Six Decades of Dedication Through Selfless Service to the Community

Daily Point of Light # 7853 Jul 11, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Sandy Thomas. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

Sandy Thomas has been an integral member of her community – through volunteering in many capacities – for over six decades. As past president of the AT&T Telecom Pioneers, a volunteer organization that assists individuals in almost every facet of life, she has led numerous initiatives that touched the lives of countless people in her South Florida community.  

From providing toys and clothing to families at the SafeSpace Domestic Violence Shelter to preparing meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House and working on homes with Habitat for Humanity, Sandy has gone above and beyond to lend her time through volunteering. In recent years, she has organized and participated in food collections and distribution for Joshua’s Heart and other area pantries, ensuring that families have access to the food they need. 

Even after her diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma, which has limited her “hands-on” involvement due to a compromised immune system, Sandy’s dedication to volunteerism hasn’t wavered – in fact, she’s figured out ways to keep volunteering despite any of the challenges posed by her illness. 

Sandy’s work is truly an inspiration and has earned her the Presidents Volunteer Service Award many times over. Read on to find out what got her started with volunteering and why she continues no matter what life throws her.  

Tell us about your volunteer roles. 

I volunteer and have volunteered for many organizations over the years. Currently, most of my volunteer work is done with the AT&T Telecom Pioneers. I’ve done many little projects, as well as bigger events. When the pandemic hit, of course we had to stop a lot of the face-to-face volunteering, and right around the same time I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Right now, I’m immunocompromised, so I’m not able to get out a lot. So now, I’m doing a lot individually.

Sandy Thomas holds many volunteer roles, and has since the age of 3.

Whereas before I’d go shopping for a pantry, like Joshua’s Heart, I would go shopping and purchase the items, I would package them, put everything together, take it over and help with distribution. But there are too many people involved so lately what I’ve been doing is ordering things that go directly to the pantries, or other volunteers help with that part.  

We’ve worked a long time with the Ronald McDonald House, making mostly breakfast or lunch. What we started doing was enlisting a Boy Scout Troop, and they get badges for cooking! We incorporated bingo, which was such a big hit. We gave out prizes, typically $10 gifts from Walmart. I helped start that initiative. 

When I would go to senior homes, I noticed seniors who were in wheelchairs would have all their stuff in their laps. I thought how great it would be to have them have bags to hang on the handles. I helped with purchasing materials and found a woman who sewed the bags! I also got involved with toy and gift distribution around the holidays and Easter baskets – those are such fun initiatives. 

For many years I logged my hours for the Presidents Volunteer Service Award, but eventually stopped logging them. I’m hoping next year that my oncologist will give me the okay to be around more people. 

What inspired you to get started with these initiatives? 

I started volunteering when I was 3 years old. My mother was a single mother and she taught us that it was better to give than to receive. So we helped anyone who didn’t have as much as us. Maybe it was moving garbage cans out of the street, or buying little things – like a can of soup – for a neighbor. We didn’t have much, but we still learned to give. Now, I’m 67, so 64 years ago my volunteering started!  

I worked for the phone company – Southern Bell, Bell South, ATT – for 40 years. I retired three years ago and I volunteered my whole time there. Most  of my projects dealt with helping children or seniors, or feeding unhoused individuals. For my whole career, I had supportive supervisors and directors who recognized how important getting involved in the community is. I’m very appreciative of all of these leaders. 

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work? 

The most rewarding part is definitely handing out food and seeing appreciative families. They’re thankful for an apple. For a banana. For a bag of fruit. Often, we don’t think about how important it is to have these small items, but they’re so grateful. I can’t do it on my own. I have my Pioneers behind me who reimburse me for many of the things I purchase and help support me as well. 

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about? 

Because we take so much for granted. Because we don’t take time to see how important it is. Whenever I bring someone along with me to volunteer, I get to see them feel good about it. It’s important to get involved just so you can see outside of yourself and see how much impact it can make. Sometimes it just takes one event, one time dropping off a bag of food.  

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering? 

Just do it. Do it from the heart – it’s such a warm feeling. There’s one organization here, Feeding South Florida, and a lot of times the phone company wanted their employees involved, which I’d help organize. The employees would have so much fun that a lot of people went back individually and brought their families!  

Whatever you’re interested in, look it up. Find out about the cause and the organization. There are so many out there. It doesn’t take a large percentage of your dollars. Many organizations out there just need time. So find something that you’re interested in, and ask about it! Look things up! There are so many places and so many causes to contribute time to. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Sandy? Find local volunteer opportunities. 

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