The Veiled Prophet Organization is widely known for the pomp and circumstance of its annual events, from the Veiled Prophet (VP) Parade and Fair Saint Louis to the VP Ball. But the volunteer-driven group also is involved in service throughout the community—and moving forward, it has plans to extend the charitable impact of its philanthropic arm, the VP Foundation. “Our goal is to expand our traditional role to include community service,” says spokesman Tom Cooke. “We have redoubled our efforts to develop an annual giving program to build up reserves in our nonprofit foundation.”
In the last 10 years, the organization’s outreach has included the Maids of Honor Project, where fathers, along with their daughters who are debuting in the annual ball, participate together in community service projects. “Now, we are engaging the whole family, including the wives and sons, who will be future members of the organization,” Cooke notes. Since 2003, the program has donated more than 100,000 hours of community service while working hand-in-hand with various charities and nonprofits across St. Louis. The foundation also will be broadening its focus to improve the lives of more St. Louisans throughout the year with products, events and gifts, Cooke adds. “We have been previously thought of as a seasonal organization, with the parade and fair being in the summer. Now, we will be expanding our services throughout the year.”
To that end, the VP Foundation will be honoring the history of the St. Louis Police Department by designing, constructing and maintaining a memorial for officers who have fallen in the line of duty. The memorial will be installed in the lobby of the department’s new downtown headquarters, set to open this April. “The St. Louis Police Department has a long and proud history,” Cooke says. “It’s a solemn honor for us to give them a respectable place to pay tribute to those officers who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
More projects like the memorial are in the works for the VP, which specializes in amassing and managing volunteers, Cooke says. “Successful organizations are ones that engage their members. Whatever the project, we always have more volunteers than we ask for.” VP committees work throughout the year to organize the 135-year-old VP Parade, the 34-year-old Fair Saint Louis and the 129-year-old VP Ball. Planning for the next year’s event always begins the day after the current event, Cooke adds.
At this year’s VP Ball, more than a dozen committees organized every last detail to recreate the feel of a Persian palace: from the elaborate costumes, floral decorations and scenery to the live orchestral music, lighting and sound, as well as the elegant settings for the Queen’s Supper. “Every year, we add new features to ball: This year during the grand march, the Veiled Prophet not only entered to the traditional song, Verde's Aida, by the live orchestra, but we also had the St. Louis Chamber Chorus performing,” Cooke explains.
The ball debuted a record-breaking class of young women who have graduated from public and private schools throughout the area. “One of the great indicators of the health of our organization is the number of girls walking,” Cooke says. “We are a very healthy and diverse organization that has evolved many times during our history.” And throughout this evolution, he says the mission has remained the same: to improve the quality of life for all who call St. Louis home.