A frosty February morning doesn’t faze the mailman. Every morning Tom Hathaway loves delivering the mail to his Janesville neighbors come rain, sleet or snow.
“A lot of my customers will ask me this time of year, ‘So you willingly chose this job,’” Hathaway says. “Winter’s not my best time of year but I’m good with it.”
Hathaway’s neighbors love him too. Around here, he’s known as “Tom The Awesome Mailman.” While he enjoys the job, Hathaway’s various mail routes have given him the chance to see Janesville from another angle. He’s frequently encounters people who are homeless and living in cars or on the streets.
“I see what others don’t,” Hathaway says. “Most people think that homelessness occurs in the big cities, Chicago, New York, L.A, but most people do not realize that it happens in Janesville, Wisconsin.”
In 2013, Hathaway decided to do something about it. He held a backyard fundraiser to help those in need, and the turnout was tremendous. “We ended up with 200 people, 200 customers besides my family and friends in my backyard,” Hathaway says. “I decided at that point why not turn this into something that helps our community?”
Hathaway gathered a group of volunteers and started the “Helping the Homeless Fundraiser.” They hold numerous small fundraisers throughout the year, with a big annual fundraiser at the Rock County Fairgrounds every September. “We raise funds. We collect donated ‘Wish List’ items, and we raise awareness of the services that are available to the homeless and those less fortunate in our community,” Hathaway says.
The Rock County Fairgrounds event features live music and a silent auction. It raises money for six area charities, including ECHO, GIFTS Men’s Shelter, HealthNet of Rock County, House of Mercy, The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin and Project 16:49. In six years, the fundraiser has raised more than $43,000 for Rock County charities. “Tom The Awesome Mailman” is proud that he and the other volunteers are now known for delivering more than just the mail.
“It’s amazing what happens when people see the average person doing something,” Hathaway says. “We’re all busy people, but we love doing this. We love it. You feel good about yourself. You’re helping your community. We love it.”