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Snapshot of a Memorial Day Story

May 25, 2021

As we head into the holiday weekend with wanderlust in our hearts and COVID numbers at an all-time low, it’s easy to forget that Memorial Day commemorates those who have given their lives for our country in war. But it's even easier to overlook those who have returned from war to face countless other challenges, obtaining an education high among them.

Earlier this year, our client Michael Coles and his wife Donna gifted Kennesaw State University $1 million to establish the Coles Veterans Scholarship Endowment Fund in order to address this set of issues. Their goal is to help lessen the financial burden of veterans who have exhausted their GI Bill benefits before completing their degrees.

The genesis of this incredible gift goes back to 1998 when, after a wildly successful career as the co-founder of Great American Cookies, Michael made a bid for U.S. Senate. While on the campaign trail, Michael met scores of veterans who shared their struggles. Many started school, but ultimately got de-railed for any number of reasons. These stories haunted Michael and set him on a path to make a positive change in whatever way he could. With this scholarship fund, he and Donna are finally able to honor the sacrifices of these veterans by offering some help for a better life.

It's inspiring to work with someone who achieved "sweet" success and sees charity as a priority. Michael refers to the "Three W's" of giving as: work, wisdom and wealth. The Coles Veterans Scholarship Endowment Fund provides the wealth. He also mentors veterans with his wisdom. And, although so many in his position could rest on their laurels, Michael works tirelessly to make a positive impact on those less fortunate.

Michael and Donna are also the namesake of KSU's Coles College of Business. It's particularly impressive to see their passion for education considering Michael never went to college himself. In Judaism, we refer to the moral obligation to give back as tzedakah. For some, it is simply engrained in who they are.

So this weekend, whether you find yourself with your toes in the sand, hiking a mountain or just poolside relaxing, take a moment to reflect on how lucky you are and how you, too, can give back.

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