Ginny and Roger Carlson: How we found WITS

Ashley BloomInside WITS, Support, Volunteers

WITS would not be the healthy, vibrant organization it is today if it weren’t for the leadership and vision of people like Ginny and Roger Carlson. The Carlsons officially joined the Board of Directors in 1996 and served the organization as co-Presidents from 2001-2004, providing stability during a time of transition for the organization as it entered its second decade of service.

There are many accomplishments that the Carlsons have been a part of, but one of the most memorable contributions was elevating the WITS profile through wine dinners hosted by Grace Family Vineyards and Charlie Trotter. These events were crucial. Roger remembers, “It was a very exciting evening, because it was a breakthrough from a funding standpoint for this organization. We were penniless basically. In those days we got a little money from the City of Chicago. But of course, that dried up. There were some lean days there where we had trouble making payroll, and we were running by the skin of our teeth.”

Ginny Carlson reading with a WITS Kindergarten student at Talcott Elementary.
Roger Carlson reading with a WITS Kindergarten student at Talcott Elementary.

“[The wine dinners] had not been done in Chicago before,” Ginny recalls. “They had large dinners, but never small, intimate at-home dinner parties. That is what made it different. What we were trying to do was give something that no one could go out and buy. Where you could give them an opportunity to experience this beautiful home, with this great wine, and Trotter’s food which was absolutely amazing.” The evening was successful with raising close to six figures for the organization, and many wine dinners followed afterwards.

To this day, Ginny and Roger continue to give their passion, time and resources to WITS. They continue to serve on the WITS Board of Directors, mentor WITS Kindergarten students, and support the organization. WITS CEO, Tena Kunik, says, “Roger and Ginny have nurtured and supported WITS in a way that has felt both necessary and kind.  Their enthusiasm for the mission has never taken a backseat – I truly feel that it is part of who they are.  As the CEO of an organization you hope for Board members like the Carlsons.  They are the right amount of encouragement, thoughtful questioning, cheerleading, and strategic thinking that any leader of an organization would want to work with.”

To learn more about how they get involved, watch this video.