Faces in the Crowd: Gayle Thom
Gayle Thom is one of the recipients of the WAVI Spirit of Peace Awards for her work assisting victims of crisis.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Working Against Violence, Inc. or WAVI, will be celebrating the 2019 Spirit of Peace Event March 23. They will be honoring two recipients of the Annual Spirit of Peace Award, one is the organization “Youth Voices in Prevention” as well as former board member, Gayle Thom. Both work alongside WAVI to support victims and educate the community about domestic abuse and sexual assault. In this week’s faces in the crowd, we meet Gayle Thom, wife of Pennington County Sheriff, Kevin Thom.
Gayle Thom came from a meager beginning, literally born in a tobacco field in Arkansas. She grew with a passion to serve others and did so with her career field.
She worked as an FBI victim specialist, responding to violent crime scenes in our tribal communities in South Dakota, primarily on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations.
When crisis would strike a family, Gayle would be one of the first people there to help with comfort and compassion.
Thom says, “I’ve been very blessed in my life, I’ve gotten to do a lot of things, but it was probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. But it also was probably the most important thing professionally I’ve ever done, because you really get to make a difference in people’s lives — whenever you respond after they have been victimized.”
Before her work in the FBI, she worked in criminal intelligence. She also worked with a couple of nationwide response teams, including in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Ground Zero after 9/11 — assisting the families of victims and connecting survivors with the resources they needed.
She is retired now, but still works part-time for the National Center for Victims of Crime and volunteers. There, she mentors women and men who share similar experiences in her line of work, “to help take care of themselves a little bit better, so that we can keep them in the field of criminal justice and victim services for a longer amount.”
Gayle was recently diagnosed with cancer, along with many of the rescue workers who flooded the ruins of the World Trade Center after 9/11 and were exposed to a brew of airborne toxins.
Gayle’s commitment to victims and families of tragedy is unwavering, she says, “Even if I had known at the time that it wasn’t safe, I would’ve probably would have gone anyway because you know it was what I had been trained to do and there was a need.”
The leadership at WAVI is grateful for volunteers like Gayle.
Linda Shroll, exec. director of Programs at WAVI, says, “Your work has made such a difference — it’s helping people every single day and that helps all of us. Creating a community that is healthy and happy for everyone is a remarkable contribution and feat.