The History of The THOMAS Project
Family Guidance and Community Welfare started when Jan Coleman felt led by the Bible passage Isaiah 58 : 6-12
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.9Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched landand will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
At this time, Jan was a new Christian and felt unqualified to set up something in response to the Scripture, so she approached her Church minister for advice. Local single parents who knew Jan approached her then, asking for help in their lives, so Jan offered to run a coffee morning for them. In June 1985, this group started to meet once a week in a lady’s flat in Jessie Road on the Leighswood Estate. This coffee morning grew, attracting many people, and they were given a larger flat on Lancaster Avenue by Walsall Council, they started to see more and more people coming for help.
This cross-denominational project grew to provide support sessions for parents and children, the elderly and those caring for others, and for health and housing issues. They worked in partnership with many local agencies and supported individuals and families across Walsall and into Birmingham. Supplying food, clothing, and household goods to those in need; helping people to get out of debt, save money and apply for benefits; distributing Christmas and Harvest food hampers and toys; providing hairdressing; delivering simple training courses and relieving homelessness were all activities carried out by a group of wonderful volunteers, led by Jan. As they went about the practicalities of supporting people, they continued to spread the Good News of the Gospel and witnessed Jesus working in people’s lives. Having been running for 15 years, Family Guidance and Community Welfare was constituted as a Registered Charity in 2000, its Registered Charity Number being 1082423.
Jan eventually retired in 2010, but to this date continues to run the ‘Guys ‘n’ Gals’ club which meets fortnightly in Lancaster Avenue. Prior to Jan retiring, in 2008, Nicky Thomas received the vision of The THOMAS Project and felt that the Lord gave her this Scripture at the same time, Isaiah 61 : 1-3
The year of the Lord’s favour
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captivesand release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favourand the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion –to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour.
The THOMAS Project is named after the Disciple Thomas, where each letter of his name denotes the six key areas of the vision, everything we do fits into at least one of these …
T Training and education
H Healthcare information
O Opportunities for life
M Mission and ministry
A Achieving change
S Supporting those in need
The THOMAS Project (which is simply a ‘working name’ of Family Guidance and Community Welfare) was launched in April 2013 and sits perfectly on the foundation established by Jan and the team, and continues to provide all of the services and support that they initiated. The Project continues to love and serve the people who live on the Leighswood estate, but attracts visitors from across the Borough of Walsall.