For the second year in a row, RAYS Youth Services Program Coordinator, Michael Thomas, has been nominated for the People of the Year Award in Sheboygan. RAYS Youth Services is a youth-centered program that was acquired by Foundations Health and Wholeness at the beginning of 2021. The program focuses on keeping all youth safe and help them gain life and independent living skills, gain social, emotional, and coping skills, as well an increase their positive community connections and relationships. By ensuring youth gain these skills, RAYS can help those youth successfully transition into adulthood. All youth are at risk of negative experiences, some of them more alarming than others. We focus on effective prevention education – in schools, at other organizations, and do street outreach in the community, including bus stations, parks, libraries, anywhere that youth hang out.
Michael joined the RAYS program in late 2021, and he focuses on creating meaningful connections with at-risk youth, and educating the community about RAYS resources and programming.
Guided by his faith and compassionate heart, Michael sets out each day with the intention to create change within his community and state by leading with compassion, patience, and persistence. What gets him out of bed in the morning is the idea of serving more people and expanding his ability to serve. When not working for RAYS Youth Services, Michael can be found coaching basketball at UW- Green Bay – Manitowoc, leading worship at Hope Church, handing out food to those in need via his mobile food pantry, or pushing back against the status quo to create change for Black and African Americans with his nonprofit work.
And of course, beyond his professional duties and life of service, Michael dedicates himself to being an excellent father and husband by fulfilling the needs of his beloved family.
One word to describe Mike? Accomplished. There’s not enough space to list all of the ways Michael has touched the world and left it better than he found it. But here are a few accomplishments that make him feel particularly proud:
- Established Drive Safe, Wisconsin – a nonprofit designed to encourage safer driving in the state of Wisconsin in order to decrease deaths caused on the road. (He’s excited at the prospect of expanding this project!)
- A faith-driven man, Michael began his own church, where he serves the good word on Sundays and his community every other day of the week.
- Created a mobile pantry in 2021 that provides food to vulnerable communities in multiple locations.
- Established Black American Community Outreach — another nonprofit started in the wake of social unrest caused by the injustice of police officers murdering or otherwise harming Black and African American communities. Michael envisioned a space of leadership for the entire Sheboygan community, as well as a safe place to mentor Black youth. “Our mission statement,” Thomas explained, “is to uplift and empower the entire community in which we live. We definitely strive to be a voice, representative, and resource provider for the Black community, but that’s just part of who we are and what trying to create.” At just over one year old, this nonprofit has held multiple events, celebrations, unity walks, and BBQs that encourage education, leadership, equity, social justice, and peace. Above all, Michael envisions this nonprofit as a space to push back against the injustice of society’s status quo and the injustice done to Black and African American bodies. Currently, this nonprofit is planning for their 2022 Juneteenth celebration.
- Michael is also a Sheboygan police chaplain and dedicated member of a school board for a private charter school.
When asked about his favorite accomplishment, Michael emphasized that “giving his life to God and dedicating himself to a faith-based life” permanently changed his life for the better. This accomplishment transformed him from someone who identified as troubled into the motivated man we are proud to work alongside each day! For Foundations and the RAYS Youth Services program, Michael Thomas focuses on creating lasting impact for both the individual and the community. “I feel fulfilled by my work and my sense of duty to serve my community, ” stated Thomas, “I’m encouraged every day to lead people into a better future and change lives for the better.”
Turning toward the future, Michael has his eye on “expansion,” in hopes to “help even more people at a greater capacity and create positive changes within the community.” And he has his sights set far beyond all the work he does for Sheboygan and the state, but his plans are still brewing for now.
Foundations Health and Wholeness and the RAYS program feel lucky to have someone as innovative and accomplished as Michael Thomas on their team. His dedicated efforts to improve his community inspires those around him. Foundations can think of no one more deserving for this nomination. Congratulations to Michael on his People of the Year in Sheboygan nomination and all of his incredible accomplishments.
Until Next Time,
Grants and Content Manager
Profile Photo Credit: Sheboygan Press