PJ Thomas Sr. leaves enduring legacy of service in Alabaster

Published 12:11 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2024

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

Laying in a hospital bed during his final hours on this earth and after a lifetime of serving the community, PJ Thomas Sr. turns to his son and tells him he wishes he could get up and do more for the community.

His son, PJ Thomas Jr., turns to his father and tells him “Dad, you’ve done all that you can do,” But Thomas Sr. still insists that he wanted to do more even after all he had accomplished throughout his many decades of service.

“That right there, made me as a son, feel so proud to have a father that wanted to do (more),” Thomas Jr. said. “He didn’t do it because he had to do it, he did it because he wanted to do it. He wanted just to put a smile on people’s faces.”

Thomas Sr. died peacefully on April 8, 2024 at age 84 at UAB Hospital surrounded by his family after leaving a legacy of community outreach and servitude in his hometown of Alabaster and the surrounding communities. A funeral was held on Saturday, April 13 at Emmanuel Temple Holiness Church in Alabaster, the very same church Thomas Sr. had been baptized at in 1973 and where he eventually taught Sunday school before beginning his outreach ministry.

“He had the most kind heart that you can have,” Thomas Jr. said. “He believed in helping others before doing (things) for himself. That was his passion, his passion was reaching out to the community to make sure everybody in the community had their needs (satisfied) before his needs.”

In 1986, Thomas Sr. began his own ministry and became the pastor of Pentecostal Church of Christ in Columbiana where he served for more than 20 years.

“He was called to preach by God,” Thomas Jr. said. “There was an outlet of reaching out to people and the main thing was teaching people how to read—some back then could not read. So, he helped them through reading the Bible.”

Thomas Sr. also held tent services in which they would pitch tents throughout areas in the community and hold church services outside. Additionally, he co-founded the food ministry outreach, known as Manna Ministries, and would deliver food boxes to those in need on Saturdays. They would also deliver food to the houses of the elderly and homebound. The efforts of Thomas Sr. and his partner at Manna ministries saw them receive the Jim Casey Community Server Award and a feature in the Ebony Magazine in 2000.

Now, the work he began goes on with Manna Ministries continuing to provide food for the community at 333 Smokey Road in Alabaster on Saturdays from 8-10 a.m.

Later on, after his health started to fade, Thomas Sr. moved his membership to Apostolic way of Life in Alabaster where he continued to worship.

In addition to being a man of faith, Thomas Sr. was a family man with a dutiful focus on serving his 10 children.

“His main thing for us was to be successful, do right in the community, go to school, get a good education and that (we’d) be upstanding citizens throughout the community,” Thomas Jr. said. “He made sure we didn’t want for anything and he worked two jobs to make sure that we were provided with the necessary things we needed.”

In thinking back on the moments that stood out to him about his father, Thomas Jr. shared something that was repeated to him continually.

“The memory that I have that he always spoke to me was, ‘Son, people are going to doubt you, will not believe in you but as long as you believe in the heavenly father and believe in yourself, you can go far in life,’” Thomas Jr. said. “That’s something that I carry with me throughout my life.”