Myrtle Beach-area WWII veteran founds nonprofit to help other soldiers

Hugh Robinson explained that the two pins he has attached to his hat declaring he’s a World War II Veteran are replicas of the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, planes he flew as a fighter pilot.

Robinson served for three years from 1942-45 and came home to earn a degree in horticulture. His life’s work includes an impressive list of credentials from founder and CEO of Tinker Chemical Corporation in Virginia to spokesman for the nursery industry on CBS and NBC-TV news programs.

He always had a deep appreciation for veterans, so in 2011 he founded Help A Veteran, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit designed to raise money and give all proceeds to veterans’ groups.

Harry DuBose, fellow veteran and a board member of Help A Veteran, explained that 30,000 veterans live in Horry County, and he met Robinson when they served together on an Honor Flight committee. He became involved with Help A Veteran because he realized the treatment of veterans was morally and ethically wrong.

The two recited problems veterans face, and government agencies confirm the facts.

The Bureau of Labor statistics indicate unemployment for veterans who have served active duty since September 2001 was nine percent in 2013.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs state about 22 veterans commit suicide every day. More than two-thirds are 50 and older.

According to the DVA, about 12 percent of the adult homeless population is comprised of veterans. DuBose added that a third of the homeless in Myrtle Beach are veterans.

Physical and mental health issues, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder, plague veterans. A poll conducted by The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation found more than half of the 2.6 million Americans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with physical or mental health problems stemming from their service.

Thus far, Help A Veteran has dispensed $4,000 to local veterans’ groups, but the need is greater. Robinson’s latest fundraising effort is a concert by Stephanie Trick-Alderighi, an internationally known stride pianist. Stride is a rhythmic jazz piano style developed during the 1920s and 1930s. James P. Johnson is considered the Father of Stride, and Fats Waller, Willie “The Lion” Smith and Art Tatum were proponents. Among the current stride jazz pianists are Mike Lipskin and Butch Thompson.

A jazz enthusiast, Robinson heard Trick-Alderighi on YouTube a few years ago and was so impressed he contacted her to discuss her style and her work. He began to follow her career, and the two, along with Trick’s mother, Alina Trick, became friends. Trick has since married Paolo Alderighi, also a jazz pianist.

When Robinson asked Trick-Alderighi if she’d perform a benefit, she agreed. The concert is set for the afternoon of May 31 at the Myrtle Beach Senior Center on 21st Avenue North. All proceeds will benefit Veteran’s Welcome Home and Resource Center in Little River, a 401(c)(3) nonprofit founded by Kris Tourtellotte in 2009. Its sole purpose is to assist veterans.

“We do anything for veterans, but it’s not a homeless shelter,” Tourtellotte said of his organization. He explained he and his all-volunteer staff are concentrating on reintegrating veterans. “We’ll help them find a job, get training, whatever they need to be a productive citizen,” he said. He can be reached at www.veteranswelcomehomeandresourcecenter.org, email at operationwelcomehome.mbeach@gmail.com, and 427-4568.

Robinson lives in Garden City and turns 90 June 2. He’s looking forward to the concert and remembers his high school days playing trombone and his time playing tuba in the Mercersburg, Pa. symphony. “I’ve been interested in jazz ever since high school,” he said.

He hopes to raise at least $4,000.

“This is all for local veterans,” he said.