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That they may learn to fish on their own

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Twenty years ago, Dr. Debra Thomas was a single mother of an infant daughter. She had no job and was homeless. Thomas tried to create a sense of family and stability for her daughter so she lived in various homes that would take them in, even if only for short periods of time.

In Seminole County, Florida, Thomas had difficulty finding the resources she needed to get back on her feet. It was not in her character to accept hand-outs, but it became a matter of survival for her and for her daughter.

Something had to change and Thomas realized that the courage to do this must come from within and asked for God’s blessing to help her to make a better life for herself. She then made a solemn vow to God to become a blessing to others once she had the strength and the ability. It was this promise that helped to define Thomas’s purpose in life and to pour the foundation for her charitable commitment to the community and to its people.

Thomas got a job, sought out the help of public assistance and in 1995, began organizing what was then Alpha Training Center of Seminole County. She returned to school and in 2004, was working on her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She later changed the name of the charity to New Directions Community Outreach of Seminole County (NDCO).

NDCO is determined to help prevent and reduce the growing rate of homelessness in Seminole County by equipping individuals and families with the proper tools to become self-sufficient through housing, outreach, awareness and educational programs.

The organization takes a hands-on approach and actually visits the homeless camps delivering personal hygiene items, food and helping to determine what other help these people need. The NDCO team assists the homeless apply for food stamps, helps with any medical issues, distributes clothing and blankets when needed and talks with them to learn what other services may be required. Thomas said that NDCO has helped over 5000 people in our community since its inception.

The number of homeless in Seminole continues to rise. In fact, the number of homeless students in Seminole Public Schools alone has doubled each year since 2007, according to the 2013 Council on Homelessness Report (www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/homelessness/docs/2013CouncilReport.pdf).

NDCO is responding to this need and is actively working on raising funds to obtain the property on Amanda Street in Altamonte Springs that
Property on Amanda St in Altamonte Springs that NDCO wants to use as its headquarters

Property on Amanda St in Altamonte Springs that NDCO wants to use as its headquarters

was featured in the 2006 episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The 7000 square foot home also includes an adjacent office facility and warehouse.

The property was foreclosed last year when the previous owner was not able to make the payments on a mortgage that was intended to help cover operating expenses.

‘It is our dream and mission to make this the NDCO headquarters,” NDCO board member Yanisa Torres explained. “We are currently raising the $10 thousand required to meet escrow and with the help of the community, we can achieve that dream.”

The property will be used for many community-based programs including health screenings, job referrals, public assistance applications, veterans affairs issues, and emergency housing on a limited basis. The warehouse facilities will be used for food and clothing distribution. Future plans include GED training to further help get these people back and their feet and heading toward self-sufficiency.

“Please help us reach our goal of helping the thousands that need it right here in Seminole County,” Torres asked. Donations may be sent to:

NDCO Seminole
P.O. Box 181055
Casselberry, FL 32718-1055

Secure online donations may be made on the NDCO website and contributors and volunteers can contact 407-900-1910 for further information.

NDCO Seminole is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization and your donations are tax deductible. In addition to Dr. Thomas, NDCO is staffed by an executive director and 7 active board members.

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