August 31st, 2013
As Sonia Steffes, owner of the Athens clothing boutique Sonia Says, was approaching her 60th birthday, her friends wanted a fitting tribute for someone whose motto is, "Looking good while doing good!" Katie Foushee (BSFCS '07, Fashion Merchandising) and fellow store associate Susan Daniel approached the College of Family and Consumer Sciences Office of Development about secretly fundraising to establish an endowment in Sonia's honor.
All of the hard work and covert planning paid off on Feb. 4 when Sonia was surprised by a room filled with well wishers at the new Hotel Indigo in Athens. During the birthday toast, the Sonia Steffes Fashion Merchandising Student Support Fund was revealed, resulting in a look of shock followed by happiness on Sonia's face.
Establishing an endowment that will benefit undergraduate fashion merchandising students in the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors was an easy decision, according to Katie. "Students have always been so important to Sonia," she said. "Her goal is to encourage and nurture their interests so that they end up in careers they are passionate about."
Katie's own experiences with Sonia date back to her undergraduate days when she convinced Sonia to hire her for a summer internship, which eventually led to her becoming the manager of Sonia Says. In addition to learning the importance of knowing and understanding your customers and identifying and making a career of your passion, Katie's personal favorite saying of Sonia's is: "Work hard, but play hard too!"
"It was such an honor for my friends to create this endowment," Sonia says. "My hope is for the fund to serve as a starting point in helping fashion merchandising students gain the confidence that's necessary to be a success in this industry. I hope we'll be able to bring speakers to the university for presentations so the students have the opportunity to learn from professionals in the field. I believe that can be a terrific complement to what they're learning in the classroom."
Although her friends contributed enough money to fully endow the fund, Sonia hopes to continue to grow it by holding fashion shows to benefit the fund.
"I feel blessed to have been able to achieve my dream of owning my own boutique," she says. "Now, I've been given the opportunity to help any number of young people take their first steps toward achieving their own dreams. I'm so excited to be working with the faculty and students in the fashion merchandising program and identifying ways to further enhance the fund and further help the program."
Suzanne Griffeth is a Development officer for the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. For more information on how to give a current or deferred gift, please contact Suzanne at 706-542-4881, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to her at FACS, 224 Dawson Hall, UGA, Athens, GA 30602.
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