On Dec. 29, Tolbert welcomed Felicia Dukes, a single mother of four, who had been living at Alexandria House since February 2011. The family landed at the nonprofit transitional home after Dukes went on maternity leave and fell behind on rent.
"I think a lot of us underestimate or downplay what we can do just by one act and what ripple effect or multiplier effect that might have," said Tolbert, whose story has recently been featured in the Los Angeles Times
, CBS News
, the Huffington Post, People magazine and the U.K. Daily Mail, to name a few. "I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities in my life as far as having a great family, wonderful educational opportunities, great jobs. I almost feel like if I’m not prepared to make a difference and contribute, who am I waiting for?"
Tolbert’s commitment to helping others is rooted in the example set by his parents. When he was growing up, his parents always had room for an extra person at their dinner table and had no qualms about offering someone who needed help a place to stay. "That really planted a seed from an early age of the notion that we all are responsible for one another, and we can help take care of one another," he said.
Very few people — even those with whom he works closest — knew of Tolbert’s inspirational gift prior to the news coverage. Donna Colin, director of major gifts and stewardship for the law school, received an email over the winter break from a faculty member who had read Tolbert’s story in the Los Angeles Times and circulated it to his colleagues.
"I was absolutely flabbergasted because I have known Tony for a long time and had never known of this," said Colin, who has worked with Tolbert for eight or nine years and knew him prior to that as a volunteer coach for her daughter's basketball team.
"I also wasn’t entirely surprised, because I have always thought the world of him," said Colin. "His unbelievable generosity and courage are making me examine my own actions and inactions. Tony clearly walks the walk. And it makes me think of all the good intentions I have had, but have failed to implement. I feel inspired to try and be a better, more proactive and more giving person."