The OCP Blog

In Memory of Tom Dukes, Our Featured Volunteer of the Month

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…” Romans 5:3-5

The relationships and close bonds we build with each individual who walks into Our Community Place cause us grief when the connection is lost. We celebrate community members’ lives when they are with us, just as much as when they are not. This month’s blog is a testimonial to our late Featured Volunteer of the Month, Thomas Dukes, uplifting what he would want people to know about him. Although he never wanted to talk about himself too much, he did love a good story.

So, to do him justice, here are a few words from community members, volunteers, and one last interview conducted a week before his death by Chelsea Church, a female news anchor at CBS19. Miss Church volunteered her time to write a post on a model volunteer at Our Community Place. I referred Miss Church to Mr. Thomas Dukes, not knowing that would be the last time we get to hear his story, in his own words. She titled the post: Giving Back Has Never Tasted So Good.

“He’s good help in the kitchen. He’s a good person all around. He’s there when you need somebody to talk to.” Thomas Dukes, 71, volunteers his time to Our Community Place in Harrisonburg every week. He helps prepare meals using fresh, local ingredients, some of which come straight from OCP’s garden. Despite many setbacks Dukes has faced in his own life, he still continues to give back to those who are less fortunate because he understands what it’s like to be down your luck. “They don’t really have the short end of the stick because we have some people out here that don’t have that stick at all,” Dukes said. He describes Thursdays at OCP as family night, and he loves to see all the smiling faces when everyone comes together around the tables as food is being served. He’s made many friends and formed a couple close bonds with the people of OCP over the past four years he’s been volunteering. “Everything don’t come in monetary gain, so that’s the reason why I do it. I’m blessed.”

Nicole Richardson, another community member, was shocked to hear this sad news and stated, “Tom was a great friend to everyone who met him. Always with an upbeat spirit, lots of laughter and a strong, full-hearted personality. So full of intellect, I always looked forward to his conversation and wisdom. He will be greatly missed and forever remembered in our hearts.” Our Featured Volunteer of the Month was able to win over the compassion and affection of many community members. His energy filled the room. Angela Dawn Therrington remembers that Mr. Dukes always had kind words of encouragement to share with her, and she will miss that about somebody who was not a staff member.

Cecily Thomson shared, “Tom Dukes. I knew him for about a year, but it was good one. One with food and a warming presence. One with honest laughter and a whole heart. He was one to make me smile with his jokes: and was nothing short of helpful and kind. Tom was like an uncle figure for me, we got along well: and he reminded me of some of my folks back home. Now, I hope Tom is finding peace in his new home. God rest his soul; cook on, Tom, and rest in peace.” In the midst of this painful loss, his spirit and joyful approach to life are leaving hope in the hearts of OCPeoples, and the community.


Leons Kabongo

Programming & Activities Coordinator