Like any loving mother, Maria Thomas went to great lengths to get the care her young son needed for his physical disability. So grateful was she for the help he received that she determined to give some back to others. That is how she became one of Alternatives’ dearest friends.
Maria is a local artist and noted calligraphist who found her way to Alternatives in 1978. At the time, her son, Noah, was having therapy at Shriners Hospital in western Massachusetts. She looked into becoming a volunteer for Shriners, but heard surprising advice from the hospital. Go back to your local community and explore opportunities there, she was told.
That was the day she met with Dennis Rice, executive director for Alternatives, and her more than 30-year connection with the organization began. Over the years, Maria has given of her time and talent in countless ways. She designs awards and invitations, hosts events at her home and displays her work at Alternatives’ Heritage Gallery. She also regularly attends the annual Thank You Receptions.
“It is a perfect fit because I get to volunteer through doing something I love to do. I know that there are others out there just like me who want the opportunity to give back, whether it’s time, money or their expertise,” Maria said.
What Maria likes especially about Alternatives is that she can see the work it does in the community. The agency’s restoration of the Whitin Mill complex is a prime example, she said. The complex, with its theater, art gallery and community plaza, brings together the community and individuals served by Alternatives.
Thinking back on her longtime association with Alternatives, Maria said it’s Noah she can thank for leading her there. As it turned out, her son didn’t need as much help dealing with his disability as originally expected.
“Most likely he doesn’t know this, but his strength encouraged me to continue helping others instead. My work with Alternatives gives me a balance that helps me accept the support and good things that have come my way over the years.”