Gretchen Goette Chiari discusses how she learned about Friends Outside nine years ago. This lead to her volunteer work in the Watts’ office and the Lynwood Jail for Women.
Thomas Fleming Rhodes was the epitome of a volunteer.
He began volunteering at our Pasadena office so many years ago that we don’t even remember exactly when he began. We think it was sometime in the late 70’s. 9:00 – 12:00 Tuesday morning was Tom’s perennial shift. He was a supervisor’s dream – always on time, seldom missed work but called on those rare occasions when he could not be at work, and always willing to do what you asked him to do. Wherever he was, there was always Tom’s radiant smile and his laugh, lilting and lively.
Those of us who had the privilege to know him remember a man who never complained, in spite of physical and mental challenges that would have given him sufficient reason to do so. Through Tom, we discovered that an individual, no matter their personal challenges, always has something to give.
A couple of years ago, Tom called to tell us that he was no longer able to volunteer. He left us as unassumingly as he had come to us. The Tuesday morning slot would no longer be filled by this selfless, kind, and gentle soul. We were saddened to learn that Tom passed-away quite suddenly last September at the age of 63.
Tom’s siblings, Margaret, Richard, and Ted, granted us permission to memorialize Tom. But, how do you honor a man who answered our telephones for about 25 years. At a rate of about 10 calls per hour, Tom likely handled somewhere around 37,500 telephone calls! How do you memorialize a man whose service helped us meet the conditions of our contracts, a man who gave not only of his time but also of his monetary resources, a man who asked nothing of us in return but to be given a place and a means through which he could serve his community?
And so it is, with the blessing of his three siblings, we are proud to announce that we have named our most well-loved and enduring community activity in Tom’s honor, the “Thomas Fleming Rhodes Memorial Holiday Party for Children.” In doing so, we sincerely hope that we have done justice to his life, his values, and his many contributions to Friends Outside and our community.