Audrey Thomas first joined Deborah’s Place as a volunteer in 1985, when our organization was still an overnight shelter in a church basement. Shortly after, she joined the staff, and ultimately became CEO of Deborah’s Place in 2004. After 37 years of dedicated service, she is retiring, leaving behind an organization that long ago outgrew that church basement and has become the largest provider of permanent supportive housing for unaccompanied women in Chicago.

Audrey herself has become a champion for housing, recognized not just within Deborah’s Place but city- and nation-wide for her exemplary leadership and commitment to ending homelessness.

Under her leadership, Deborah’s Place doubled our impact from 2017 to 2022, reaching a landmark of 605 participants receiving services. Because of her guidance, we were able to change and adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, maintain our high standards of service and increase our capacity to meet the rising need for housing services.

Audrey Thomas stands in Teresa's Interim Housing

We cannot thank Audrey enough for all she has done in leading and shaping Deborah’s Place into what it is today. Today, we ask for your help in carrying her devotion and commitment to the cause forward in pursuit of ending homelessness for women in Chicago.

To honor Audrey’s legacy, we’re raising funds to support the ongoing mission of Deborah’s Place and permanently dedicating a bed in Teresa’s Interim Housing in Audrey’s name.

Learn more here about how you can Sponsor a Bed in Teresa’s Interim Housing.

If you’re one of the thousands of people who’ve been inspired, touched, or impacted by Audrey’s work, support its continuation by making a contribution to Audrey’s Legacy Fund today.

Leave a comment below to share how Audrey’s work has touched you, and join us in wishing her a happy retirement.

15 responses to “37 Years of Service: Audrey’s Legacy”

  1. Christy Smith-Hall

    I am happy to have found a fabulous leader at a wonderful organization. I could have never imagined that I would love coming to work every day. Thank you so much for bringing me onto the Deborah’s Place team; I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to work together longer. I look forward to using your legacy to inspire a new generation of housing and homeless advocates.

  2. Jean Durkin

    Audrey may be retiring but her strength and vision will continue to lead us. Hearty congratulations, AT. We will keep on, keeping on🔑.

  3. Erin Ellis

    Thank you so much, Audrey—though we’ve only worked together for a short time, your philosophy of community and compassion has made such an impact on me and the ways I hope to serve.

  4. Lisa Zambrano Anderson

    Audrey – congratulations. Your work has helped so many.

  5. Patricia Martin

    As a former volunteer, it has been inspiring to see Audrey take on this position and capably lead it through many challenges; organizational, community, financial and staffing. She was always there for us, volunteers; inviting participation from us, always answering our calls and compassionately listening to our ideas and concerns. She always found time to gratefully acknowledge our contributions. She did all these things with calmness and grace. With each passing year there was more I could admire about her. It will be hard to fill her shoes.

  6. Janel S.

    Audrey, you have been an inspiration to me and many others. I am among the many people so grateful for your leadership, advocacy and good heart! You’ll be greatly missed. At the same time, Kathy is going to be an exceptional leader! Excited for the future of Deborah’s Place. Wishing you many blessings of health and happiness in your retirement!

  7. Risha Vaughn

    Audrey, even though I haven’t been at Deborah’s Place for long, seeing the relationships you cultivate and the respect you command inspire me. I look forward to taking your values with me throughout my career and doing them justice.

  8. sandi davenport belushi

    Audrey, you taught me well, about the “anti warehousing “ of people.
    I remember going to DC, with such an amazing group of women, including Patty. You are a kind and gentle lioness, sharing and promoting the power inside all of us. So much to say, so grateful for you. I celebrate you!❤️

  9. Scott Nierman

    Thank you for your guidance and leadership over the past year, Audrey. And best wishes for the next chapter in your life.

  10. kay graham

    Miss Audrey, Just because you cared sooooooo much for myself & my next-door-neighbors,We are living better lives, doing MORE for ourselves & have sooooo many more opportunities ahead of us for a better future!My heart goes out to your next ”’adventure”’ AFTER leaving us!You will be very,sorely missed around Rebecca Johnson Apts!Especially me, since I’ve known you since 2000!
    May you never be a stranger to anyone who meets you!(I’m a better person because your MY mentor!!!!)

  11. Katharine C Booton Wilson

    Over the past 35 years, I have had the pleasure to work with Audrey at Deborah’s Place. Her wisdom, her calm in the face of crisis, and her sense of humor have gotten the organization and all of us in it through many a rough patch. It’s hard to find words to thank someone who has been a guide, a mentor, an advisor and a friend. We can’t thank you enough, Audrey, and we will never forget you.

    Much love,

    Kathy Booton Wilson

  12. Jeremy Bressman

    Audrey, thank you for your many years of service to Deborah’s Place! Your accomplishments and contributions to the organization and broader community simply cannot fit in a small text box. Thank you for your dedication to the mission of Deborah’s Place and I am sure you find comfort in knowing you are “moving on” and leaving the place better than you found it.

    I wish you nothing but the best in your next chapter, you deserve it!

  13. Jenn Shepard

    Audrey, it has been an honor and a privilege to work with you over the years. As you continue on to the next phase of your journey, know that you leave behind an unrivaled legacy of commitment, compassion, and caring. Your mark on Deborah’s Place is indelible, and we look forward to honoring your efforts through our thoughts, words, and actions. Best of luck…you will be missed!!

  14. Margaret Herring

    AUDREY, You are outstanding in your passion to serve and to serve respectfully the women who have come to DP. I recall the drop in center on Milwaukee Avenue. It was light, bright, and provided a space for the women who climbed the stairs. A washer and dryer. A shower. Comfortable chairs. Newspapers and typewriters.
    (It was a long time ago.)

    You have adapted and adopted to the times and brought DP a long way.
    Blessings on your head,
    Thanks, Margaret Herring

  15. Patty Zuccarello

    Congratulations, Audrey! Thank you for your tireless efforts. You always set the bar for leadership, authenticity, and innovation. The world is a kinder, better place because of you. Enjoy your new chapter! I look forward to seeing what’s next.

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