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Youth Programs

Mystery giver at Robinson Gardens reveals identity and makes a new gift

Mystery giver at Robinson Gardens reveals identity and makes a new gift

Two years and many gifts later to the Robinson Gardens Youth Group, a lifelong Springfield resident with a mindset for giving has revealed his identity and established an activities fund for the teens.

The mystery giver is Santino Tomassini, a local businessman whose eye – and heart — were caught two years by a Springfield Republican article about the Farris Mitchell Scholarship, a Springfield Housing Authority award given yearly to a city public housing or rental assistance recipient who is a graduating high school senior going to college. The scholarships are given in memory of the late Farris Mitchell, a public housing resident who pushed education to his own 10 children and many of his neighbors at Riverview Apartments and beyond.

Impressed with the mission, Tomassini offered additional money to scholarship recipients to pay for books and school supplies during their first year of college. He has done so ever since, anonymously.

Tomassini has also forged a bond that helps youth and families at Robinson Gardens Apartments, thanks to his gifts to scholarship recipients.

SHA Youth Engagement Coordinator Jimmie Mitchell, front center, with families sharing holiday gifts from Santino Tomassini.

SHA Youth Engagement Coordinator Jimmie Mitchell, front center, with families sharing holiday gifts from Santino Tomassini at Robinson Gardens Apartments.

The scholarship fund is managed by a committee that includes Farris Mitchell’s son, Jimmie Mitchell, a retired city high school counselor who now works as youth engagement coordinator at Robinson Gardens. Mitchell meets every weekday afternoon with a group of a dozen or more teen residents, guiding them to succeed in school and prepare for upcoming adulthood.

Thanks to Tomassini, Mitchell’s teens, and in some cases their families, have received funding for various activities. Tomassini’s largesse has even included trips to area markets and grocery stores – he has given complete Thanksgiving dinners along with Christmas turkeys and hams to Robinson Gardens families.

True to his modest self, he wants little by way of public recognition.

“I grew up in the Six Corners neighborhood,” Tomassini said. “The thing that attracted me to this was, I came here to see these kids and what they’re doing, and it’s such a positive thing. This is what it’s all about to me.”

Mitchell and SHA Resident Services Director Pamela Wells said Tomassini’s gifts and support are appreciated by both the authority and the teens.

“We’re always working to engage the youth here, to keep them on the right track,” Wells said.

To that end, Tomassini continues to support the group in the hopes they will bring their positive message and energy to another SHA family development. Robinson Gardens is the only one in the city with an organized and funded teen group.

“I’d love to see this program expand. It’s working,” Tomassini said.

Lifelong Springfield resident and businessman Santino Tomassini with SHA Youth Engagement Coordinator Jimmie Mitchell.

Lifelong Springfield resident and businessman Santino Tomassini with SHA Youth Engagement Coordinator Jimmie Mitchell at Robinson Gardens Apartments.

Wells and Mitchell are working on a plan that will do just that – bring the Robinson Gardens youth to other developments, where they will replicate, in part, the professional speakers and group trips and activities that Mitchell has brought to them. Mitchell said his success at Robinson Gardens has surprised even him at times.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Mitchell said. “The kids just keep coming back. A lot of them don’t have anywhere to go after school and I believe this gives them someplace positive and constructive to go to. They come to me for advice and guidance.”

Tomassini, who works in management at St. James Check Cashing, pitched the program and its achievements to ownership, and got the green light to set up a $1,000 fund for future activities, courtesy of the business, for ongoing support of the Robinson Gardens Youth Group.

3409 days ago / Youth Programs
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