Nathalie Thomas made work from home a thing long before COVID-19 made it a necessity.
“I started in 1997 with one home. I lived in the house and had two extra bedrooms,” Thomas recalled. “I just started with one resident, one consumer living with me, and then another moved in and it just mushroomed into a full-fledged business.”
Thomas is the executive director of The Thomas House, a Tallahassee, Florida-based group home for adults with disabilities. This former teacher, who had an interest in becoming a nurse, began her business when she found that she could combine her knack for teaching with her affinity for caring for others.
“We train our residents to live as independently as possible,” Thomas said. “Everyone is at a different level and needs training on things like how to cook or do laundry. The simple things that you and I take for granted daily.”
Part of that training includes learning how to manage their finances.
“All of my clients have their own bank accounts and they each have their own debit cards; so, when they go to the store, they swipe their cards. That’s an empowering feeling for them to purchase their own things,” Thomas explained. “Then at the end of the month we get a bank statement and they can look at the bank statement. We all go to the bank together, and Regions has been good for my residents, and for myself and my business.”
“It just really makes me smile every day to see the sacrifice that she makes. She’s so selfless and she has so much compassion. It’s amazing what she does to be able to give herself to others,” shared Felicia Richardson, a Regions market executive and branch manager in Tallahassee who has long banked Thomas. “She also loves to manage the money for her clients, because that’s a big deal. She’s trusted, and the families that have their family members (with her), they trust Ms. Thomas with everything.”
One of those family members that trusts a loved one with Thomas is Margaret McMahan. She says Thomas became family after her daughter joined her care in 2005.
“This is the first group home organization where I have felt that she is safe, and I don’t have to worry about her. That’s the biggest thing,” McMahan said. “She cares about them and she actually really loves them. It shows in how she takes care of them and puts their needs before hers.”
For Thomas, it’s all about being that home away from home, and providing that family feeling, for her residents.
“Since I moved to Tallahassee from New York, I have never had extended family living in close proximity,” Thomas said. “The bonds I have developed with my resident families is so strong that now they feel like family to me. In many ways, I consider them my Tallahassee family.”