Deacon Tom Roberts used to develop commercial real estate; Now he is developing life.
The Ohio native Youngstown said his mother and her six children had financial problems after his father died when Roberts was 3 years old. He earned marketing and finance degrees from Youngstown State University and lived in Chicago in 1989, where he had developed a mix – Use the Mall when he was hired to do the same for a new complex in Las Vegas. It was to be called Forum Shops in Caesars and opened in 1992.
“As a young man, I was very fortunate,” said Roberts, “to be part of a project that has changed the face of Las Vegas in many ways and set the tone for higher nongaming revenues.”
After completing the first two phases of the complex, Roberts was hired as Vice President of Development for the Rio, which was then led by Tony Marnell. After purchasing the Rio in 1999, the company worked for Harrah’s Entertainment in Louisiana and returned to Las Vegas in 2005 as Vice President of Development for Fertitta Entertainment and Station Casinos.
At the same time, Roberts, who is married with three children, was on a five-year program to become a permanent deacon of the Catholic Church. In 2011, Monsignor Patrick Leary, the head of Catholic charities in southern Nevada, died suddenly and Deacon Roberts was asked to intervene temporarily. He suggested the trustees form a search committee to find a CEO. They told him they did, and it was him.
Thanksgiving season is especially busy for Catholic charities. The 16 programs and services include Meals on Wheels, the St. Vincent Lied Dining Facility, and a pantry, all of which are dedicated to feeding hungry people. Roberts said the Meals on Wheels program serves more than 2,000 seniors daily, 700 of whom are on a waiting list. The dining room serves 1,000 meals a day.
“I feel like I am where God wants me,” said Roberts. “And I also know that God has a great sense of humor. A casino guy who’s a permanent deacon and now runs Catholic charities? I think that’s pretty funny. “
Review-Journal: Why Did You Become a Deacon in the Catholic Church?
Roberts: The word diakonia is the Greek word for “service”. I’ve always had this feeling since I was a little boy as an altar server. My mother taught us to give back when we were young, even though we grew up poor. I heard about the deacon but never thought about it until a priest mentioned it here. It’s really just a way to give something back.
Why did you want to change your career?
I had no intention of changing my career. During my apprenticeship (for the deacon) and even when I was helping here, I still worked in the ward. I answered the call to help. (Catholic Charities) was a place I didn’t know about. The day I showed up for work was my first time walking around campus. I began to realize that maybe God had this intention for me all my life and I did not realize it.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There are so many vulnerable people who suffer in silence, whether they are senior citizens at home, families, or immigrants. Knowing that we are providing help and hope at the same time is very rewarding. There is much good here, even though the world is being torn apart by violence and indifference. A little bit comes out here every day.
The demand has grown over the past five years as the economy recovered across the country. There is more polarity. Those at the bottom of the totem pole are not feeling the rest that so many of us have. The volume of needs has increased by 18 percent, including seniors and families. That’s the frustrating and heartbreaking part for me. It is very challenging as there always seems to be more demand than what we are offering. Our economy and our world are polarized in that there are many people who are rich and who need many.
What kind of programs do you want to do in the future?
I want to keep working on chronic and systemic mental illness and abuse. So many people struggle with mental health and addiction; That made them homeless and made them homeless. My goal is to be the promoter and advocate of these people and then think about how we can get them into affordable housing.
What is the Catholic charity doing on Thanksgiving Day?
We will be giving away 3,200 turkeys. (Recipients) must be certified as low-income and provide proof of residence. You can purchase their fixings (in the organization’s pantry) when they get the bird. Those who have a home can eat with their families, and those who don’t have a home can come in and eat with us. We’re doing Thanksgiving and all repairs for anyone who has to come. It’s not just the food; It is the ability to be served. This is where people sit and have a meal served. That is the “hope part”.
Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at [email protected] or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.