Local Couple Gifts $1 Million:
Game-changer for WINGS, Kids, and Philanthropy

In a time when nonprofits are looking for funding behind every door, we found support in our very own backyard! Our beloved Board Member Suzan Zoukis and her husband Stephen have generously donated $1 Million to support our expansion outside of Charleston. This donation is a game-changer for the future of philanthropy in our community. It demonstrates that people do recognize the importance of successful youth development programs, and are willing to provide philanthropic support. We are excited to expand our WINGS beyond the Lowcountry and couldn't be more grateful to the Zoukis' for their generosity.

We were over the moon to make our big announcement at Monday's press conference, and while the Zoukis' aren't ones to toot their own horn, we swell with pride doing it for them, as does Mayor Joe Riley who attended and spoke at the conference. The Mayor is a long-time supporter of WINGS and once took on the challenge to memorize our Creed to earn a $10,000 donation. He met that challenge and still knows the Creed by heart. He was eager to say it along with the children on Monday and even more eager to thank the Zoukis' for their kind gift. Also present to recognize the Zoukis' contribution, George Stevens- President of the Coastal Community Foundation, Chris Kerrigan- President of Trident United Way, and representatives from City of North Charleston, Metanoia, and Communities in Schools.

Suzan Zoukis joined our board three years ago because she believed in our mission of reaching kids through Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). She could never have imagined that decision would lead she, and her husband, to donate $1 Million. Neither could we! Suzan says, "Serving on the WINGS Board gave me the opportunity to view the organization from the inside, and what I saw was amazing. The positive changes I witnessed in the lives of the kids in the program made me want to give more than just my time."

The generosity of the Zoukis' will have positive impact on hundreds of kids across the Lowcountry and beyond! We are the only educational nonprofit of our kind nationwide- focused on teaching SE skills to elementary school students in an after school setting. We've been doing this since 1996, and have reached more than 3,500 kids in four schools. As our CEO, Bridget Laird says, "After 15 years of fine-tuning our model, we are ready to scale-up. We have proven that we can replicate the program and consistently achieve strong results, therefore putting us in perfect position to catapult onto the national scene. Expanding to other states will show that WINGS is serious about becoming a nationally recognized nonprofit. This could put Charleston on the map as the birthplace of innovative educational programming."

We are currently conducting research on possible expansion cities and planning to select our next location by January. The cities under consideration include Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA, Baltimore, MD, and Jacksonville, FL.

Although growth is on the horizon, we will maintain our commitment to our local programs. In the words of our Board President, Rusty Bennett, "We continue to need local support for our programs that were born and raised here. The Charleston community is our family, and our roots run deep."

This is an important year for local fundraising, as three of our four programs here in Charleston face slashes in federal funding. "We knew these reductions were coming, and, like we have always done, we are working hard to raise more funds to stay ahead of the cutbacks," says our CEO, Bridget Laird.

The Zoukis' extend a challenge to others to put kids first by donating time and money. While it would have been more comfortable for them to donate anonymously, the Zoukis' chose to do so publicly in hopes it would encourage others to step up and do the same. "We hope our donation will inspire others to give," says Suzan. "My husband and I are just two ordinary people who decided to make a difference in the lives of kids."

Check us out locally in the Post & Courier.

Check us out Nationally in Education Week.

From left to right - Suzan and Stephen Zoukis, Mayor Joe Riley, George Stevens of the Coastal Community Foundation and Chris Kerrigan of Trident United Way

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

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