Published Sept. 27, 2011
A board member for a Charleston nonprofit organization that helps guide school-age children has donated $1 million to the organization. The money will allow the organization to launch a campaign to expand nationally, organizers said.
Wings for Kids combines educational, social and emotional development using an after school program to connect with kids.
Three years ago, Suzan Zoukis joined the Wings for Kids board in support of its mission to teach kids how to behave well, make good decisions and build healthy relationships, the nonprofit said in a news release.
“Serving on the Wings board gave me the opportunity to view the organization from the inside, and what I saw was amazing,” Zoukis said. “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 donation given by Zoukis and her husband will support the nonprofit’s plans to grow nationally.
The $1 million donation has been earmarked to help Wings for Kids grow, with an expansion campaign goal to raise $4.5 million over the next four years and expand into three regions. The cities under consideration are Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta; Baltimore; and Jacksonville, Fla., the nonprofit said. Earlier this year, Wings announced it was part of a $2.8 million study to scientifically measure the effectiveness of its programs, something Wings CEO Bridget Laird welcomed.
“After 15 years of fine-tuning our model, we are ready to scale-up,” Laird said. “We have proven that we can replicate the program and consistently achieve strong results, therefore putting us in the perfect position to catapult onto the national scene.”
Wings for Kids is researching each market to determine where it will likely expand. The move will be the first outside of Charleston.
“The $1 million donation is a game-changer for the future of philanthropy in our community,” Laird said. “It demonstrates that people do recognize the importance of successful youth development programs, and are willing to provide philanthropic support.”
Wings for Kids opened in 1996 and has served more than 3,500 kids in four schools. Wings officials said 2011 is an important year for local fundraising because three of the organization’s four programs in Charleston face federal funding cuts.
“My husband and I both grew up in normal, middle class families without a lot of disposable income for charitable giving,” Zoukis said. “Now, we are fortunate enough to be able to use our financial resources to make a difference in the lives of kids, and we hope our donation will inspire others to give.”