I am RIFA – Thomas Brown

Meet Thomas Brown, RIFA’s Warehouse Manager and Volunteer Manager. After serving as RIFA’s Warehouse Manager for five years, Thomas took on new responsibilities as Volunteer Manager this past December. We are excited to share his story with you.  

Thomas began working at RIFA as Warehouse Manager in September, 2017. “The timing was immaculate,” Thomas said. The position was brand new for RIFA, and Thomas took it in stride. When asked what his experience with RIFA was like before joining the staff, Thomas said, “I know when I was growing up, my mom would shop at the Thrift Store. So RIFA helped me in my life, but I didn’t even know it until I was an adult.” 

In December of 2022, Thomas’ role changed. In addition to managing the warehouse, he is also now the Volunteer Manager. With the growth RIFA experienced, we split the duties of the Volunteer Coordinator into two roles: Volunteer Manager and Volunteer Coordinator. Tracie Barnard, who you met in a January installment of I am RIFA, is the Volunteer Coordinator. Thomas explained the new roles by saying, “we have someone who can continue to bring volunteers in [Tracie], but also someone who can make sure the volunteers are being cared for, getting things done, and have the help they need to do the tasks they came to accomplish.” 

With his experience in the warehouse, Thomas is the perfect person to be instructing volunteers on projects in that area. “I still do the Warehouse Manager tasks of receiving items in and making sure they are dispersed to the right department. The Volunteer Manager part is taking the volunteers and getting them plugged in the right places in order to keep that area running. They tie together real closely.”

Thomas, who views his work as a ministry, said residential pick-ups are one of his favorite parts of his work. “That’s my favorite because that’s when you actually get an opportunity to minister outside of the building. There’s so much going on inside RIFA, you get to see people on a regular basis and visit, but I also like to go out. Ministries are happening outside these walls and I get to be a part of those.” Thomas also does the deliveries for RIFA’s ministries like Senior Staples, which allows him a unique opportunity to see things through from beginning to end. “I get to see where something is coming from when I do pickups and I get to see the finished product of food in people’s hands when I do deliveries,” he said. “It makes my job special.” 

Because so much of his job is done out in the community, Thomas is able to interact with people in a special way. “I was doing a residential pickup from a gentleman,” Thomas said. “Everything was going really well. There was a moment when the reality of what was happening set in with both of us. His wife had just passed away. He was comfortable with me picking up the items, but when that moment hit him, he got emotional. I was able to talk with him and reassure him that not only were we going to get these items to somebody, but he also noticed the care I was handling the items with. Showing respect for him and his wife. He even allowed me to pray with him. It was more than just a pick-up. It was more than a piece of furniture. You do what you can to honor and respect that. Taking the time to pray with him was one of the best things I’ve gotten to do in my job. I was glad I could be there with him.”

Thomas went on to speak about God’s faithfulness to RIFA, specifically through the Jackson community. “There is an unequivocal faithfulness to the Jackson community. Coming in day after day for over five years now, we’ve never been in a place where we did not have what  we needed. We may have just enough, but we’ve seen the community feeding into this place – all we had to do was ask. There’s no doubt people love this place and trust us to make things happen. They come consistently to help however they can. Because of this, we can really focus on helping people.”

God’s faithfulness can also be seen in the growth RIFA experienced over the five and a half years Thomas has worked here. In the fall of 2022, RIFA purchased a new forklift. “It shows how much we’re growing, that we’re dealing with things in bulk. I’m using it all the time. When I started, the warehouse wasn’t like this. More and more often we have things coming in by the pallet, by the truckload. There was a need, God met it.” 

While Thomas spends so much time outside the walls of RIFA, he also has an appreciation for his time inside the building, largely because of his coworkers. “I enjoy being here, and our people enjoy being here. There’s nothing better than that. The environment is completely different from any other place. I believe people make the business, and the people here are great. The people and attitudes around here are unmatched. They want to be here.”


Special thanks to Daniel Asselstine for taking portraits of Thomas in the warehouse! Daniel’s instagram.

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