nanci-thomas_web.jpgDEERFIELD BEACH — The Jim Moran Foundation tapped Nanci Thomas for its 2011 award, paying tribute to her compassion and commitment to Broward County’s children, families and seniors.

Thomas, widow of famed Miami artist Oscar Thomas, received a bronze sculpture and a $50,000 grant for the Oscar Thomas Foundation – the nonprofit of her choice, which is named for her late husband.

The sculpture, created by South Florida artist George Gadson, shows an open book with a child climbing a ladder supported by an outstretched hand.

The foundation said it doubled the usual $25,000 grant in light of “the tremendous hardships on so many who are struggling to make ends meet in today’s economy.”

“Nanci believes every child is special and has the potential to achieve great things,” Jan Moran, chairman and president of The Jim Moran Foundation, said in the statement. The foundation is named for her late husband, who had been an auto dealer magnate.

“I know my husband would be so proud of her and the Oscar Thomas Foundation for helping children discover the very best in themselves through art, academics, and multi-generational interactions,” Moran said.

Thomas has served as an educator, counselor and family advocate for the past 25 years. By providing free tutoring, mentoring and reading and math instruction, many at-risk students not only improved but excelled in their academic performance, The Jim Moran Foundation noted.

After her husband died in 1997, Thomas founded her organization to empower children and youth through art, education and community service.

Her idea was to continue her husband’s dream of community enrichment but it has exceeded expectations and now offers lifelong learning opportunities, encourages self-awareness, expression, creativity and leadership and connects young people and seniors through volunteer experiences.

Thomas said the grant will enable the Oscar Thomas Foundation to deliver programs that may not otherwise have been possible.

“I promise to continue to serve others in a way that would make Mr. Moran proud,” she said in the statement.

Jim Moran created the annual awards program in 2003 to recognize those who have a history of giving back to their community through active service and personal commitment.

Photo: Nanci Thomas