Nimble and Ready to Serve - Mary Thomas

Posted By: Mary Thomas Facing Race Together, For Good Connections,

My, what a difference a year can make.

Last March, Molly Talbot Metz and I left the 2020 Nonprofit Summit excited for what we could make happen as co-chairs of the 2021 Summit that was to have been held in Spartanburg this month.

And then, life as we know it changed.

COVID-19, Coronavirus, the Global Pandemic - it changed how we communicated with our families, our friends, our colleagues. It changed how we celebrated cherished, traditional holidays. It changed how we worshipped. It changed how we helped our neighbors. It changed how we carried out our missions. 

A new normal became our normal. 

To adapt to a global pandemic required a paradigm shift like none other. Unlikely partners found ways to work together. Learning through social platforms like Zoom, Slack, Teams took on a brand-new meaning.

Then, while just beginning to navigate the complexities of the pandemic, we were brought face to face with the racial injustice that pervades our country. Watching the murder of George Floyd right before our eyes, shook us to our very core.

How could we possibly wrestle with two competing forces — one that threatened our lives with seemingly no cure on the horizon, and another that threatened our civility in how we treat other humans regardless of their race?

As I reflect on these complex circumstances, I am grateful that the role that I play at the Spartanburg County Foundation allowed me and a host of other community partners to step up and begin to take a closer look at these issues “head on.” 

Together with 15 other organizations, we established the Spartanburg Racial Equity Collaborative with a mission to eliminate racial inequities in Spartanburg County through racial healing and systems change as explained in this video.  We realize that this is a journey and we are just beginning, but we are committed to advancing racial equity for everyone, through community driven strategies.

My personal and professional goal through all of these challenges is to continue working to facilitate change and to be nimble and ready to serve.

We could not have imagined that our Strategic Plan would have been as useful this past year in providing the kind of clarity needed to focus on our mission: promoting philanthropy, encouraging community engagement and responding to community needs. 

From our Real Talk Forums, to Covid testing, to our leadership role in The Spartanburg Racial Equity Collaborative, to opening the first Center for Philanthropy in South Carolina - the Spartanburg County Foundation has remained resolute in its focus on the future of local philanthropy and Spartanburg’s nonprofit sector. 

It is our hope that the Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy will offer a unique space in which to address old problems using a new set of lenses that require us to be data-driven, informed by thought-leadership, and inspired to achieve the impossible in our community and around the region.

We will continue to preserve, calling on all of our philanthropic capitals to move our community forward. 

We have made it this far and we look forward to the days ahead with a renewed sense of hope and curiosity about how we might unleash the best of what philanthropy has to offer in serving the needs of humankind.

It is my hope that SC's Nonprofit Summit will return in 2022 and we will welcome you to Spartanburg to share what we have learned. 

In the meantime, I invite you to join us for our virtual Annual Meeting on March 23rd that will include a tour of the Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy.

With gratitude,

Mary L. Thomas

COO of The Spartanburg County Foundation

Executive Director of the Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy