,” he said.

They did respect Lee, and they followed his advice.

Lee saw the need to keep the kids busy with year-round recreational activities, so he started and ran basketball programs, which most of the kids joined. Over time, he added other recreational programs; including volleyball, chess, ping pong, track, baseball, weightlifting, parade drill teams, and classes in dance, art, and photography. All were designed to give his kids positive outlets for their creativity and energy.

He remembers a time when the center’s basketballs were “disappearing” and he confronted the kids.

“Those balls aren’t mine,” he told them. “They’re yours. And when they’re gone, there won’t be any more.”

There weren’t any more missing basketballs after that, and the kids took pride in their team, their uniforms, and the gym they played in. Eventually, Lee even got them to re-finish the gym floor themselves.

Lee has an aura that touches those around him. His courage and huge smile are contagious, and he is a reminder that each of us can help needy people, in large and small ways. All it takes is to put our heart and soul into it.

Lee’s reward for his two decades at TEL HI was watching the kids he helped grow up, graduate from school, and become successful adults. Over the years, he has stayed in touch with most of them, counseling and helping them through personal problems or just being there for them. He has been a witness at several of their weddings, and he has numerous children named after him.

Lee reminded me that we can all help disadvantaged children in our own way. That might mean donating money to organizations that have programs for adolescents, volunteering to tutor teenagers, or coaching a youth basketball team.

Lee’s continued relationship and watching them grow means a lot to Lee — after all, they will always be his kids.

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