Campus police officer Rick Thomas has spent the last 22 years serving the students at Francis Marion University (FMU), but has spent his entire life loving and helping animals.
As a graduate of Coker College with degrees in Sociology and Criminal Justice, Thomas began a life-long career that would enable him to do the one thing that he enjoys most of all – helping others.
“I don’t care for writing tickets and arresting people,” Thomas said. “That just puts them in a worse situation than they were already in. I want to help people in any way I can. Even if it is just finding them a place to stay, unlocking cars or starting a car when it died, doing the little things to help people makes them see officers in a different way and makes their day better.”
Not only is Thomas a dedicated officer of FMU, but he is also an avid cat lover. He has adopted five cats of his own, pet sits for faculty members and volunteers relentlessly at the Florence Area Humane Society. Whenever he has free time during the day, he can be found at the Humane Society washing bedding, feeding cats and socializing with the older animals that are unlikely to be adopted quickly.
Volunteering at the Humane Society and making regular donations to the organization has allowed Thomas to combine his love of animals and his desire to help others. Last winter, Thomas went out on his own time and purchased sweaters and blankets for each cat at the Humane Society to ensure they stayed warm and plans to repeat this generous donation again this year.
“I love going out there,” Thomas said. “I feel like I am making a difference. It breaks my heart when I have to leave at the end of the day.”
The Florence Area Humane Society recently moved to a new, larger facility and continues to operate as a no-kill shelter. They provide refugee for any pets or stray animals in the community. This aspect of the Humane Society is what appealed to Thomas the most.
Thomas rides around with bags of cat and dog food in his car so that he can stop and feed any strays that he may see on the roads. Thomas has also made several large donations to the Humane Society including food, liter, blankets, bedding, sweaters and toys. Thomas has no plans of slowing down when it comes to protecting and providing for mistreated animals. He also donates old copies of The Patriot to the Humane Society for them to use as bedding for the cages.
“I started off in school wanting to work with abused children,” Thomas said. “Working with the mistreated animals lets me speak for them since they can’t speak for themselves.”
Thomas continues to encourage the different academic departments at FMU to have students volunteer their time at the Humane Society for extra credit or volunteer hours required for certain programs. He also urges all students to get involved in the organization in any way possible. Whether through volunteering time and service or making a donation to the Humane Society, Thomas wants it to be something that unites the community.
“If you love animals and want to help in any way, then go to the shelter and volunteer,” Thomas said. “The animals will make you fall in love, make you appreciate life and make you see life in a different way.”
If you are interested in getting involved with the Florence Area Humane Society, you can visit them at 1434 S. McCurdy Road in Florence, SC or call them at 843-669-2921.