Celebrating Black Philanthropy Month: An ECG Community Conversation About Legacy

The Expanding Community Giving Initiative (ECG) of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro (CFGG) engages diverse audiences to use philanthropy to become agents of their own change to positively impact the Greater Greensboro community. ECG’s Community Conversations is a series of events providing information and resources that inspire and mobilize donors to grow their philanthropy and establish philanthropic legacies that strengthens our community.

At the next Community Conversation, Mary and Marcus Thomas will share their family’s unique path into philanthropy. Mary Thomas is a nationally recognized and distinguished leader in the field of philanthropy for her grantmaking and leadership at The Spartanburg County Foundation. She has received philanthropy’s highest honors for her efforts: being named Top Three Distinguished Grantmakers by the Council on Foundations in 2014 and, in 2006, being the first African American to win the Council on Foundation’s Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking established by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund of New York. Mary will impart knowledge and wisdom that will kindle enthusiasm for philanthropy from her experiences as a professional, donor, and beloved Aunt to her family’s next generation of philanthropists.


Mary L. Thomas along with her nephew, Marcus Thomas an emerging philanthropist, will join in a conversation reflecting on how in a conversation reflecting on how she modeled for him the importance of giving back and establishing a philanthropic legacy. Marcus has continued the Thomas family’s philanthropic legacy as a member of the - Young and Dangerous Giving Circle that was established a charitable fund at Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. Mary and Marcus will share their accounts of related-experiences and events of how their family inspires and supports a culture of intergenerational philanthropy.

Join us as we celebrate Black Philanthropy in August with this family’s unique narrative of their family’s legacy! Come learn how to foster a culture of philanthropy within your own family and leave inspired to establish your family’s philanthropic legacy!


Mary L. Thomas

MARY L. THOMAS has over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of The Spartanburg County Foundation where she is responsible for the day to day operations of the organization and leads its mission, vision, and strategies while translating the Foundation’s goals into the overall program of work. Ms. Thomas’ many honors include but are not limited to: being named Top Three Distinguished Grantmakers by the Council on Foundations in 2014 and, in 2006, being the first African American to win the Council on Foundation’s Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking established by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund of New York. She took her prize money of $10,000 coupled with numerous gifts from the Spartanburg community which surpassed $100,000 to establish the Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change. This award is managed by The Spartanburg County Foundation, and a deserving leader is recognized annually for his/her leadership on critical issues in the Spartanburg community.

Marcus Thomas

MARCUS THOMAS is a native of Spartanburg, SC. Marcus holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from the University of North Georgia. Marcus serves as Dream Team Director at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Bishop Bryan J Pierce Sr. Marcus oversees a team of over 1,900 volunteers and provides leadership, encouragement, coaching and opportunities to serve in the community. Marcus also oversees Mount Zion’s community outreach initiative “Serve the City” and he serves on multiple committees in the Greensboro Community.

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Game Changer Spotlight: Dr. Jeff Walden

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Dr. Jeff Walden is truly a game changer in the Greensboro community. A family medicine physician at Cone Health Family Medicine, he has a passion for refugee and immigrant patients, starting a weekly clinic for area refugees in need of healthcare. The clinic, which also trains residents to deal with cultural differences, has served over 50 people from 13 different countries speaking 19 different languages.

Dr. Walden has become an important part of the refugee resettlement process as they flee persecution, war, and famine in addition to his clinical work, he has been involved in community forums, numerous volunteer activities, and is a member of the Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Network. Dr. Walden has also written and taught extensively to increase awareness about immigrant and refugee health issues for both the public and the medical community across the US.

The Matt Brown Learn to Swim Fund


Established in 2009 at The Community Foundation, this fund underwrites the costs to implement a “Learn to Swim” program at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.

Initial financial commitments of $20,000 a year for the next five years will help finance the Aquatic Center’s “Learn to Swim” classes in partnership with Guilford County Schools. The Greensboro Aquatic Center developed a curriculum-based “Learn to Swim” lifesaving skills program for all first- and second-grade students in Guilford County.

“This groundbreaking program is having an enormous positive impact on this entire community,” said Walker Sanders, Foundation president. “The Learn to Swim program is providing every child in Guilford County the opportunity to learn how to swim. In doing so, the program is not only educating our children but helping save lives, too.”

Sanders said a group of residents who wish to remain anonymous felt very strongly about the need for the Learn to Swim program at the Greensboro Aquatic Center. They established the fund at the Foundation by contributing the first $100,000 toward it. “And they challenge others who feel as they do to step up to the plate and contribute, as well,” Sanders said.

A recent study by USA Swimming found that nearly 60 percent of African-American children cannot swim, almost twice the figure for white children. In addition, the non-swimming rate for Hispanic children was nearly as high (52 percent). 

The fund at The Community Foundation enables the Greensboro Aquatic Center to contract with certified life-saving skills instructors, recruit guest appearances by well-known Olympic swimmers advocating Learn to Swim programs, provide transportation for students between schools and the Greensboro Aquatic Center and provide each participating student with a personal achievement commemorative “Learn to Swim” certificate and a swimming accessory novelty gift.

In 2017, the fund was renamed The Matt Brown Learn to Swim Fund in honor of his tireless efforts and contributions to the city of Greensboro.

Launching a Community Treasure: LeBauer Park

In November 2014, The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro unveiled plans for the new Carolyn & Maurice LeBauer Park, slated to open in Spring 2016 in downtown Greensboro, N.C. The park will be made possible by a generous bequest from the late Carolyn Weill LeBauer, who directed that the assets of her estate be used to create a fantastic park for her community. For more information on the park, visit Greensboro Downtown Parks, Inc.