Beverly Thomas: “Lord use me until you use me up.”
Beverly Alford-Thomas, founder of Virgie and Leonard’s Place states she will keep working as long as she can." I don't intend on retiring," she said.
March 3, 2018 - Reported [here]. Beverly Alford-Thomas, founder of Virgie and Leonard’s Place in Kennett, never expected to launch the local non-for-profit until a near death experience put her on the path towards community service and support.
Virgie and Leonard’s Place doesn’t just offer essential needs such as clothing and food, but at any given time you can drop in for a cup of coffee and good conversation.
Thomas reflected on her life and circumstances which led to her being one of the most recognizable benefactors in the region.
“I was born in Kennett, July 30, 1948,” said Thomas. “I’m not ashamed of my age.” “I started school at Willoughby in Kennett,” informed Thomas. “I went just about a semester and then we moved to Bragg City.”
Thomas attended school in Bragg City until the eighth grade when the family returned to Kennett and she graduated from KHS in 1966.
“We were going through integration at that time,” stated Thomas. “It was a lot of adjusting for a lot of us, because as blacks were losing our culture and our heritage.We had our own basketball team, our own cheerleaders. We had our own teachers that really cared about us and they were part of the community. They would come to our house and eat dinner with us.”
Thomas continued, “It seems like back then everybody was more of a family and they knew it would be hard on you as a minority person to make it in life so they were going to make sure that you got it and if you didn’t get it, then they would come to your house and help.”
“We lost a lot when we integrated,” shared Thomas. “I was one of the people that got the raggedy books, the books that were torn. I was the one that had to take my lunch to school, when the white kids were getting hot lunches.”
“In Bragg City the white kids had an indoor toilet and we had an outdoor toilet,” said Thomas. “We’ve come a long way but we still have a long, long way to go.”
Thomas shared her thoughts on prejudice.
“We’re not born prejudice,” she said. “Prejudice is taught and it’s instilled in a person. It has to be instilled in your heart and your mind. My mom and dad used to tell me you don’t look at a person’s face, the color of their skin, you look at their heart. If you look at the color you’re going to lose a lot of good people in your life. Look at their heart and go from there.”
Thomas has eight siblings, five girls and three boys, including two sets of twins.
Her parents were Leonard and Virgie Younger.
“We grew up in a very structured home with morals and values,” said Thomas. “We had chores to do. We ate dinner together. My mom would cook breakfast for us every morning.”
“I was very fortunate because I had a hardworking father,” she said. “I’ve never been hungry or wanted anything. We always had a car. We had steaks. We don’t like steaks today because my dad would kill a cow or a pig or a goat. We had so many steaks during our lifetime, we’ll eat a steak now but we’re not really fond of them.”
After high school graduation Thomas went to Lincoln University for a short period then it was off to California.
“When I went from Kennett to California it was a very big culture shock,” said Thomas. “It was amazing. I could see people that looked like me that were judges and doctors and teachers. I had friends of all nationalities. When they would come to Kennett it was a shock to them.”
Thomas moved back to Kennett in the seventies and a potentially deadly medical condition led her to open Virgie and Leonard’s Place.
“I always wanted to help people. I was on different committees in the community,” remembered Thomas. “This is a job that I wouldn’t have picked for myself.”
Thomas continued, “I was sick in 1997. I had a tumor on my heart that had to be removed and I was in a coma for two weeks.”
During this time she was visited by a heavenly messenger.
“An angel came to me and gave me this mission,” shared Thomas. “I really didn’t want it. My mom told me that I would have to do what I was told to do. You have have to do what you’re called to do.”
“The angel told me I had to feed and clothe people and I could never charge because the price has been paid.”
While in the coma Beverly was lifted up into this beautiful blue place.
“I was singing and reciting bible verses that I thought I had forgot,” she said. “They had just about given me up. I was on life support and the doctors had told my family they had done all they could for me. When I woke up and my eyes popped open I wondered who died?”
Thomas’s doctor brought in another doctor to speak with her. “This doctor talks to every patient who has had an out of body experience,” Thomas informed. “Everyday I look for this blue color but there is no blue on this earth that looks like that. It was bright blue, but not enough to blind you. It was so beautiful. It was so peaceful.”
Operating Virgie and Leonard’s Place, Thomas has to rely on volunteers and the financial support of generous benefactors in the community.
“I’m not a rich person. I try to share because my daddy used to say whether you have a dollar or a million, you can’t take it with you. If you take care of your family and your responsibilities, you can share with somebody.”
“At Virgie’s Place we give a lot of hugs and dry a lot of tears. We listen,” said Thomas.
Thomas stated that she prays more people will invest in her mission to help those in need.
“We don’t receive any grant money,” she said. “It’s just a few people in town that believe in me, and my family and friends will also donate.”
Thomas shared that her illness changed her perspective on life.
“I noticed when it’s cloudy and raining, it’s still a beautiful day,” said Thomas. “The sun doesn’t have to shine for it to be a beautiful day. I hear the birds chirping. I see the squirrels. You begin to notice the little things you never paid attention to before. When your time comes, you don’t want to say should of, could of, would of.”
At Virgie and Leonard’s Place many essential needs are provided.
Items such as food, clothing, diapers and baby wipes, as well as school supplies, cleaning supplies and household items.
This past Christmas they gave toys to 139 individual children.
Thomas stresses that Virgie and Leonard’s Place gives back to her in many ways.
“It gives to me smiles on people’s faces,” she aid. “It gives to me hugs that say thank you. I learn a lot from a lot of people that come through here.”
Thomas concluded, “I’ll soon be 70 years old and I’m going to keep to keep working until I can’t do it anymore. I don’t intend on retiring.”
“Every morning I tell the Lord to use me until you use me up,” she said. “My life shall not have been in vain. I’ve helped somebody along life’s way.”