Dobski ‘wants to give back’ to community

Restaurant owner honored by chamber for leadership skills

After nearly two decades of serving her community, Marilyn Dobski is being recognized for her work.

Dobski was the recipient Friday of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce’s Athena Award, which honors the role of women in the community and recognizes people who support that role with professionalism and community service. The honor is one of many Dobski has received for her outstanding service.

Her most recent awards include the Southwest Junior High School Friends of Education Award in February 2001, Baker University’s Partners in Progress Award for Business Person of the Year 2001, the Governor’s Arts Award for Individual Patron in October 2003 and the Lawrence Education Achievement Award in February.

Dobski said the acknowledgment she’d received had been a pleasant surprise.

“I’ve never, ever been involved in activities for awards,” she said. “We do what we do because we want to give back to our community. But it’s been nice to receive recognition for it.”

Dobski and her husband, Tom, own 13 McDonald’s restaurants in the Lawrence and Topeka area and have been active in the Ronald McDonald House charity, which provides temporary housing near hospitals for families with critically ill children and other services related to children’s health. She began with the Kansas City chapter, serving on the board of directors from 1987 to 1998. She is president of the board of directors for the Topeka chapter and serves on committees for fund raising and public relations, finance and facilities and maintenance.

Patty Oliver, executive director of the Topeka Ronald McDonald House, said Dobski’s leadership skills were crucial in fund-raising drives that raised $29,000 last year and an additional $21,000 at the beginning of this year.

Those skills were also essential to the establishment of the new Lawrence Arts Center, according to Ann Evans, the center’s executive director. Dobski has served in several capacities for the center, including on the board of directors from August 1994 to August 2003, on the building committee steering committee from 1999 to April 2002 and as major gifts and foundations chairwoman from 1999 to April 2002. She is currently on the development committee and drama program advisory board.

Evans said Dobski helped get the center’s new building open not only for the donations she brought in and the contributions she made, but the time she donated. For example, Evans said, just before the building opened, 300 to 400 hand-painted tiles had to be organized before they could be laid out according to plan.

“She literally was on her hands and knees for four hours sorting those tiles,” Evans said. “I’ve had wonderful volunteers and board members, but she really stands out in that way.”

Dobski continues to work for the center by promoting kid-oriented events with fliers in Happy Meals, sponsoring the arts-based preschool at the center and encouraging employees to become involved in the Hearts of the Arts volunteer auxiliary group.

Marilyn Dobski has received the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's Athena Award. The award honors the role of women in the community and recognizes people who support that role with professionalism and community service.