January 31, 2019
If you frequent the Foglia Y in the mornings, chances are you have “heard” this month’s Member Spotlight. “Lujah” which is short for Hallelujah, is often shouted as a greeting among some of our early morning members. There is a man and a story behind that spirited expression of faith. Meet Tom Horton.
Tom has been a member at Foglia since our opening in 2000. Originally hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Tom’s first experience with the Y was through swim lessons when he was a young child. Growing up in a close knit family, Tom learned a strong work ethic and the importance of faith and healthy living. His mother, Polly, will turn 100 years old soon, and he is thankful for her influence and guidance. Tom was a gifted athlete, throwing an 80 mph fastball at the age of 13. He played baseball in High School but experienced a few “wayward” years when he didn’t have a lot of close supervision and found himself in and out of trouble. After high school, he enlisted in the Air Force and worked in Texas and Germany for six years as a mechanic. After serving his country, Tom worked for UPS and then for International Pest Control where he has worked for the past 43 years.
Tom and his wife of 50 years, Wendy, have two children Ryan and Denise, and five grandchildren. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, they agreed to raise their granddaughter Taylor after being empty nesters. Tom reflects “Our children were grown and Wendy and I were handed God’s Plan B. There were some very trying years but Taylor will be graduating with her PHD soon and we are very proud of her so it was the right path for us to follow.” Tom and Wendy have been active volunteers in local organizations rescuing dogs for a local shelter and then with their church where they were very involved with Awana, a ministry group that supports children. It was through their church volunteerism that Tom was introduced to Corrections Ministry when he was asked to volunteer for a weekend visiting Angola State Prison in Louisiana. When he saw firsthand, the difference having a bible college inside of a maximum-security prison had made with the inmates, he wanted to be part of corrections transformation through faith intervention.
Since that initial visit to Angola State Prison, Tom and Wendy have spent the last 14 years providing inmates in Illinois’ prisons and jails a connection to hope and faith. Tom has seen how the power of faith and connectivity can influence in an inmate’s life. “It is all about building relationships, one person at a time, free of judgement that will lead to moral transformation.” Tom currently visits the Cook County Jail twice a week and then rotates to one of the Illinois State Prisons monthly. He has seen the Corrections Ministry of his church grow in size and boasts that they served over 70,000 care packages to inmates over the holiday season alone. Whenever he walks through the cellblocks, he is greeted with “Lujah” so it has become part of his calling card.
Tom’s dedication to building relationships with others parallels the Y’s mission. He loves the Foglia Y because it feels like a community that embraces diversity and inclusion. The sense of camaraderie and connectivity among members is apparent, much more than a gym and fitness center. He also likes the engagement and programs offered to kids and families. The Y is about trust, hope, and caring and those are the values that resonate in Tom’s life as well. Tom reflects that “love is an action word” and that is his true calling. So if you hear the familiar greeting of “Lujah” in the center, introduce yourself to Tom, he is someone you should meet.