Honoring the Past - A 25-Year History

Women Executives for Community Service (WECS) got its start in 1987, with its first community initiative involving a series of high school level speaking contests entitled, "Speak Out!" 
Under the leadership of founding mothers, Mary Bruce, Caroline Dellinger, Jill Flynn, Gloria Gibson, and Claire Lawrence, in 1995, Women Initiating and Nurturing Growth through Scholarships (WINGS) was born, awarding scholarships to six deserving scholars, all of whom successfully graduated.  Partnering colleges included CPCC, Johnson C. Smith, UNCC and Queens. Our first WINGS Mentors included: Mary Bruce, B.G. Metzler, Ann Allen Adams, Judy Green, and former WE members, Linda Combs-Sheppard and Gail Addis. 1996 represents the first full year of the program being in existence.

The story behind the idea. Jill Flynn ran into a high school friend in 1993, who was a teacher's aide in her daughter's elementary school class in Myers Park. They shared stories and Jill learned this woman was now divorced, never finished college, and was struggling to provide for herself and her two sons. In Jill's words, "she needed a hand up." This sparked Jill to share this story with others in WE, including 1992/92 past president, Claire Lawrence; the president of WE at the time, Caroline Dellinger, and her president-elect, Gloria Gibson. This discussion launched research in conjunction with the local Charlotte non-profit Child & Family Services to determine where Women Executives could make a difference. One of the key learnings was that the lack of education keeps women from being self-sufficient. This sparked the idea that education could give women more confidence, and with more confidence, they could leave abusive relationships, gain confidence and skills, and get jobs to support themselves and their children.

WINGS is now the pinnacle non-profit 501(c)3 program offered by Women Executives and led by Women Executives for Community Service (WECS) embarking on celebrating 25 years, of making a difference in social mobility.

Claire Lawrence provides a walk down memory lane sharing the history of WINGS.

A specially commissioned painting presented to
Jill Flynn from Playing For Others depicting the founding
mothers giving WINGS its wings. 

What impact is WINGS making in the lives of women in Charlotte?

Since 1996, the WINGS Scholarship program has:
  • Helped scholars earn 124 college degrees, many scholars earning the first college degree in their families.
  • Realized a graduation rate of 75% compared to 60% for four-year colleges and 28% for two-year colleges.
  • Provided over $815,000 in scholarships and countless volunteer hours.
  • Donated countless hours in Women Executives member volunteer support.
  • Built a strong network of post-graduate scholars by offering programs focused on career and life skills enhancement.