Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes

Women with a Cause 2020: Suzanne Rouvalis

After Suzanne Rouvalis got the email that she was selected for this year’s Women with a Cause, she spent the afternoon calling all of the family members and friends who have touched her life, thanking each for the blessings they have bestowed upon her over the years. She credits these individuals with making it possible for her to positively impact the lives of single moms.

“Part of the blessing is blessing others,” she says.

In 2012, Rouvalis was preparing for retirement following a 34-year career traveling the world as a global IT strategist for ExxonMobil. Dedicated to the idea of a “purposeful retirement,” she took to her church in search of opportunities to make a difference in the community.

The Life of a Single Mom Ministries just stood out,” she recalls. “I don’t know why.”

Despite remaining single throughout her life, Rouvalis doesn’t share the life experiences and struggles of the women served through TLSM, having had what she refers to as a charmed childhood. However, the hands-on work of the organization was something that immediately connected her to the group’s mission.

“I got there and I just loved it,” Rouvalis says. “I can’t explain it, but I knew it was where I was supposed to be.”

Rouvalis has since served on the organization’s board of directors, fundraising committee, programs committee and budget and policy committee, in addition to taking a special interest in individual mothers, sponsoring them for Christmas and taking the time to learn about their specific struggles in order to help them reach goals like financial independence. And with TLSM growing to serve nearly 115,000 single moms worldwide a year, Rouvalis helps to encourage the growth of programs locally—from setting up support groups to empowering moms to take part in TLSM’s Single Mom University.

“There is such a phenomenal need here,” she explains. “In Louisiana, about 470,000 kids are being raised by single parents, making us the second highest in the nation.”

According to TLSM’s founder and CEO Jennifer Maggio, Rouvalis is the single largest individual fundraiser in the history of the organization. However, for Rouvalis, it’s not about money, but about the simple act of making moms feel loved and empowered, as well as opening the eyes of the community in order to drive acceptance and activism.

“I try to bring friends from different backgrounds to events as much as I can,” she explains. “As people meet and talk with these amazing moms, a lot of the walls break down. In reality, all moms—all people—need support, no matter who they are.”