Community Development Champion, Nonprofit Leader Joins Spartanburg Regional’s Board of Directors
A well-respected nonprofit leader known for leading both local and global outreach initiatives to develop and strengthen communities is the newest member of the Spartanburg Regional Board of Directors.
Mary Thomas, executive vice president of the Spartanburg County Foundation, was appointed to the post in January by Spartanburg County Council.
A native of Pacolet, Thomas joined the Foundation in 1998. Prior to that, she served as executive director of the Bethlehem Center and participated in a number of global development initiatives, including a 3-month campaign in East Africa to develop a village for Rwandan refugee and Zairian street children.
Her well-earned reputation as local advocate for “outside-the-box” approaches to community development, coupled with her international experience has created a unique skill set, passion and thought process to Spartanburg Regional’s board table.
“I’m a native of this area and come from a rural part of the county,” Thomas said. “But my career at the Foundation has put me in a lot of different places where I’ve had to lead communities and help them learn how to do better. To improve the collective quality of life and strive for greatness.”
Sometimes that greatness is manifested in simple things that others might take for granted, like health care and, ultimately, good health, Thomas said.
“I have a global perspective and an understanding of human kind,” she said. “That can shape processes and future paths wherever people come from. The prevention side of health care is critically important; if our community can focus on prevention early, making healthy choices early in life, we’ll have less medical issues to confront.”
Thomas is the best person to help remind the Board of its responsibility and mission, said Rob Gregory, the Board’s chairman.
“Mary is a great planner, and she thinks in strategy,” Gregory said. “That strategy is driven by our adaptability to changes in the delivery of health care, to responding and assessing the many needs of our community. There could be no better contributor to this dialogue than our newest member. We thank Mary for her service. “
Thomas is a graduate of Winthrop University, and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French and Communications. She was an exchange student to France through Lenior-Rhyne College in 1983 and is a former French teacher in Spartanburg District 7 schools.
Ms. Thomas is currently a member of Delta Sigma Theta and Spartanburg Downtown Rotary Club. She also serves on the boards of The Southeastern Council of Foundations and BMW Community Advisory Panel.
Thomas’s many honors include being named the first African-American winner of the Council on Foundation’s Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking. With her cash prize that accompanied the award, Thomas established The Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change. The Fund has since garnered more than $150,000 to strengthen voices throughout Spartanburg County.
Other honors include the James E. Whitmire Meritorious Award, the Sunrise Civitan Good Citizen Award, the Mary McCloud Bethune Trailblazer Award (presented by the National Council of Negro Women), the 1998 Piedmont Area Girl Scouts Woman of Achievement, a 1997 YMCA Black Achiever, Junior League Sustainer of the Year, and numerous others.
Thomas is a member of Cornerstone Baptist Church and recently led a church-wide strategic planning process for the 2,000-plus members of one of the fastest growing churches in the area. She is an ordained minister and the second female to be ordained in the Rocky River Baptist Association, Anderson, South Carolina.