Thomas receives help, now pays it forward
Thomas, a single father and immigrant from Mexico, wanted the same for his two young children that all parents want: a chance at a life filled with possibility and opportunity. But in 2003, he injured his hand while working at a local restaurant and was told by doctors that the injury was so serious he would no longer be able to use his hand in that job or others with similar physical requirements.
With that, the steady income that had provided what his family needed trickled to worker’s compensation and food stamps. For one person that might have been enough, but for a dad with little ones it just wasn’t cutting it. His family back in Mexico told him he should come back, but that option broke his heart – he desperately wanted to give his children better opportunities than what he had growing up.
A friend mentioned the Orlando Union Rescue Mission as a possible place for Thomas’s family. He was apprehensive, since many places he had looked into could not accommodate single fathers with children. He was also nervous to expose his children to conditions that are normally associated with shelters. But, on the slim chance he would be accepted, Thomas applied.
At the time, the Mission was among those agencies that could not accommodate single fathers. But when the staff met Thomas, something stirred in them to allow him and his family to stay. And Thomas didn’t find a shelter – he found a warm, welcoming home.
“I realized it was a very nice place and that put me at ease,” he said. “They broke their own rules to give my family a chance and I am very, very grateful.”
Thomas and his children spent one year living at the Mission. While his kids were in school, he took classes in tourism and hospitality at Valencia College in order to start a new career. During his time there, however, he discovered he had a talent in tutoring other students who were learning Spanish. He was hired as a full-time tutor and the family was able to move from the Mission to an apartment of their own in Orlando.
It’s been 10 years since Thomas found the opportunity he needed to recreate a future of hope for himself and his children. He identifies the Mission as the turning point for his family. His children have grown up and have been able to find the better opportunities their father fought so hard for: His daughter now is a manager at The Walt Disney Company and his son works at the Publix corporate offices.
Thomas is still working as a Spanish tutor at Valencia College, but you can still find him at the Mission – as a volunteer. He comes regularly to serve dinner to those who are in the same situation he was in 10 years ago. It’s his way of giving back and creating the same opportunity he was in need of: an opportunity to start over.
A decade after leaving the Mission, Thomas remains grateful for the impact friends like you made in his time of need. Each day, O.U.R. Mission Home offers life-changing care to nearly 33 families, like Thomas’s. Help create more stories of life transformation through your support today. Each gift of $26.82 provides a hot meal and life changing care for a homeless man, woman or child in Central Florida!