Carolyn B. Thomas, founder of the Food Bank of Western New York, died Saturday in Hawthorn Health Multicare Center, 1175 Delaware Ave. She was 92.
Born in Swainsboro, Ga., Mrs. Thomas was a graduate of Georgia State College, where she earned a degree in home economics. She taught in the public schools of Georgia for five years before moving to New York City, where she was employed as senior group worker for Utopia Neighborhood House for three years. While in New York, she also attended the College of the City of New York.
Mrs. Thomas later served four years as playground director in the Pontiac, Mich., Recreation Department. She was simultaneously employed at the Southwest Community Center as Girls and Women's Worker.
She moved to Buffalo in 1952 and immediately began to work in the same capacity at Friendship House in Lackawanna. She was appointed acting director of the facility from 1954 to 1956 and became its first female executive director in 1959. During this time, she also continued her studies at the University of Buffalo School of Social Work.
Mrs. Thomas resigned as director of Friendship House in 1963 to pursue her master's degree full time. She went on to become assistant director of Child and Family Services' Reach-out Program into the 1970s. She later worked at Westminster Community House for five years.
A tireless volunteer and longtime advocate in Buffalo's African community, Mrs. Thomas volunteered with a wide range of organizations, from Girl Scouts to activities of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. In the early 1970s, she was president of the Family Life Consortium, a group of representatives for medically indigent neighborhoods and agencies that worked in those areas.
It was as the Council of Churches' representative to the Community Action Organization that Mrs. Thomas initiated a campaign for a food bank, which she considered her greatest achievement. She spent several years helping to locate a site for a central warehouse for the agency, which finally opened at the Seneca Industrial Center warehouse in April 1983.
The Buffalo News recognized her as one of its 1983 Citizens of the Year. In 1984, Mrs. Thomas received the Buffalo Branch NAACP's Community Service Award.
A few years later, as chairwoman emeritus of the Food Bank of Western New York, Mrs. Thomas was named 1990 Buffalonian of the Year by then-Mayor James B. Griffin. Other honors she received came from the Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Mary B. Talbert Club and the National Conference of Christians and Jews, among others.
Mrs. Thomas is survived by her husband of more than 50 years, Eugene D.
Her funeral will be at noon Friday in Bethel AME Church, 1525 Michigan Ave.