You might know Gilbert “Doc” Thomas from his work as an Allstate Insurance Agent or from one of his many civic involvements in Iberia Parish. But you might not know how wide spread his community work truly is. His resume would read something along the lines of: Former Board President and Member of the Dauterive Hospital Board for 10 years. Vice President & Coordinator of the Bunk Johnson Jazz, Arts & Heritage Festival. Honor Club President of the Sugarland Optimist Club. Volunteer Insurance Presenter for Step Up Iberia. Judge of Iberia Parish Middle School Student of the Year for 20 years. Finance Committee at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. Board of Managers for the Boys & Girls Club. And that’s only scratching the surface.
“In 1987, my cousin prompted me to join the Sugarland Optimist Club,” Thomas recalls. “I was named Newcomer of the Year – that’s the year I broke ground and really prompted my civic career. The Lord made me to be a connector, and I accepted that gift at an early age. I give to my community and expect nothing in return. That’s the example my Momma set for us.”
Whether it’s his three children, his two grandchildren, his 20-year career or the people in his life and his community, Thomas counts it all as a blessing. However, his life wasn’t always so centered in faith. Thomas has only had two careers, 20 years with Cleco and 20 years with Allstate. While on a trip to Pineville near the end of his Cleco tenure, a pop up storm caused Thomas’ truck to hydroplane. Immediately, his training on hydroplaning flashed in his mind. His truck slid off of the road into a 15-foot deep ditch, but Thomas and his vehicle were left unscathed.
“I knew God was there with me,” he states firmly. “That’s when I truly accepted Him. That happened on a Friday. On Sunday, I was in church and I never left. That was truly a whole new perspective on life. In your 30s you start to figure out there’s something bigger than you and that you really need to pay attention to it.”
There isn’t a hat rack large enough for all of the hats Thomas wears, but he sees his biggest role as that of connector. He explains that he believes his biggest assets for the community is connecting people to one another and to the organizations where their individual gifts and talents can be best utilized. One thing Thomas connects, though he may not realize it, is the past to the future. From his work to promote legacy through the Bunk Johnson Jazz Festival to his tireless efforts with the Boys & Girls club.
“I’m not ready to stop working for my community, but I am ready to hand the torch over to the next generation. This is my home, too, and I want it to be the best place possible for my family. I know I can’t do it alone. I’m ready to hand it over to the millennials. With the knowledge that we’ve imparted on the next generation, and the energy and the resources that they have…it’s going to be a package that’s hard to beat.”