By Katie Copeland
LOS ANGELES – Willie Thomas’ story is one of tolerance, suffering, and endurance. Being born
in the year 1936 means he has a lot of life experience, so you just might want to listen. Willie T,
as many call him, desires that his testimony produces an action, and most importantly,
From Mr. Thomas’ early beginnings, his life resembled many others of that time. He grew up in
church, went to school, and joined the U.S. Air Force right out of high school, just as the Korean
War ended. But in 1961, his life totally changed. The horrors of prison was never something he
ever expected out of his life. While sitting alone in a jail cell at the West Virginia State
Penitentiary, convicted of manslaughter, he realized that amidst hardship, there’s purpose. He
committed right there and then to make something of his life.
Now, after this realization, it didn’t make his life any easier. In fact, some might say the opposite
happened. He began a long road filled with homelessness, unemployment, losing his home, and
injustice that made it to the Supreme Court two separate times. Amidst all of that turmoil, he is
still here today, worshiping God with his congregation at Victory Community Church, feeling
blessed to be alive and thrive, and sharing his story with Living Advantage, Inc. (LA, Inc.) as a
long-time board member.
People told Mr. Thomas that he couldn’t be a real estate agent or broker as an ex-felon, but he
did. He was told he could not be a notary in the state of California, but he did. By the grace of
God, he prevailed. All the things he was told he couldn’t be, he proved that he could be. That’s a
lesson he wants everyone to know – especially foster youth.
This ignited a fire in his heart to help these youth know the truth – the truth they can be
somebody. Foster youth aren’t given the same opportunities, and they often live a life with many
uphill battles. But he believes in these youth. He wants them to know they can be anybody, that
they can change the world. Mr. Thomas believes in the “Principles of the P’s.” There’s Purpose
in life, that’s the Principle of the P. It’s about Policy, Practice and Procedure. But most
importantly, the Price He Paid for our Peace (PAPPER).
With this newfound passion, he was invited by Willie T. Clay, a world-renowned author of The
Big Walk, to join the board of LA, Inc., a local foster youth nonprofit. You may recognize Mr.
Clay, as he was the first American to walk across the country to fight for civil rights. His wife
Bernice W. Clay and daughter Pamela R. Clay started LA, Inc. 30 years ago. Mr. Thomas saw
that his devotions aligned with the organization, so he joined them in the mission of supporting
foster youth on a path to an independent and successful future.
“Our foster youth need someone they can look up to,” said LA, Inc. Executive Director Pamela
R. Clay. “Willie T. has been a huge component of our success over the past 30 years. His
involvement in real estate, The U.S. Air Force, and belief in God has shaped him into someone
our kids can use as an example. We like to call ourselves the Moms and Dads of Foster Care.
Willie T. is doing just that.”
But Mr. Thomas knows the work of LA, Inc. must be with YOU… supporters. He wants YOU to
consider supporting the organization and see how you can help these youth become something
by joining the 33/30 Campaign. The campaign seeks to create a network of like-minded
individuals with the opportunity to share their expertise directly with the youth. LA, Inc. only asks
for a minimum donation of $3.30 per month with the goal of starting a movement that makes a
strategic shift in how they connect with foster youth. You can learn more about the 33/30
Campaign by visiting the organization’s website at www.livingadvantageinc.org. By participating
in the 33/30 Club, you join Willie T and other supporters like USC, U.S. Bank, and Children’s
Hospital Los Angeles to make sure every kid gets a chance.
It all goes back to the cross necklace that Mr. Thomas wears every day with Philippians 4:13 on
it. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”