Lawrence business leaders give $10,000 to city’s Winter Emergency Shelter

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

The Community Building in downtown Lawrence, which is the site of the Winter Emergency Shelter, is pictured Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022.

A pair of Lawrence business owners have donated thousands of dollars to help support the city’s emergency shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

Just before Christmas Eve, Tom and Marilyn Dobski donated $10,000 to the Douglas County Community Foundation to help support the city-operated Winter Emergency Shelter at the Community Building, 115 W. 11th St., in downtown Lawrence. Tom Dobski told the Journal-World Tuesday that the contribution was intended to help get people out of last week’s extreme cold and to help volunteers provide clothing, food and shelter for the folks needing support this winter.

photo by: Submitted

Tom Dobski, pictured here at left, was inducted into the Lawrence Business Hall of Fame Nov. 3, 2022.

“I told them they could use it as they saw fit as far as helping out with the operation overall,” Dobski said. “They have a lot of great volunteers there that dedicate their time for operating that. I know that’s a lot of work, and we’re lucky to have the volunteers and the City of Lawrence here, and the Douglas County Community Foundation, to help with the homeless. That’s what’s important. Providing the financial resources is the easy part; being down there and helping the people get taken care of is the hard part.”

Dobski said last week’s weather was part of why he and his wife, Marilyn, moved as fast as they could to help out. He said there wasn’t time to waste, with forecasts calling for brutal subzero temperatures as a result of last Thursday’s winter storm.

Dobski said he’s worked with the same group of City of Lawrence staff and volunteers over the past few years to find a number of ways to help out, like early last year when the Dobskis donated $15,000 to help fund a city program that sheltered homeless people in hotels. The Dobskis, who own 12 McDonald’s restaurants in northeast Kansas, have also delivered meals for shelter patrons, including on Christmas Eve.

“I told the city that whenever they need something like that or whenever they want something like that, we’re able to help from our four locations here in Lawrence, that we’ll be more than happy to help,” Dobski said.

Chip Blaser, the Douglas County Community Foundation’s executive director, told the Journal-World Tuesday that the Dobskis are “wonderfully generous people,” as evidenced by their willingness to help out in ways like this when the need arises. Blaser said donations like this one make a significant impact, especially when resources like the emergency shelter are running on a tight budget.

“The winter shelter program, as well as the Lawrence Community Shelter, are vital to keeping people healthy in our community, and that’s been a big focus of the Dobskis and many other donors in our community who want to support the well-being of everyone in our community,” Blaser said. “That’s really the focus, and we appreciate so much the work those organizations do to support those folks who truly need it right now.”

But supporting the shelter is only part of tackling what Dobski called a “very complex problem” with no easy solution. He said the Dobskis are trying to do something in their own way to help people in need get through another winter.

Dobski said he wants to thank everyone who contributes to keeping the shelter running, from city staff to volunteers. He added that he hopes everyone can come together to make a “major impact” on homelessness.


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