By the numbers, Tom Umstead has been retired about 20 years, but he's actually never put in more hours -- or worked harder -- than now. And it's all for free.
The 85-year-old man loves to give back. He said it gives him energy.
“I’m still excited at 4:40 this morning as I was 17 years ago,” Umsterad explained.
Mr. Tom said he unintentionally discovered his purpose with one question in a grocery store nearly 20 years ago.
“They were throwing food away," he recalled. "I asked, out of curiosity, ‘Why y'all doing that?’ They said it’s day-old stuff and we can’t sell it.”
He thought it was a waste. That's when he saw the opportunity and committed himself to do something about it. Any place willing to give, Mr. Tom loads up the donations and off he goes.
He’ll stop anywhere there is a need. Mr. Tom realizes everyone needs a touch. He even stops by to see the nurses at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who fill their days caring and the children whose days are consumed with a fight for health.
His organization, Mr. Tom’s Heart, brought in animals from the zoo. He knows these experiences are medicine too. And nothing makes him happier than taking it in.
“It’s just wonderful," he said. "I can’t make their medicine taste good. I can’t give them medical advice. I sure can love on them and hug them."
Some trips are short. Others, as far as 200 miles. But each is delivery of care and encouragement. Mr. Tom’s pantry helps stock the kitchen at the Ronald McDonald house where children needing long-term treatment and their families have a home away from home.
"We don't need to be working for ourselves, we need to be working for others, and that's what he does," said Cynthia Barry, a Ronald McDonald House volunteer.
He doesn’t take any days off. If he gets tired, he doesn’t show it. If he gets lonely, he thinks of the one who shared the front seat with him for 57 years - Lucrecia.
“My wife was a wonderful person,” he said. “She went to a birthday party and never came home. I’m doing what she wanted me to do. I can assure you of that.”
"I’m doing what I need to be doing, and I feel completely happy doing it," he concluded.
He has 100 volunteers helping. For more information about Mr. Tom’s Heart, visit the organization’s website.