Marney Toole has always loved babies.

“When you have a baby fall asleep on your shoulder, there’s that warm, heavy weight, you never want that to end,” she said. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Her love of children led her to a career as a nurse and later to become the family services coordinator of the Martha’s Vineyard Family Center. After 23 years at the Family Center, Mrs. Toole, 68, is retiring.

A native of Minnesota, Mrs. Toole found her way to the Island while searching for the most beautiful place in America. She and her high-school sweetheart-turned husband, Richard Toole, had set out on a five-and-a-half-month cross country road trip.

“We camped the whole time . . . and we thought, when we find a beautiful place, we’ll stop and we’ll live there,” she said. “But this country is so fantastic and so gorgeous that there was just like, oh let’s try one more place, one more place, and then we couldn’t make up our minds.”

Mr. Toole’s grandmother had purchased a cottage in Oak Bluffs that needed some work, so the couple moved in and Mr. Toole started the renovation work.

“We lived in the cottage for two years with no phone, no TV, no hot water... we were in heaven,” Mrs. Toole remembered.

They had a daughter, decided the Vineyard was home and bought a house. Mrs. Toole worked as a nurse at the hospital.

“I worked in the old-old hospital,” she said. “Not for very long, they were moving to the old hospital.”

But her true love was working with children and families and she gravitated toward labor and delivery.

“I found I really liked working with families and the teaching end of that,” she said.

During her seven years at the hospital, she created the child birthing classes with two other nurses. Mrs. Toole moved on to work in a private office and then for a year worked at Felix Neck with Gus Ben David. During the year at Felix Neck, Mrs. Toole was mainly charged with administrative work, but once was tasked with passing around snakes for children to hold. She was terrified of snakes.

“I put my hand in and picked one up and passed it around like it was something I did every got me over my fears,” she said.

She found her way to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services through Early Intervention, a Cape Cod child development program that served children ages zero to three who have or are at risk for disability. She worked with Early Intervention for 10 years, in an office in the Community Services early childhood building.

“It’s sort of when I fell in love with Early Childhood Programs,” she said. Not only were the Community Services staff welcoming, they were also receptive to collaboration and new ideas, she said.

At the time there was a lack of resources for families with young children. Debbie Milne, the early childhood program director at Community Services, became a great mentor for Mrs. Toole.

“She just is amazing, she has a really strong value system and a really deep respect for children and their families,” said Mrs. Toole. “Community Services, but Debbie in particular, wrote grants that brought programs here.”

When Children’s Trust offered a grant to begin the Family Center, Mrs. Toole applied for the coordinator job. For five years, she split her time, working 30 hours a week for early intervention, and 20 hours a week for the Family Center. In 1999, it became too much and she decided to focus on the Family Center, where she remained until now.

The Family Center provides a powerful resource to any family with young children, no matter the level of need, Mrs. Toole said.

“All families at some point in time need help with something,” she said.

That help could range from education about feeding, to a new pair of toddler shoes or just someone to hold the baby for an hour while the parents take a break. And holding babies is why Mrs. Toole got into this business.

“There’s all those little moments, I had a discussion group and a mom was generous enough to let me hold her baby while she ate while we were talking,” she said. “And you know, you’re holding that baby and the little baby just puts its hand around your finger and holds it and it’s like, this is work? I love that.”

Mrs. Toole retires on June 30, with two of her great friends and colleagues, Debbie Milne and Mary Brissette, the coordinator for the head start program.

“We’re planners,” Mrs. Toole said. “I must say the people who work with us think we over-plan, so we’ve been talking about this for two years, starting off with who goes first, who goes second, how should we go out, all the pieces to that, what makes the most sense. So we’re all going together on the same day.”

But for what to do in her retirement, she’s tried not to plan too much.

“I think I want to feel what it feels like first, and see where it takes me,” she said.