Jeffrey O. Thames, Sr., Founder and President of Hope Restored, Inc.
Person of the Month-January 2018
The EPIC Foundation proudly presents our Person of the Month for January, 2018- Jeffrey O. Thames, Sr.! Jeffrey Thames is a warrior in his own right. Jeffrey Thames is the Founder and President of a 501C3 nonprofit organization called, Hope Restored. His work truly restores hope for people who would otherwise remain hopeless! Among many other great things, Jeffrey brings attention and awareness to an invisible chronic illness that is seldom talked about-mental illness. He focuses on the positive aspect of restoring emotional and psychological wellness. We are so proud to honor Jeffrey as our first Person of the Month recipient in the year 2018!!! He took his past adversity and turned into an opportunity to walk in his purpose and to make a difference!
Most of the clients of Hope Restored, Inc. are people that have had some type of past criminal involvement or may be experiencing homelessness. Jeffrey says that he finds the most pleasure out of helping people with past criminal involvement because they are marginalized and discarded by larger society. These are individuals who feel that they lack opportunities because others overlook them and things do seem hopeless. However, Jeffrey believes that they are better due to their past adversity.
When Jeffrey meets a person who needs help, he invites that person to meet him in his office, and they go through the intake process to see what they have explored, what jobs they’ve applied for, and what they ultimately see as something that would make a difference in their lives. After that process, Jeffrey helps that person devise a game plan, thus leading to the birth of a vision.
Jeffrey believes that no one fits into a box. He offers help based on that individual’s particular circumstances. Jeffrey says:
“If it’s a GED, we enroll them in GED classes. If it’s a job, we inquire about past work experience and suggest employers that we have relationships with that are friendly to individuals in need of another chance. If it’s psychiatric treatment, I use my personal testimony to encourage them to seek the help that they need, and make sure they continue to engage in the treatment plan set up by the doctor. So, we are really a boutique when it comes to meeting the needs of our clients, because we realize that in this field, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to making sure people are prepared to live life in the face of the challenges.”
Jeffrey is motivated by his realization that those who come from the criminal justice system face discrimination that makes it difficult for them to effectively return to society. He says that many of his friends have been in and out of the criminal justice system. However, he really had no idea how much of an impact it had on them once they returned to the community. He realized that this impacted their ability to obtain legal employment that would positively impact their livelihoods. This birthed his advocacy and he began to advocate with many of his friends that owned businesses to give these young men and women a chance to redeem themselves.
Jeffrey has a very compelling story of survival himself. Though he has not, himself, been in the criminal justice system, his very own experience of overcoming adversity has motivated his continual hard work for the “underdog”.
This is his story:
Jeffrey was raised in a household that valued giving back to the community in a tremendous way. However, he also experienced a personal nightmare during childhood, as he was raped over a five-year period by an older male cousin. As Jeffrey processed his own experience, he began to fight for victims of trauma. This further motivated his future work.
While in the Marine Corps for four years, Jeffrey married his wife Chandra Owens, who is the daughter of the late Bishop Chandler David Owens, Sr. (Former Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, Inc.). After leaving the Marine Corps, in 2002, he began working for himself and he has been ever since. Jeffrey has worked with many elite members of the community who help him reach the goals for the Help Restored Clients.
Jeffrey has always been a person fighting for the “underdog”. Growing up in Merrillville, Indiana, in a very privileged black family, he says that he wasn’t really exposed to the impact of the criminal justice system. However, when he moved to Atlanta, in 2004, he had several friends that found themselves on the wrong side of the law. After learning about all of the red tape that people had to go through to be released and other issues, Jeffrey began working with individuals with past criminal involvement to make sure they could successfully take their “First Steps” after being released from prison. So, from 2004 until 2013, he was informally doing this work but in 2013, he incorporated Hope Restored, Inc.
In 2013, Jeffrey traveled to Gary, Indiana and encountered a childhood friend. He noticed that this young man was living well beneath Jeffrey’s privilege and asked him what was going on. Jeffrey says that he will never forget the young man’s response. He said “J.T. (short for Jeffrey Thames) it’s a hopeless situation in this city.”
Jeffrey responded, “It’s not hopeless… it’s Hope Restored! When we come together with a mind to help one another, we have all the answers and tools that we need to solve whatever problems we come up against”. Thus, Hope Restored, Inc. was born!
Today, Jeffrey’s passion is driven by knowing that there are people who have no resources and that affects their ability to live productive lives. It makes him upset to see anyone left behind and it is important to him that,“ Everyone Going Together To Gather Every One Together Will See Everyone Going To Gather Everyone Together.”
The populations that Jeffrey is particularly drawn to include individuals with past criminal involvement and those experiencing homelessness. In his own words, “Those, to me, are two of the most overlooked communities, but they have some of the simplest needs that need addressing. If we came together without judging them, what a difference we could have in their lives! We can truly be their Hope Restored!”
Jeffrey’s role model is his father, the late Reverend William M. Thames, Sr., His father was fully committed to his church family and showed Jeffrey what it meant to give everything into making sure that others had something. Reverend William M. Thames, Sr. died fighting for the people of their church to be moved successfully into their new larger building. His parents were always tending to late night emergencies of families from the church. Jeffrey learned from them what it means to give!
Jeffrey acknowledges that he cannot do this work alone. It is a collaborative effort. He gives credit to his board chairman, Heinz Weverink. He says, “no matter what the challenge, he always has a way to overcome the challenge we may be currently facing.” He also acknowledges The Honorable Ronald V. Dellums who has become like a father to him, making sure that he continues to persevere even in the midst of the hardest challenges. Additionally, Jeffrey’s mother is always there and he knows he can count on her for anything! Finally, Jeffrey’s wife and children are his pride and joy and motivate him to keep pushing forward and doing work that they can be proud of!
Jeffrey wants everyone to know that Hope Restored, Inc. is currently working with the Montgomery County Maryland Department of Corrections to help individuals returning from incarceration through a program they have called “First Steps.” Upon leaving the local jail, they work with their clients to identify three “First Steps” that they can take that would change their current outlook on their situation. Once they have identified those steps, they then help them take those steps. Hope Restored, Inc. currently works with over 150 individuals that have had some level of past criminal involvement.
They are also working to create a program called “Felons 4 Life… Felons Supporting Life For Felons.” This unique support group puts individuals with past experiences together in one place giving them the opportunity to share and grow from one another.
Finally, they just launched an initiative aimed at getting influential members of their community to “Adopt A Convict.” Through this initiative, they aim to have individuals with past criminal involvement find a family, or individual, that will be an encouragement to them, mentor them, guide them, advocate for them, and become a support system that Jeffrey believes is extremely important.
The EPIC Foundation proudly recognizes the work of Jeffrey O. Thames, Sr. His past adversities as well as victories have motivated him to give to a community that needs him and his organization. Hope Restored, like The EPIC Foundation, looks at the whole person (body, mind, and spirit) instead of just looking at one aspect of people in need. He responds to those needs, whether it be physical, emotional, or psychiatric and has staff that are able to help while responding to the specific needs of the person who seeks them. Many of the people he serves deal with invisible chronic illness, including mental illness.
You can learn more about Jeffrey Thames, Hope Restored, Inc., and the amazing work they do at: http://www.hoperestoredinc.org/home.html
Jeffrey’s organization, Hope Restored, Inc. has effectively decreased the recidivism rate of past offenders. Furthermore, he gives them HOPE!
We honor you, Jeffrey, because you believe that together, we are EPIC!