TBOM honors Thwing Sunday

Published 1:34 pm Wednesday, February 9, 2011

For 20 years, Eloise Thwing led a growing ministry to the poor and disadvantaged of Polk County.

Eloise Thwing

To some, she became known as the “Mother Theresa of Polk County” for founding and leading Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry (TBOM).

On Sunday, Feb. 13, TBOM will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a Valentine High Tea to be held in honor of Thwing. The tea will be held at Tryon Estates. A slide show featuring the 20-year history of TBOM will play on four screens during the afternoon event. Thwing’s personal stamp is on every scene, in every program.

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“Eloise and I became friends as we waved to each other going to and from work – she at TBOM located in Columbus at the United Methodist Church and I at Stearns (Polk County Schools administration offices),” recalled Ann Carswell, who has served as assistant director of TBOM under Thwing for the past eight years. Carswell later became a board member of TBOM and eventually its assistant executive.

“It was then that I saw her in action – the real Eloise – the ‘Mother Teresa of Polk County’ as some have named her. Her genuine interest in providing assistance to Polk County individuals and families in crisis situations, improving the quality of life for the less fortunate and encouraging the clients to become self-sufficient were always major goals during her work at Outreach.

“It always amazed me how Eloise could visit the community or attend a meeting and soon determine needs of the people in this area,” Carswell recalled. “Pretty soon there would be a program to match those needs. She often interviewed the clients, researched possible solutions for their problems and went to work on ways to meet those needs.”

Thwing first served as chairman of the Imperative Program to Research Poverty in Polk County from 1986 to 1991, a group formed by the Church Women United of Polk County. It was that effort which led to the formation of the ministry, and Thwing was TBOM’s first president when it formed in 1991.

Thwing retired recently after nearly 20 years of service as executive director of Thermal Belt Outreach, Inc. She was the first chairman of the board, second executive director. She worked about four years with no pay.

For her work over the past 20 years she has received the Norman Boyer Award (2005); the Outstanding Citizen of the Year by the Polk Area Chamber of Commerce (2007); membership in the Second Wind Hall of Fame (2006); the Valiant Woman Award from Church Women United (2008) and the Catalyst for Change Award from Polk County Crop Walk (2008).

In addition to serving Outreach, Thwing has been a member of the Polk County transportation board, Western NC HIV/AIDS Consortium, Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program-Local FEMA and the Western NC Teen Crisis Program.

Prior to moving to Polk County with her late husband Richard, Thwing was a registered nurse (graduating from University of Miami, Jackson Memorial School of Nursing in Miami, Fla.). She had also served as director of the Long Island Juvenile Protection Board and was chairman of the leadership training for New York State Congress of Parents and Teachers. She also served as director of the Long Island Educational Leadership Conference.

She has one son, Rick, who lives in Shelburne, Vt., plus two granddaughters and three great-grandsons.

The official history of Thermal Belt Outreach suggests that the people of Polk County should ask themselves one question “Where would we be today without Eloise?”

On Sunday, knowing the answer, area residents and supporters will gather to say thanks.