Nine local organizations—which help St. Louisans facing disease, homelessness, hunger and other life challenges—have been recognized as finalists for our 2012 Charity Awards. The three winners will be announced in our June 15 issue.
City Academy aims to provide children with an exceptional education regardless of their family’s income. The private, independent elementary school offers scholarship support to 140 students, age 4 through sixth grade. This year, the academy is taking steps toward serving even more students. The school will add 22 early childhood students to its learning community in the fall. Don Danforth III, the school’s president and co-founder, says he is proud of the school’s graduates, who are thriving in positions of leadership in their secondary schools and colleges. “It’s such a pleasure to celebrate with them and to imagine the kind of impact they will have on St. Louis as they emerge into young adults who understand the value of high-quality education and find themselves in a position to make a difference for others.”
Covenant House Missouri helps troubled youth “come out of their shell” and strive for success. The charity annually serves more than 5,700 runaway, homeless and at-risk youth through its short- and long-term programs—Mobile Street Outreach, Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing—as well as support services including tutoring, employment, life skills and recreational and social opportunities. With assistance from the St. Louis Mental Health Board, Covenant House recently expanded its mental health services to include on-site psychiatric services, individual and group counseling and aftercare services. In addition, the organization’s employment program has added internship opportunities from St. Louis Bread Company, Nex-Tech Aerospace, Pelopidas Production Company and Six Flags. “Our youth have the ongoing opportunity to receive mentoring and on-the-job training with the goal of obtaining employment at the job site,” says grant manager Mary Bolla. “They become responsible employees and citizens as they develop the skills needed to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness.”
Friends of Kids with Cancer
Friends of Kids with Cancer strives to brighten the days of children fighting cancer and blood-related diseases. More than 300 volunteers annually support 1,000 children and their families through recreational, educational and emotional programs during and after cancer treatment. The organization’s programs are supported by fundraising events, including an annual run/walk in April, a golf tournament each May and its signature children’s fashion show—where the cancer patients serve as the models. This year, Friends will celebrate its 20th anniversary Fashion Show and Boutique on Nov. 8 at The Ritz-Carlton in Clayton. In an effort to expand its services, the charity recently added a young professionals group—Young Friends of Kids with Cancer—which organizes events such as patient family gatherings at The Magic House. “Our mission is to provide an enthusiastic and energetic base of young professional supporters and future leaders of Friends of Kids with Cancer,” says executive director Judy Ciapciak.
Food Outreach Inc. lends nutritional support to low-income residents living with HIV/AIDS or cancer. The organization annually serves some 500,000 meals to 1,900 clients, ranging from toddlers to elderly adults. Through its 24-year history, it has provided more than 4.5 million meals to almost 11,000 clients. Food Outreach recently partnered with Schnucks, which has specialty pharmacists available 25 hours per week to help new clients with general health and treatment issues. In 2006, the charity expanded services to include people battling cancer. The group is looking at the possibility of expanding to serve those with diseases such as diabetes or cystic fibrosis, adds executive director Greg Lukeman.
H.I.S. K.I.D.S. Inc. lends a helping hand to children and families touched by cancer. From diagnosis to post-treatment, the organization’s 1,000 volunteers offer 2,000 cancer patients and families support through youth and teen programs such as weeklong summer camps and weekend retreats throughout the year. The charity also offers emergency services, including a year-round food pantry, health services, art therapy and counseling and bereavement support to families. “H.I.S. K.I.D.S. helps the children in treatment, as well as siblings and parents, to cope with it all. We help them move through the process of surviving diagnosis, to striving for a ‘new normal,’ to thriving despite their challenges,” says Jayme Bellamy, assistant executive director.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Gateway Chapter fights for a cure to leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma while improving the quality of life for patients and their families. The organization’s 60 local volunteers serve 5,000 St. Louisans each year through financial aid, co-pay assistance and education about blood cancers and treatment options. “There are still patients who urgently need more effective and safer treatments,” says executive director Debbie Kersting. “LLS is proactively funding academic research in areas of unmet medical need and partnering with companies to accelerate promising new therapies through essential clinical trials.” In addition, Kersting notes the organization continues to expand local services in order for more patients and families to have access to the emotional and financial support they need to face cancer and move forward.
In 2007, eight local siblings lost their mother to melanoma. To honor her last request, they started OUR M.O.M. (Our Mark on Melanoma). The foundation has raised $250,000 for melanoma research. The group also has a fully endowed melanoma research fund at Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, named in honor of their mother, Patricia Schellhardt Malone. The organization’s largest event, Annual Miles Over Melanoma run/walk, drew 1,000 participants this year. Donations fund the group’s mission of prevention, detection and finding a cure. As part of its prevention and detection mission, the organization’s educational campaign—Scan Your Skin—aims to raise awareness about the signs of melanoma. OUR M.O.M. also plans to add new programs such as melanoma support and research groups, notes board president Elizabeth Shocklee. “We have teamed up with oncologists, surgeons, dermatologists and researchers at Washington University School of Medicine to further fund and encourage melanoma research.”
Saint Louis Crisis Nursery
Saint Louis Crisis Nursery has been committed to preventing child abuse since 1986. The nursery provides a 24-hour safe haven and special care for children up to 11 years old and their families during crisis situations. More than 300 volunteers serve 7,200 children and 5,500 families at five St. Louis area nurseries and six outreach centers. Homelessness, family illness, death, domestic violence or lack of food and utilities typically bring residents to the facilities. Crisis Nursery, started by Junior League of St. Louis, offers medical exams, developmental assessments, clothing, art and play therapy and activities for children, as well as counseling programs for parents. Chief executive officer DiAnne Mueller says while there many local and national programs that offer help after abuse or family disintegration, the Crisis Nursery strives to provide families the lifeline they need to stop crises from occurring. “We are saving babies lives, keeping kids safe and building strong families.”
Shriners Hospitals for Children
Shriners Hospitals for Children—St. Louis invests in the future of the community through healing children with neuromusculoskeletal conditions. More than 100 volunteers annually serve more than 13,000 children. In addition, thousands of fraternity members raise funds, serve as board leadership and provide transportation to patients. “The love our hospital employees and members of the fraternity have for each individual child makes the true difference. It puts every child first. It drives medical breakthroughs. It makes our hospital feel like home,” says hospital administrator John Gloss. “These are the children who go to college and stay in our community as employees and leaders and make our town a great place to live.”