“Big Mike” Thomas Gives Back to LAHIA
“Big Mike,” as he is affectionately called, has become a fixture at Love and Hope in Action (LAHIA). He first arrived at LAHIA almost four years ago, when he was homeless. Once he got
back on his feet and found work, he moved on. Today, he’s back as a full-time volunteer, and LAHIA is grateful to have him!
Mike Thomas now lives on the LAHIA campus, helping to provide 24/7 security. During the day, he is a permanent fixture at the front desk—a familiar and friendly face who greets clients and
volunteers. He manages the kitchen, making sure the daily volunteers have what they need to prepare meals, and helping to cook when needed. He also provides transportation – picking
up food donations from restaurants and churches, helping campers move their belongings out of the woods when they find housing, and helping clients get to doctor appointments.
A native Floridian, Mike is happy to be able to give back and help others who are now in similar circumstances as he once was.
“LAHIA was a big help to me a few years ago,” Mike said. “I slept in my truck for a while and lived in a tent. It was a difficult time.”
Brenda Dickerson, LAHIA's Executive Director, said Mike's contributions are a blessing to the nonprofit organization.
"The day Big Mike came back to LAHIA as a volunteer was a good day!," she said. "We are blessed to have such a reliable man taking on the responsibilities of looking out for this ministry in so many tangible ways."
Mike’s presence is a win-win on both sides.
“It gives you a good feeling inside to help other people,” he said. “I know I’m doing God’s work.”
Joe Pokalsey is Changing Lives
After retiring from his third career at the age of 75, Joe Pokalsey looked for something new to do. He found it at Love and Hope in Action (LAHIA).
Six years later, Joe is still volunteering at LAHIA. His work is primarily focused on providing assistance and support to the individuals LAHIA serves. Approximately 75 people come through LAHIA’s doors each day. They might receive a meal, a shower and/or clean clothes.
Since most LAHIA clients are homeless and have no mailing address, LAHIA offers them a mailbox. One of Joe’s jobs is to maintain the mail folders of about 300 individuals and keep safe any important identification papers they have, such as birth certificates or social security cards.
Joe also drives clients to doctor appointments, and as an ordained deacon he assists with group discussions, bible studies and church services held on Saturdays at LAHIA. He works closely with Chris Taylor-Cronin, LAHIA’s Director of Client Services and an ordained pastor.
“There is both a physical and a spiritual side of our work,” Joe said. “Our services are low-key, casual and friendly.”
Both Chris and Joe get to know almost every client who walks through the doors at LAHIA. They help connect them with social services, medical or mental health care, and other resources in the community. They also assist clients with obtaining state identification, housing, food stamps and jobs.
“Each day is a whole new set of circumstances or emergencies we have to deal with,” Joe said.
“Joe's unwavering dedication to the mission of LAHIA is nothing short of admirable,” said Brenda Dickerson, LAHIA’s Director. “We are deeply grateful to him for all he does.”
For Joe, the rewards are simple. “We are helping to change a lot of lives here,” he said.
As our volunteer office manager, Fran Bowman can be found at the LAHIA office almost every day of the week. Her job includes overseeing the kitchen, shopping for food, addressing questions from clients and volunteers, helping find second-hand furniture for clients who are moving into apartment--and the list goes on!
Fran arrived at LAHIA in 2011 after seeing an ad for LAHIA volunteers in the newspaper. She began volunteering as a receptionist, and then became the volunteer coordinator. "I love working with people," Fran said. "It's so rewarding to do the work we're doing. I can't tell you how much it's blessed me to be here at LAHIA."
And LAHIA feels blessed to have a volunteer like Fran.
"Fran brings organization and efficiency to the LAHIA office," said Brenda Dickerson, LAHIA's Director. "Her creativity and years of experience have been a tremendous addition to the staff over the last few years. We are grateful that she has chosen to bless us with her amazing energy during her retirement years so far!"
Feeding 100 - 125 people a day requires having volunteers, like Fran, who are caring, dependable, and committed to the LAHIA mission. But, as Fran is quick to point out, LAHIA is more than a feeding ministry.
"In addition to having showers and a laundry room available to our clients, we help them get medical or dental care, find clothing and get necessary items and/or furnishings to start a household," Fran said. "We get to witness so many blessings - when someone finds an apartment, or when we are able to secure a bus ticket for them to return home to family or start a new job."
Thank you, Fran, for the many things you do to help LAHIA serve our community members in need!