Robert Donno


I sought my soul and my soul I couldn't see, I sought my God and God eluded me, I sought my brother and found all three.

Robert Donno was born in Manhasset, NY.  He is a graduate of La Salle Military Academy in Oakdale, Long Island and obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree from Duquesne University.  He met his wife, Barbara, at Duquesne and they were married in 1969.  They have two children, Jackie and Matt and a granddaughter Emma.

Robert was a principal of Donno Company, Inc, and has spent 44 years as a leader in the solid waste industry.  Robert joined Lemcor Inc., Newark, New Jersey in 2003 and is currently the Vice President.

He joined Manhasset Rotary in 1971 and became its President in 1975.  That year there was a plea for help from the Rotary Club of Kampala, Uganda on behalf of 5-year old Grace Agwaru who was suffering from a congenital heart defect.  Through the Manhasset Rotary, Grace was brought to St. Francis Hospital where she received her lifesaving surgery and the Gift of Life Program was born.

Many Gift of Life programs were formed over the years, each working independently of each other.  In 2003, Gift of Life International was formed and Mr. Donno was elected its first Chairman.  Over 16,000 children from 70 countries have received corrective heart surgery through Gift of Life chapters throughout the world.   In 2010-2011 Robbie became District Governor of Rotary District 7255.

Reflecting on Rotary and the Gift of Life, Donno says; “I have been a part of Rotary for 43 years and have seen the heart-felt involvement of thousands of people around the world.  I still have a hard time believing what has been achieved by this program. Grace’s father collapsed in my arms when they were about to leave New York after Grace’s operation, thanking me over and over again for saving his daughter’s life.  In that moment I knew my life had been worth living.  I had made a difference in his life….and in hers…..and they had made a difference in mine.  I never would have imagined that there would over 16,000 more children coming after Grace.  We are still in our infancy.”

“My business life was meant to provide for my family which it did.  I watched my children grow into the really great people they are today.   It was through the business that I was introduced me to Rotary.  Rotary is the platform that has allowed me to make that difference in the world.  I am grateful for my involvement in Rotary and in Gift of Life.  Throughout my life I have been fortunate to be in the company of kind and caring people, my family and those in Rotary and those in Gift of Life.”

1. What motivates you? 

Working hard brings joy….joy in achievement… in what you are able to provide for your family… in the challenge to do my part in making life better for people.  Gift of Life takes the expression of anxiety and fear and changes it to joy and happiness.  No matter what country we go to, while the faces are different, the expressions are the same.  The expression on a person’s face is the communication of his or her spirit.  I am motivated to uplift the spirit and see the light of joy that is expressed in the eyes and the faces of the people that I come into contact with.  That’s what motivates me.

2. Describe a difficult situation you were in and how you overcame it?

There are no difficult times.  Difficulty is self inflicted.  We worry, we fear, we hate and all those things are useless efforts.  So the battle is to keep smiling when your instincts tell you things are bad.  If people think things are dangerous for you, or that you are going through a difficult time and they see you smile, that smile becomes reassuring and makes the burdens of life easier to carry.  It is another part of bringing joy into the lives of those around you.

3. What are your goals for the future?

To keep loving the people around me….to keep smiling.

4. What’s your favorite snack?

Potato Chips

5. What is your favorite quote?

I sought my soul and my soul I couldn’t see,

I sought my God and God eluded me,

I sought my brother and found all three.

Children are like wet cement.  Everything that touches them makes and impression.

God gave us a memory so we could smell the fragrance of a rose in December.

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