The Center's Words

Mary Ellen Tobe-Roberts; A Gift from God

by | May 14, 2021 | The Center’s Words

When asked about how she feels about being named Volunteer of the Year by The Center for Respite Care, Mary Ellen Tobe-Roberts is quick to say that she does not give her time for awards. Her energy, passion and commitment come from the heart and from God.
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“I don’t do this for the awards. The Center has their heart in it. For the people who work there, it is not just a job. I have worked with other charities. At the Center for Respite Care, I have not met with anyone who does not have the enthusiasm to do everything that they possibly can and do it with grace and happiness. They make it easy to give.”

On the award itself.

 It touched my heart. It gives me goosebumps to think that I made this much of an impact.

 Mary Ellen was born in Northern, Kentucky. She moved to Delhi as a young girl and grew up on Cincinnati’s West Side.

 Her father’s company worked with both packaging and print with one of his clients being the St Anthony Messenger. Mary Ellen said, “We would ask him about his clients. He told us about The Messenger and then the magazines came home. They were always around the house. I was amazed that it was a Cincinnati publication. It had so much valuable information about our faith and about the direction that it should have in our life.

 This stuck with her through adulthood, where she finds herself volunteering tirelessly for the Center – located in the St Anthony Center, part of the original Messenger location, the same place that her dad would have visited all those years ago.

It almost seems that it was meant to be. Like her dad, Mary Ellen calls on us and our clients. Her passion is palpable. Her commitment throughout COVID has been relentless, Laurel Nelson, CEO for The Center for Respite Care said.

When the Roberts’ returned to Cincinnati in 2016, they became parishioners of St Francis De Sales. The church introduced them to philanthropic opportunities that included The Center for Respite Care. She then learned that the Center was based in the former St. Anthony Messenger building.

She felt the warmth and compassion and heard a loud message that said,

This is the place that I want to be.

Her time commitment and gifts to the Center have made her a key volunteer.

Mary Ellen is a woman of faith who believes that working with us is her calling. Simply, we could not do what we do without her, Ed Slater, the Center for Respite Care Chief Advancement Officer said.

When asked about what it’s like to be a volunteer during the time of COVID, there is a smile in her voice and a stern willingness to press on, no matter the challenge.

To be honest, COVID has changed how we all volunteer. I had been helping the Center in the meal, food area.

That all ended with COVID. I was at home, 68, very healthy and quite petite yet concerned about my vulnerability. So, I had to figure out how do I give back. I called and asked Ed what I could do.

Ed said that the Center needed help picking up groceries. They sent me a list every week. I picked up the items at Kroger utilizing the gifts cards donated by the St. Francis De Sales parishioners. I started just shopping; then it evolved into preparing meals. My husband helped chop so it became a family project. They (the Center) felt that was a great support. It just blossomed. I am a good shopper and can stretch money.

As a member of The Cincinnati Woman’s Club, Mary Ellen has participated in their Philanthropic events, one of which supports the Center for Respite Care.

“I was fortunate to co-chair two events each year where the CWC members prepared four to five entrees, each serving 30+ in our on-site kitchen, and delivering for future needs. We created nutritional menus/recipes that would support the clients’ recovery as well as delicious and home-made! We also collected needed health and beauty items. It has been a fun and rewarding ‘Can Do’ program.”

For Mary Ellen, helping others has been in her blood; in all communities in which she has lived.

I have done lots of volunteer work in different areas where we have lived. Places we lived needed support and love, in Mexico, Texas and Florida. I am creative and have foresight and that is a gift for good.

Recent years have been challenging.

Since I’ve been back, my dad died and that has been tough.

This has caused her to dig in and to give even more.

I have exposed the grandkids to volunteering. We have done things like make PB & J for Purcell Marion and prepare Christmas gifts for others to learn the joy of giving rather than always receiving. I am involved with Lighthouse Youth Services and the Mercy Neighborhood Ministries.

Where I see the need and where I am exposed, I help. I have always had this idea that I have been given a gift from God. I need to see what he would do and try to do it.

God drives her to help and to be there for others.

That is what my heart and my life is about. God is working through me to serve those less fortunate. We may not see the good that we create, but the ripples from the pebbles create the changes in the pond so that the waters will never be the same.

The Center for Respite Care is part of me.

When she learned about the Center, she was struggling with her loss. She attended the Transformation Awards and noted that a former client, Joseph (a speaker at the event)  had vision problems.

My Dad was legally blind due to macular degeneration. I had his magnifying glass and  I knew it was meant for Joseph. That is what Dad would have wanted. Another sign that spoke to my volunteer path – the Center for Respite Care.”

Mary Ellen has come full circle, as this year’s Transformation Awards volunteer of the year.

Congrats to a woman who shows us all how it is done.

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The Center for Respite Care is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization. View our 2020 IRS Form 990 – Public Disclosure.







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Center for Respite Care
1615 Republic Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

P.O. Box 141301
Cincinnati, Ohio 45250

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