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Tobin family donates $250K to LifeQuest

With the help of Michael Tobin, right, holding the microphone Brian Loken, Development Director at LifeQuest Foundation, announces that the total donations made to LifeQuest by the late Paul Tobin is over $250,000. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Tears and smiles alike filled faces gathered Monday morning at LifeQuest for a special announcement by the family of the late Paul Tobin.

The former Mitchell Mayor and city councilman died in May 2016 at age 88, but his legacy will live on through LifeQuest, a group in which he continuously donated his time, energy and money, according to his daughter Paula Hunstad.

Tobin’s family gathered to announce a donation worth approximately $250,000 from his estate to LifeQuest, an agency in Mitchell whose mission is to create opportunities that enrich lives while working with people who have developmental disabilities.

“Today was a bittersweet day for us,” Hunstad told the crowd of 50 people gathered at the Kilstrom Center. “This is his last act of kindness that will carry on for many years. He’s always been fond of LifeQuest and he knew that they don’t have enough support. Without people to help, it was going to be tough and he wanted to make their life easier, so this is his gift to LifeQuest. That was the kind of dad he was and the kind of man he was.”

The donation from the Tobin family is one of the biggest, if not the largest, the agency has received, according to Brian Loken, development director for LifeQuest.

Tobin, a Mitchell native, was the city's 29th mayor from 1980 to 1986 after serving on the Mitchell City Council 1976 to 1980. Tobin wore a “number of hats” with LifeQuest, Loken said, as he served on the Board of Directors for the Mitchell Area Adjustment Training Center — which later became LifeQuest — as well as board president from 1981 to 1982.

Prior to becoming mayor of Mitchell, Tobin held a 27-year career with the Federal Aviation Administration. And his love of planes didn’t end there. Tobin also served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, later the U.S. Army Air Force, from 1944 to 1946 and 1951 to 1955. At the end of World War II, he was a part of the occupying force in Germany.

Tobin had three loves, according to his youngest daughter, Susan Collins. The first was his family, the second was planes and the third was LifeQuest.

Collins said she and the family knew for a while that their father’s “final goodbye” to the community was going to be a donation to LifeQuest. And it didn’t come as a surprise as the former mayor spent much of his time giving to LifeQuest.

But one of the main reasons Tobin continuously supported the nonprofit was because of his son, Mike Tobin. Mike, along with Tobin’s grandson, Ryan Collins, is one of more than 400 people supported by LifeQuest, joining the agency in 2008. Tobin made the decision to bring Mike back to Mitchell simply so he could be supported by the group he and his family loved so much, Collins said.

Collins, one of Tobin’s 10 children, was her father’s primary caregiver in the last six years of his life after he left his home. Tobin also has 18 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

Pam Hanna, executive director of LifeQuest, ended the event by thanking the family through handmade gifts made by the agency’s art department. She said it was something small to give back to the Tobin family, who have given so much.

"This is an awe moment," Hanna said. "A gift like this says so much and does so much."

Loken said the money will be invested primarily into the staff at LifeQuest to continue support of the many involved in the agency.

The agency's 185 employees work to help the people they support be successful in life, serving 167 people in Mitchell, and more than 400 statewide through the agency’s family support services.

“It’s outstanding. We’ve had a few of these gifts, but this one is special because Paul was so close to us,” Loken said. “ … We’re humbled by his generosity, and we’re thrilled that the family can celebrate this gift with us.”

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