06 Apr Volunteer Spotlight: Mr. Tom’s Good Heart
Retirement is usually a time to relax, unwind and travel with your loved ones. But for Tom Umstead, fondly known as “Mr. Tom,” it was a time to do so much more.
After his retirement, he noticed the large amount of perfectly good baked goods, food and supplies that would go unused or thrown away in large grocery stores. After further investigation, he called the Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Fl. He told the representative:
“I think the stuff you’re throwing away, I could find somewhere that it could go to good use!”
It was a story of good intentions that the Publix management had heard before. Unfortunately, others before Mr. Tom had a similar idea with little follow-through. Many others had the inability to pick-up the day-old food on a consistent basis. This caused headaches for the store managers and they often gave up.
However, Mr. Tom was persistent and after a trial run with the local store, he continued to arrive week after week willing and able to bring the food and supplies to the needy. And, after years of consistency, Mr. Tom has expanded his reach from that local Publix store to many other grocery stories, Costco’s and more! He deliveres each week to multiple charities but we’re lucky enough to have him deliver a car load full of toys, supplies, canned foods and baked goods to both of our Atlanta Ronald McDonald Houses each and every week.
The staff, volunteers and families of Atlanta RMHC love and admire Mr. Tom greatly. He and his wife, Lucrecia, have donated their time and efforts towards our mission since 2003. He is a steady staple to our charity and his volunteerism is seen as heroism to us.
“When I host tours at one of our Houses, I always talk about Mr. Tom and call him an angel,” said Beth Howell, President & CEO of Atlanta RMHC. “Every time we see his car pulling up, the staff rush to go see him and help him unload his car. We all love him. He has proven time and time again that we can count on him to help keep our pantry full at both of our Houses. The kids love to come get cupcakes, cookies or doughnuts as a treat or cuddle with a large stuffed bear around our Healing Tree after a long day in treatment- all donations brought by Mr. Tom. He helps give the families staying with us good memories in the midst of difficult times.”
An interview with Mr. Tom:
How long have you been volunteering at the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House?
My wife and I have been coming to the Houses for about 14 years. We really enjoy helping out. I visit each House weekly to stock the pantry supplies and I also enjoy taking the kids outside to play. It’s easy to get hooked!
What’s your fondest memory of the House?
I met a child who was told he’d never walk and was downtrodden. I told him we don’t know what our lives hold hold and I encouraged him. Within six months he got up and walked. Even though I get attached to the children, the best days I have are when they’re finally able to leave here and go home!
What’s surprised you most about your time at the House?
How great the staff is. They are such sincere people. From the top down, every single person is committed to the families. These folks come in from a long day at the hospital and they need a place where they can feel warmth. That’s what the staff provides, a home away from home.
What’s been the most satisfying part of volunteering at the House?
The wonderful families I’ve met. Some have become lifelong friends. You get attached to them and stay in touch. I get much more out of it than they do.
We’re so honored to acknowledge Mr. Tom during Volunteer Appreciation Month! THANK YOU for your amazing commitment to our families, Tom.
Learn more about Mr. Tom’s commitment to our community with his own non-profit dedicated to helping other organizations in the Atlanta community on his website: Mr. Tom’s Heart.