Life was tough before 18-year-old Thomas came to Mills Home in Thomasville five years ago. His parents were unemployed and struggling. There were times when there was no water nor electricity. The family was in a downward spiral and everyday life became riskier for him and his four siblings.
“My father’s addictions were getting worse,” Thomas recalls. “We didn’t know what would happen day to day. It was hard getting money for rent and food. But, as hard as it was, I just thought this
is what life is like.”
The family was blended. Thomas has an older sister who now lives on her own, two siblings who live with an uncle and his family, and the youngest sibling was adopted.
“I never met my birth dad,” he says. “My stepdad was my father. When things were good, he took care of us and provided all we needed.”
Thomas’ father was a drug addict and an alcoholic. He remembers his mother, Maggie, trying to help him, trying to get him to stop.
Thomas remembers her telling him, “You got to do this for us. You got to stop the drugs for the children.”
But despite the chaos, Thomas says he was never afraid. “My dad cared about us.”
Nevertheless, his father’s addictions took their toll. The drugs damaged his heart, and while Thomas was living at Mills Home, his father died from heart failure. He was 48 years old.
“I was very sad when he passed,” Thomas says. “There were hard times, but I had good memories.”
The department of social services removed the children from the home and Thomas came into Baptist Children’s Homes’ care. He was thirteen years old.
“I knew what was happening,” he says. “Things had gotten really bad, but honestly, I never expected to leave. I was afraid when I first got here.”
Thomas didn’t say much for the first few months. He remembers he “rolled with it,” but the change was drastic. In time, he began to open up.
“I realized there were a lot of good things about living here,” he says. “There are caring people who listen, and I can talk about anything. There was food on the table. We had clothes—clean clothes—and a good place to sleep.”
Everyday life improved for the teenager. He successfully completed middle school, attended high school and began planning to go to college. Then word came that his mother was ill. Her condition worsened, and she passed away, right before Thomas graduated from high school in 2021. She was 50 years old.
But despite the loss of his mother, Thomas felt his life was on a better track. He began seeing life at Mills Home as his path to a bright future.
“I want my future to be something good,” he says. “I have learned so many life skills here. I’m making the best life choices for me.”
Thomas graduated Thomasville High School, decided to stay at Mills Home, and became a part of a special on-campus program for children who are enrolled in higher education studies. Thomas works at a Food Lion grocery store while attending community college. He manages his income and has a savings account. He lives in a cottage with other residents in the program.
He says he never had a reason to leave. “I knew I wanted to go to college,” he asserts, “and BCH was there to help me.
Thomas attends the community college and is working on an associate’s degree. He is part of the school’s Zoo and Aquarium Science Program.
“I want to be a zookeeper,” he says smiling. “This program helps prepare you to care for zoo animals. It may sound funny, Dr. Doolittle or something, but I love animals. This is a dream of mine. And I have to admit, it would be pretty cool to talk with the animals.”
Thomas is light-hearted, but he also takes life seriously. He realizes life is always going to have challenges: “There are so many things
that waste your time, that waste your life. You have to be careful and stay on the right track. Seeing how my dad made bad choices, I know I never want to live life like that.”
Thomas professes Christ; he also confesses that it is more obvious some days than others.
“I trust God and believe He is working in my life,” he says. “I believe God put me exactly where He wanted me. It’s personal.”
At Mills Home, Thomas is focused, working hard, and preparing to tackle life head on.
Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children