This month YWCA Greater Charleston promoted Tori Burke-Koskela to deputy director and welcomed Chajuanna (“CJ”) Gathers as its women & youth programs director. Both roles are newly created positions.
As YWCA Greater Charleston’s deputy director, Burke-Koskela will assist in the development and implementation of programs designed to support its dual mission to eliminate racism and empower women, as well as representing the nonprofit at public speaking engagements and engaging in strategic planning and grant fundraising.
“Tori’s commitment to excellence has been shown over and over again in her outstanding work managing our Racial Equity Institute program and other racial equity initiatives, including our new Called to Forgive book study workshops,” said LaVanda Brown, executive director of YWCA Greater Charleston. “We are very pleased to welcome her into this new leadership role.”
Burke-Koskela, who attended Indiana University and has nearly 25 years of experience in training, event planning, and management with a focus on nonprofits, previously served as YWCA Greater Charleston’s racial equity training coordinator.
Prior to that, she served as director of leadership programs at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, where she was responsible for its leadership programs, and as director of membership and leadership development at the
Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce, where she facilitated its Leadership Dorchester Program. While there, she received the Institute for Organizational Management designation from the US Chamber of Commerce, among other distinctions and awards. She has also served as a member of the instructional team for Dale Carnegie Training of South Carolina, where she earned its Outstanding Activity Award.
As YWCA Greater Charleston’s new women and youth programs director, Gathers will assist in the development and implementation of programs and events designed to empower women and girls, including the nonprofit’s WE 360° program for women of entrepreneurs of color, SheStrong program for young women in high school, and Y Girls Code technology clubs for girls and young women, among others.
She will also be responsible for the recruitment, training, supervision, and retention of staff and volunteers utilized to carry out the programs.
“We are very excited to bring CJ into our core team,” said Brown. “As our 2021 What Women Bring entrepreneurship honoree, we were already impressed with her work, deep and heartfelt commitment to empower women, and presence on the public stage. She is poised to contribute tremendously to our mission.”
Gathers, who holds a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Benedict College, has long felt especially called to the needs of women. Prior to joining YWCA Greater Charleston, she founded and began to grow The WE Group, a women’s empowerment group best known for enabling women to come together in healing conversations, in 2017. She also sought to support women in their business endeavors, dreams, visions, and goals by providing a platform on which they could promote and expand their presence. She also currently serves on the board of Holy City Closet, a nonprofit providing donations of modern and fashionable apparel to victims of domestic violence.
“The mission of YWCA Greater Charleston perfectly aligns with my passion and purpose,” Gathers said. “Our experiences don’t only belong to us, but are to be used for the educating and uplifting of others. I am incredibly excited to be part of YWCA Greater Charleston’s work empowering women and eliminating racism, not only in the Charleston region but across the state and beyond.”
ABOUT YWCA GREATER CHARLESTON
For 114 years, YWCA Greater Charleston has worked to eliminate racism and empower women in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester Counties. Among its initiatives to eliminate racism are its multi-day MLK Celebration, one of the city’s longest running events; its annual Stand Against Racism; and its Racial Equity Institute workshop equipping local leaders and laypeople to address racism. It empowers women with its annual What Women Bring event, attended by hundreds to empower South Carolina’s women in business, community, and culture; WE 360°, helping women of color overcome barriers in entrepreneurship; Own the Room public speaking workshops empowering women’s success; and women’s health programs. It brought the first Girls Who Code club for middle school girls to Charleston, and today its Y Girls Code program includes female students of all ages. It also hosts SheStrong, empowering high school girls to develop as leaders and changemakers. For more information, visit ywcagc.org.