By Jessica Connor
BISHOPVILLE—He might be officially retired as a pastor, but the Rev. Eddie Thomas is just as active in his golden years as he was during full-time ministry.
Thomas not only serves as president of the Bishopville-based ministry Good Samaritans for All People, but he also preaches a weekly worship service for seniors at the Lee County Council on Aging, preaches a few times a month elsewhere on invitation and is active in his local American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and S.C. Combat Soldiers groups.
Both as a nod to his nonprofit and to his lifestyle, many people have dubbed him the good Samaritan of Bishopville.
He really does do what he can for everybody, said Pauline Mitchell, chair of the Council on Aging.
With a Purple Heart from service in the Vietnam War, two Bronze Stars and numerous other military awards, Thomas spent 39 years as a United Methodist pastor in South Carolina. He served under five bishops and eight district superintendents in five different districts. He has made it his life s work to help others, whether through preaching the word of God or through being God s hands and feet.
He is still passionately active for Christ in his so-called retirement “ and all of this is after having open-heart surgery back in 2000.
I love to be involved, and I m heavily into the Bible from the standpoint of reaching out to others, Thomas said. If someone says something to me about a person in need, I don t care who it is, what race or where they come from. I try to make an effort to help them.
Out of that spirit of helpfulness was born Good Samaritans for All People, a ministry he started in 1995 with his wife and life partner, Corine.
Good Samaritans for All People provides help for people at Christmastime, as well as about eight other times throughout the year, including a huge school supplies giveaway.
The ministry is all volunteer, and only 2 percent of funds are used for administrative purposes, such as postage. The ministry has three warehouses, the largest at the football field for the old Bishopville high school, where they store furniture, clothing, food and other items donated by people and churches throughout South Carolina. The day the Advocate visited, Thomas and other interdenominational volunteers were gearing up for a summer giveaway, bagging food and sorting items before they enjoyed a huge watermelon Thomas grew in his garden.
He s the passion of the group, reaches out to all the vendors, keeps us focused, said the Rev. Raymond Cook Jr., who serves as vice president of Good Samaritans for All People as well as pastor of Kelly Bell and Sandy Bluff UMCs. He s retired from pastoring, but he s really transitioned to working with and for the people of this area. It s his calling, and he s tireless.
George Williams, another Good Samaritans volunteer, said Thomas is an inspiration; the huge amount of work Thomas does for others is truly not for everybody.
The Lord got him directed to do this, and it always comes out right because of who he is and where God is in his life, Williams said.
Thomas said how he lives for the Lord in retirement is an extension of how he lived his life. Even in high school, Thomas was busy. He worked two jobs and attended high school “ first school, then at a body shop from 2-6 p.m., then as a hospital orderly from 7 p.m. to midnight. Then it was home to study and get up to do it all again the next day.
Stay active, Thomas urged his peers considering retirement.
He said it doesn t matter how old someone is; he or she can always do good work for the Lord.