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'Jalapeno Mike': A LifeQuest success story

Mike Tobin has a politician's knack for recalling names, says LifeQuest Executive Director Daryl Kilstrom.

"Mike's a talker. He's pretty gregarious and willing to engage people in conversation," Kilstrom said, adding the trait is probably learned from Mike's father Paul Tobin, who was Mitchell's mayor in the 1980s.

Mike Tobin, 57, receives support from LifeQuest, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities. The elder Tobin is a resident at Avera Brady Health and Rehab, and Mike's mother Shirley died in 1999.

When Mike Tobin isn't working food prep part-time at Mitchell's Pizza Ranch, he washes dishes as an unpaid volunteer three days a week at the James Valley Community Center. This year, he received a Helper Extraordinaire award at the center, said Senior Services Executive Director Jessica Pickett.

"Mike is sweet and caring," Pickett said. "He brings treats to the seniors and other workers, he loves jalapenos -- we call him 'Jalapeno Mike' -- and he's a huge Vikings fan. We talk about the team every day in my office."

He lives independently, cooks his own meals -- he's also a Rachael Ray fan -- and is a member of the Mitchell Lions Club. By mid-week he had already sold $85 in tickets for the Lions' April 13 Pancake Feed at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School.

His activism doesn't stop there.

A survivor of testicular cancer, Tobin regularly participates in the Heart and Sole Cancer Walk. A diabetic, he also took part in last fall's Walk for Diabetes.

During summer months, he regularly visits the Farmers Market to get fresh ingredients for his various recipes. He regularly brags about the the fiery serrano peppers he added to one Chili Cookoff entry.

Dishwashing is a skill he's proud of, and he's good at it. He was in charge of dishwashing at a Lincoln, Neb., barbecue house for nearly a decade before returning to Mitchell to be closer to family.

He's glad to be home. He says Mitchell people are nicer to him.

"I would never go back to Nebraska," he said. "No way. Everybody here treats me with respect."

Tobin can be talkative, but his answers are typically short and on point, like when asked what he'd do if he didn't volunteer.

"I'd be bored."