Nuestra Comunidad: Love of Spanish culture lead to dedicated work

Thomas Fuller, during the DeKalb County Homeless Count in 2016. Photo: Miguel Martínez/MH)

Thomas Fuller, during the DeKalb County Homeless Count in 2016. Photo: Miguel Martínez/MH)

You could say that Thomas Fuller, or, ‘Tomasito,’ as his clients affectionately call him, has a little – or maybe a lot – of Latino in him. It was his love for the Spanish language that led him to connect with and decide to serve a community in need.

Fuller, an American, has worked for the Latin American Association for two decades, during which time the organization has become his home and family, as well as a place where clients specifically ask for him.

“I like to see families succeed. Sometimes I get to watch children grow up and see their families in a better situation. I’ve had clients who have come back after many years to thank me and the association for the help we’ve given them,” said Fuller, who works as a Family Support Specialist at the LAA.

Fuller’s department serves the most vulnerable of populations, those individuals with the greatest need for financial assistance and social services support.

“He is a very treasured person here at the association, but he is also loved by the clients and the community. He is a very dedicated and hard-working person; he always goes the extra mile. He doesn’t just work at the association; in his free time, he volunteers at churches, helping people in need. He is so committed that he works with the most marginalized of our community. For example, the homeless and elderly Latinos,” explained Cynthia Román, Managing Director of Family Well-Being at the LAA.

Fuller learned Spanish in high school and later fine tuned his skills at Kennesaw State University. It was during a Spanish class visit in 1990 to the Latin American Association, which at the time was located in Lindberg Plaza, that Fuller’s life changed.

Several years later, Fuller returned to the LAA to sign up as a volunteer. He was assigned to the ‘Club de la Tercera Edad’ or Seniors Club, where he still works today.

“They’ve taught me so much about life and what it means to work hard. To work with dedication and passion. They have given me many life lessons, and they’ve taught me a lot of patience,” said Fuller, in reference to the senior citizens who meet weekly at the LAA.

In addition, Fuller has participated with the DeKalb County Homeless Count for 15 years. His relationship with shelters and addiction rehabilitation centers has allowed him to serve as a bridge to this population.

In an era in which it is not altogether common to find employees who remain with the same organization for so many years, Fuller speaks with impassioned gratitude and pride with regards to his work with the LAA and what motivates him to wake up every morning.

“Sometimes it’s hard to listen to their stories, but at the end of the day, I know I’ve made an impact. I might not be able to solve the problem that same day, but you know you’re making an impact. That’s my motivation: seeing the person’s smile, the gratitude. That’s enough,” assured Fuller.