Fathers and daughters start preparing for the Veiled Prophet Ball months in advance, not by scheduling hair appointments and buying dresses, but by painting classrooms, planting flowers and renovating homes in Pagedale. This summer, more than 350 young women, their fathers and other family members devoted 14 Saturdays to a number of different projects, all part of the Veiled Prophet Organization’s tradition of summer service.

    The program was launched six years ago, explains Arthur Hailand III, chair of the community service initiative. “Some members felt that part of the organization’s history was community service and that asking our members and their daughters to join together on service projects was good not only for the community but also for the organization.”  

     Hailand has been doing summer projects for four or five years. He and his daughter Elizabeth, this year’s Veiled Prophet queen, planted flowers for Operation Brightside, painted a school bus for the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, and painted classrooms in St. Louis public schools this summer. “I get the sense that these kids enjoy it a lot more than they thought they would,” Hailand says.

    Joe Kelley III, who has done summer community service with his daughter Marilyn for the past several years, says the projects not only make members feel good but are also a fun way for fathers and daughters to spend time together. “We had a good time being outside and digging and getting dirty and yukking it up with other people there,” Kelley says. “It’s a good learning experience for our kids, teaching them what giving back is all about, and how there are people out there who need our help.”

    Together, he and his daughter painted 20 to 30 classrooms, Kelley estimates. They also planted flowers at a park across from Savvis Center. “Every time we drive by, we talk about how good it looks,” he says.  Will he participate next summer? “Absolutely!”

    Inspired by her summer work, Marilyn went on to devote the spring break of her freshman year in college to volunteering. She traveled to Sao Paolo, Brazil, to work in an orphanage. “Sao Paolo is a humongous city where there is a ‘have and have-not’ culture, and she was obviously with the have-nots,” her father says. “The kids basically had the orphanage as their family structure.” And although the experience was eye-opening, Marilyn enjoyed herself. “It was fun for her playing with those kids.”

    Over the years, the Veiled Prophet organization has worked with Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together St. Louis, Annie Malone Children’s Home, St. Louis County Parks, Beyond Housing, Operation Brightside, the St. Louis Public Schools, and Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, among other organizations. The Veiled Prophet Foundation estimates that during summer 2008, members and their families devoted nearly 3,000 hours to the community service initiative.