A Scott County Sheriff’s Office deputy has been doing more to help his community than just his day job.
Since spring of this year, Deputy Joseph Thomas has been providing free lawn care to those members of the community who are unable to perform the work themselves or pay someone else.
“It started with my neighbor’s house,” Thomas said “She was not able to manage her lawn due to taking care of her husband, who was very sick. We have an HOA (Home Owner’s Association) in my neighborhood, and there were complaints that it was overgrown. I had heard the complaints and I just moved to the neighborhood prior, so I was out mowing my yard one day, and I noticed an elderly female out mowing the yard. She was struggling with it, and I thought ‘Wait a minute, this is why she’s not able to keep her yard up,’ so I offered to help.”
At first, Thomas said his neighbor resisted, but he remained persistent.
“I reassured her that I don’t mind, that I just cut my yard, it’s very hot out and there won’t be any charges, and that I’d be happy to help,” he said. “I spent hours getting it done, and I knocked on the door just to tell her it was finished and her husband answered. I found out he had a stroke and other health problems. He said he loved keeping his yard up when he was able to, but now he’s not, so it’s put on his wife. I told him not to worry about it, there’s no charge and I’ll love to do it. He was so blessed by it.”
Later that night, Thomas thought about how many other elderly or sick residents may need help in Scott County in what he calls a “vision.”
“I went to bed that night and thought about the other elderly couples who are not able to keep their yard up due to physical conditions, COVID restrictions, sickness in general or financial issues,” he said.
This led Thomas to start a GoFundMe page, where people could donate to his cause of helping out these members of the community maintain their lawns.
“I began telling people in the community my vision to help start this elderly lawn service, and lo and behold, people were on board with it,” he said. “They donated me money, equipment, lawn mowers, weed-eaters, gas… Anything I needed, they provided.”
Even local businesses, such as MLS Power Sports and Dan Cummins, made donations for his cause, Thomas said. As of last week, Thomas said he has received approximately $2,500 in cash donations and on his Go Fund Me page, in addition to the equipment and other materials donated to maintain the lawns.
“I was able to buy a 5-by-8 trailer with a hitch to hook on the back of my SUV, and Tractor Supply gave me a discount on one of the weed-eater holders, so now I’m able to haul everything I need,” he said.
Currently, Thomas said he maintains six lawns per week, but said that he has several one-off type jobs, such as trimming bushes and trees or landscaping.
One of those lawns belongs to 63-year-old Tracy Stone on Timberwood Trace.
“He weeds my yard and trims my bushes,” Stone said. “He just knocked on my door and offered to do it. At first, I didn’t know what to think, but he’s been doing a great job ever since. He’s a really kind man.”
Stone suffered from cancer about three years ago, and said Thomas’ service was something that has eased the burden of having to take care of his lawn.
“I’m just not as strong as I used to be,” he said. “I can’t get out in the heat. It’s too much for me. It takes a lot of pressure off. People charge about $50, and I’m on a limited income. I’m on Social Security, so it means a lot to me.”
In fact, Stone said the last time Thomas was there to do his yard, he was too sick to even greet him. But nevertheless, Thomas still did it.
“I’d like to apologize for not being able to come out and greet him the last time he was here because I was in bed sick and couldn’t get out,” he said. “I’d want to say thank you and that he’s a very kind man.”
But for Thomas it’s all about being a man of service.
“All the jobs I’ve had, I’ve served,” Thomas said. “It’s always been a passion for me to give back. I really believe that we are called to do as a people or community to be able to help the weak or the oppressed or the sick. I am fortunate enough to be healthy and to work in my community that I was born and raised in and just give back.”
Thomas added that it also helps connect him to the community.
“You are building relationships in the community,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many countless hours of sitting down, after I mow yards or trim trees, on the porch drinking an Ale-8 or just having a conversation. Some of them are so lonely. Some don’t have family around.”
Although it’s a time commitment, Thomas said he’s more than happy to do it.
“I would say it’s another full-time job doing this, but I find it motivating,” he said. “If you go to the gym and you love to work out, even though you’re tired from a long day at work, you get your stress relief from it. My stress relief —my me time — is this. There’s so much hate in the world with different political, racial, gender and just people, but my goal is to leave all of that aside and just serve, show love and bring the community together.
“I have a 15-year-old son. We have two mowers and we’ll load up the vehicle and do it together from time to time. Not only am I building a relationship with my community, I’m also showing my son how to serve the community and show love. It’s been a blessing.”
This isn’t Thomas’ only volunteer work. He also serves on the board of directors for the AMEN House, a non-profit dedicated to providing food for Scott County.
For Thomas, he has a simple challenge for Scott County residents.
“Whatever your talents are, go out and give back to our community in Scott County,” he said. “Forget about your beliefs or your differences and let’s just all set that aside and serve one another, build relationships and build our community.”
To donate to Thomas’ Go Fund Me page, visit www.gofundme.com/f/assisting-senior-living.