Michael Thomas is a local resident actively involved in the world of serving people with disabilities. He’s known for a long time that this was his passion, but he’s been executive director of My Possibilities (MP), a nonprofit that serves adults with disabilities, for about 11 years.
Michael, tell us a little about your family.
My wife, Julie, is a licensed massage therapist. She works on humans and horses. She is the most patient individual and has been a silent hero for MP for a long time. We have twin boys, Jackson and Maxwell, who are six and a half. They’re nuts, but an absolute blast. They are my predominant hobby, but I play the piano when I can, and restore old cars. I also have a bunch of big dogs.
What was your professional background before joining My Possibilities?
I’m from Dallas. I went to Southern Methodist University (SMU) and was a music/music therapy double major. I thought I’d go into therapeutic services, but at the end of my freshman year they removed the program. While at SMU, I volunteered at the Special Olympics tournament every year.
When I graduated, my first job was with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). I worked with them a little more than a year in Corpus Christi, then moved with MDA to Las Vegas. I heard about a nonprofit there called Opportunity Village. Everyone in the area loves that organization. They support adults with disabilities. I started working for them in 2007, and then in 2010, I decided it was time to move home.
What led you to joining MP?
I was on Facebook and a friend of mine popped up who I hadn’t talked to in years. I asked her if she knew of any jobs in Dallas. I told her about my work with Opportunity Village and she said, ‘Oh, that sounds like the place my sister goes to school,’ and she sent me a link for My Possibilities. At the top of the website it said, ‘Now hiring executive director.’
On Friday, I sent a letter, resume, the whole nine yards. Saturday morning, I got a call from a lady with a South African accent named Charmaine. She told me she started My Possibilities and wanted to interview me for the executive director position. I told her, ‘If you give me one week, I’ll be back in town.’ She didn’t tell me at the time that they’d been interviewing candidates and got close to choosing one, but she waited to interview me. I drove 22 hours straight with my brother, got home, crashed for a day, then went in and interviewed.
What services does MP provide for its clients?
My Possibilities provides continued education, therapy, job placement and ongoing support for our HIPsters [Hugely Important People]. Not only do we train them to be ready for a job but we also work with companies to develop best practices. We also do respite programming where HIPsters can stay in a house over the weekend to develop independent living skills. We have a fitness training program as well. We recently launched Soap Hope as our social enterprise.
What are MP’s biggest challenges?
There are a lot of people who need support. Texas is one of the worst-funded states in the country for people with disabilities. The waiting list for assistance is longer than any other place in the U.S. It’s almost 20 years long. Being able to serve everyone that needs help is challenging – we can’t even get close. So, the question for us is how can we empower others to do that? Another focus for us is finding new avenues to sustainability. Our work can’t be done just from fundraising events. 2020 is the perfect example that that doesn’t work.
What’s on the horizon for MP?
Residences are our next major goal. The community we are building is going to be 300 homes. Of those homes, 200 will be sold publicly, but 100 will be owned and operated by My Possibilities as group homes. It’ll be a mixed, inclusive community to support people with disabilities. We want it to be a place where when you drive down the street, people will be outside, waving and smiling.
Who are some of MP’s unsung heroes?
The teaching staff. These people are working 40-50 hours a week in one of the most cognitively and emotionally challenging jobs. Most people go into teaching because they see that spark by the end of the semester. Our teachers are not getting into this for instant gratification. These people are warriors.
What are some of the craziest things you’ve done to fundraise for MP?
I have our logo tattooed on my leg. I have jumped out of a plane. I’ve had my hair colored and shaved more times than I can count. I’ve had a leg waxed. When it warms up, I’ll be jogging through Plano in spandex. I will do anything [to raise money for MP]. I’m running out of things to do!My Possibilities >