NCNW-IE Historic Power Movers & Shakers
By Dianne Anderson
Not that Milele Robertson would ever dream of bragging on her NCNW-IE section, but it is hard to ignore how so many powerful women make up the team.
Among them, her mother Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson, a long time active member, as well as Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren. The joint historic know-how of the movers and shakers of the section has been an inspiration to strengthen the whole community.
“We’re the only NCNW that has the highest number of elected officials. We have nine elected officials – retired or active. That’s just to say we have a lot of resources, a lot of power,” said NCNW Inland Empire Section President Milele Robertson.
Over the years, NCNW-IE has become best loved for helping local people in need. The Mary McLeod Bethune Center in Rialto has helped thousands access education programs, resources, learn soft skills and get jobs since programming started.
“We really have a historic legacy in our section. I am standing on the shoulders of a lot of women and trying to carry on the legacy of the Inland Empire Section. It keeps me busy,” she said.
The organization is making extra efforts to attract younger board members in ways that most of the community gets energized these days, through social media outreach. While she appreciates how fast the words spreads via technology, she is just as focused on keeping the organization true to its original solid foundation created by its section founders.
It’s about helping those in need, focused on education and resources for the community. She said that Dr. Mary Bethune wanted collegiate sections, and the organization continues to embrace its long-standing active members for their many talents as mentors and guides.
She credits the founders for keeping true to the original path, and how they’ve brought so much history to the organization.
“It is a very long established organization. A lot of members are seasoned leadership. They are our legacy. Lois Carson is one of our founding charter members of our section, and she is still very involved and carried the torch of the organization for so many years,” she said.
Maintaining NCNW values and traditions is key, even as they reach out to get more young women involved to lead through the decades to come.
As part of the national NCNW movement, she said the torch is now passing to the younger generation. This is Robertson’s first year as section president, although she has been a member since age 16.
She is still employed full time by the state Department of Transportation, and juggling her recent promotion to a manager while holding leadership roles on both sides of her life.
“I’m busy balancing work life with community life and they both co-exist. You give all. It’s rewarding,” she said.
She also counts the Bethune Center as a big part of the section’s historic success. Out of necessity, they removed the word youth from the name because they had so many adults coming in to find work, access clothes and medical resources.
The satellite office is located at 141 S. Riverside Ave, where the community can access a one-stop shop of resources.
Over the years, the Bethune Center has served as a community gathering space where elected officials can meet and greet the residents.
“We’ve come to realize that the need, job readiness skills, job referrals, it’s just not just the youth in need. More people in the community have lost their jobs, and need to learn how to develop their resumes, get resources in the community.”
In the future, her goal is to tackle some of the need and partner with other organizations that are also providing resources for the community. Recently, the section reached out to help the Family Assistance Program, “Open Door” which provides services for young victims of sex trafficking in the Inland Empire.
She said they held a large toiletry travel bag drive to collect for the organization, and distributed hundreds of bags to the homeless last year. They also partnered with Sam’s Club to distribute thousands of diapers for moms with babies at Option House Inc., a domestic violence shelter.
The section is looking to partner with organizations on specific needs. She said no single person can stop homelessness, but the national NCNW has a clear directive to help address issues wherever members can help.
“It’s no longer about being aware, it’s what can we do in our community. One by one we can actively do what we can to make an impact,” she said.
On Saturday, May 5, the local section celebrates their 50th anniversary at Sierra Lakes Golf Club in Fontana, where affiliate women’s organizations and past presidents will receive a tribute for their years of dedicated service to the community. Three African American businessmen will also receive accolades for their supportive role in the organization, including Artis Gilbert, Alton Garrett, and Reginald Webb. The keynote speaker is Paulette Brown-Hinds, Ph.D.
“We’re calling all sponsors and all NCNW sections to come celebrate with us,” she said.
For more information on the event or to join, call 909-874-6000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org