Rebecca Hage Thomley and her work through Headwaters Relief Organization, in New Orleans, the Midwest and Haiti was featured on Phil Bolsta’s blog at bolstablog.wordpress.com. In the article, Rebecca discusses her commitment to serving others, because it is “the right thing to do.” The article concludes with Rebecca’s statement that “Our mission is making this a better community for all of us and everyone we serve.”
The text of the article was as follows:
Rebecca Thomley: Making a Difference in New Orleans
By Phil Bolsta
Astonishing. That’s the only word I can think of to describe Rebecca Thomley’s commitment to serving others in need. I interviewed Rebecca, the CEO of Orion Associates, a Minnesota-based management services company, and feel privileged to share her spirit and passion with others. Here is her story.
Volunteering has always been part of my life. As a clinical psychologist with a background in trauma response, I started working with the Red Cross Mental Health Stress Team in 1992 to respond to the mental health needs of people in disasters. When I flew to the Ninth Ward area of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was the first time in a disaster response that I didn’t feel like I could go home. There were still people in their homes who had no food or water. There were still elderly people who didn’t have their medication. In the past, I would leave a Red Cross assignment knowing that services would be coming to people in need and that there would be someone else coming in to take my place. This time, I knew that getting services to these people might be up to me. I stayed a couple of weeks and then returned with a team of Orion employees a few weeks later. Since then, we’ve brought in more than 600 volunteers to work in New Orleans.
That second trip prompted me to begin Headwaters Relief Organization, a 501(c)(3) that operates under the umbrella of Orion Associates. We run the River of Hope Mental Health Resource Center in New Orleans that provides free services. We’re one of the few organizations that are still helping in New Orleans. We stayed long after the focus shifted from New Orleans’ recovery because it’s the right thing to do and it’s going to create a better world for all of us. Today, through Headwaters, we also send teams into Haiti as well as throughout the Midwest whenever disaster strikes.
My renewed dedication to volunteering after Hurricane Katrina also dramatically changed the focus of Orion Associates. Before then, there may have been three-month gaps between our volunteering commitments. Today, there is not a time when we’re not engaged in volunteer activities. We live and breathe it. We decided that we were going to be the kind of organization that, rather than drawing profits out of the company, we would direct them back into the community. It is costly to do this work, but that only makes us more determined. Our mission is making this a better community for all of us and everyone we serve.