Bill Tobin speaks up for ShelterBox

ShelterBox ambassador Bill Tobin was recently named the ShelterBox Rising Star for his efforts to raise awareness about and funds for the non-profit organization. Village Life photo by Noel Stack
ShelterBox ambassador Bill Tobin was recently named the ShelterBox Rising Star for his efforts to raise awareness about and funds for the non-profit organization. Village Life photo by Noel Stack

Bill Tobin said he could talk all day about ShelterBox.

All day, indeed. This writer had difficulty getting out his front door.

The El Dorado Hills Rotarian has undeniable enthusiasm for the organization that provides critical shelter and supplies for natural and man-made disaster victims all over the world.

As a ShelterBox volunteer ambassador, Tobin spends hours educating people about ShelterBox’s mission and how they can help. Last year he gave 45 presentations in Northern California and dedicated more than 500 hours to ShelterBox promotion. Tobin organized two ShelterBox fundraisers — a Songs for ShelterBox concert and an event at the Career Beauty Academy. He has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars, which translates into much-needed shelter for hundreds of people.

On Feb. 25 Tobin received recognition for his tireless work on ShelterBox’s behalf, earning the ShelterBox Rising Star Award and the President’s Volunteer Service Award at the organization’s annual conference and humanitarian awards event in Orlando, Fla.

“It’s nice and all but that’s not why I’m doing this,” said Tobin, 49, of the awards. “I’m doing this because I know my efforts are helping someone in the world who has lost everything to a disaster.”

Tobin received notification in December 2011 that he had been nominated for the Rising Star Award, just 15 months after he became a ShelterBox ambassador. He attended the event with no expectations.

“When you’re so passionate about something it didn’t really matter if they called my name or not,” he explained.

But they did.

While has was accepting his award, Tobin noted that nearly 3,000 miles away Oak Ridge High School Interact Club members were busy busing tables and collecting tips for ShelterBox at the Rotary Club of El Dorado Hills annual crab feed.

It’s that community involvement, especially youth involvement, that gets Tobin really excited about his role as a ShelterBox ambassador.

“I’d love to see more youth involvement in our community,” he said.

Last year locally youth-driven events raised enough money to send three ShelterBoxes, costing around $1,000 each, to hard-hit areas. ShelterBox issues ID numbers to every box so those donating can track them. An Interact/Jackson Elementary School event contributed to a box to Turkey. Interact raised funds for two more boxes that went to Kenya.

“Getting youth involved is important for our future,” Tobin said.

His other goals include finding a local ShelterBox Response Team member, someone who will got to disaster areas, help distribute the boxes and aid victims. Tobin said he’s looking for an adventurer, maybe a retired firefighter or someone else who can lift the 110-pound boxes. Tobin’s also ready to knock on local businesses’ doors and encourage corporate participation and donations.

And he’s still speaking to anyone interested in learning more about ShelterBox. “I’m already booked for most of this spring,” Tobin noted.

In addition to his ShelterBox duties Tobin, a semi-retired nuclear power inspector, participates in Rotary events and supports the El Dorado Hills Veterans Memorial project. He and his wife Sherie have two sons — 27-year-old Patrick who serves in the U.S. Air Force and 23-year-old Danny who attends Folsom Lake College.

Tobin became interested in ShelterBox after listening to a Rotary Club guest speaker. “Knowing that there was a gap in disaster relief and that ShelterBox fills that gap so well … it draws you in,” he explained.

“In 2011 ShelterBox responded to a disaster about every two weeks,” Tobin said, adding that one ShelterBox deployments was in the United States following devastating tornadoes in rural Arkansas.

ShelterBox’s best chance to help all the people who face such disasters is public awareness, according to Tobin. The nightly news only covers the biggest disasters and conflicts in the world and that’s usually where the donations go, he explained.

But did you know a cyclone recently hit Madagascar? What about the latest tropical storm and earthquake in the Philippines?

ShelterBox is on the ground in those countries right now, Tobin said. It’s up to Tobin and other ambassadors to get the world out so ShelterBox can continue responding where ever disaster strikes.

“One of ShelterBox’s goals is to be recognized like the Red Cross is recognized,” Tobin said.

With Tobin on the job it will undoubtedly happen.

Get involved
If you wold like to get involved with ShelterBox or would like Tobin to speak at an event call him at (916) 616-6973. For more information about the organization visit shelterboxusa.org.

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