Every year, LN salutes local nonprofits commemorating milestone anniversaries. Whether distributing and planting trees, providing a safe home for children in need or supporting those touched by cancer, these organizations continue to make a difference in St. Louis. To celebrate, we’ve shared a few of their histories and goals for the future.

Our Little Haven, 20 years

Children and babies facing abuse and neglect find safety, comfort and love at Our Little Haven.

Executive director Scott Hummel says that when Our Little Haven started in 1993, it was in response to the pediatric AIDS and crack-baby epidemics. The organization focused on early intervention, by providing care and safe homes for children in need. In 1993, Our Little Haven had one program. Today, it has six—including a therapeutic preschool and foster-care case management—all dedicated to giving children a solid foundation on which to build healthy and successful lives. In its first year, the organization served 30 kids. This year, that number is more than 600.

“Our first kids [from 1993] are now 20 and 21 years old. Many we’ve stayed in touch with” Hummel says. “These kids are in college, have goals and dreams and opportunities, and the potential to do something great in their communities. Prior to their Our Little Haven experience, it’s pretty clear they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that.”

Hummel says Our Little Haven will continue to grow, and is dedicated to help every child lead a full life. “Who knows what a 5-year-old will do when he’s 25? But to not have a chance to demonstrate his full potential, that’s not right.”

St. Louis Classical Guitar Society, 50 years

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society has struck a chord and is here to stay.

Most commonly known for sponsoring performances by world-renowned guitarists, the society also acts as an educational resource, offering master classes for younger guitarists hoping to have careers in music, and a 20-person members orchestra.

“We’re doing more of everything on a bigger scale,” says president Bill Ash. “At heart we’re still a club of people who come together frequently, and invite others to join us. We feel like we make a unique contribution to the St. Louis cultural climate because the guitar is such a versatile instrument.”

With 150 members, the organization continues to grow, and advocates for music education and guitar classes in schools. In January members will get the chance to view a screening of a 30-minute film about the history of guitar in St. Louis, dating back to the mid-19th century.

“There’s a long tradition of guitar and classical guitarists in St. Louis,” Ash says. “A lot of people don’t realize it, but we do.”

Arts and Education Council, 50 years

For the last 50 years, the Arts and Education Council has been a leader in the art education industry, dedicated to making art accessible for all of St. Louis.

When the United Way shifted its focus to health and human services organizations in 1960, seven St. Louis arts organizations lost their funding. A handful of local business leaders and philanthropists joined together to create what eventually became the Arts and Education Council. Since then, the organization has awarded more than 2,800 grants totaling more than $100 million in private funding for the arts, benefitting institutions include KETC/Channel 9, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the St. Louis Symphony.

Today, the organization is headquartered at the Centene Center for the Arts in the Grand Center Arts District. The building homes office, rehearsal and performance space for 18 arts nonprofits. The organization recently partnered with the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte, N.C. to launch power2give.org, a new online fundraising platform that allows nonprofits to post project ideas and donors to choose what arts projects they’d like to fund.

“By providing a giving platform devoted to supporting arts and culture in our community, power2give encourages local arts consumers to become arts donors, and help the organizations they love with specific needs,” says president Cynthia Prost. “Over time, we expect to see the act of giving by caring individuals become the power of many.”

Cancer Support Community of Greater St. Louis, 20 years

When cancer weakens, Cancer Support Community of Greater St. Louis strengthens.

Cancer Support Community offers its services to everyone affected by cancer, from patients undergoing treatments and post-treatment survivors, to friends, family members and children of cancer patients.

Completely funded by donations, Cancer Support Community offers all of its programs for free, as well as “free or reduced-cost medically related supplies not covered by insurance,” through the Staenberg Family Foundation Cancer Services.

The organization doesn’t just provide supplies, however, but caters to every aspect of a cancer patient’s needs. Its programs span from country line dancing and Zumba to nutrition counseling, cooking demonstrations, movie screenings and networking groups.

“We’ve always had the same mission to support cancer patients and their loved ones,” says executive director Laura Rossman. “But we started out with more of an emphasis on support groups. We’ve added programs for stress management, exercise programs, educational workshops and nutrition programs. We’ve evolved as the needs of cancer patients have evolved.”

St. Louis Woman’s Club, 110 years

Women of St. Louis find entertainment, education and lasting friendships through the St. Louis Woman’s Club.

As St. Louis prepared for the 1904 World’s Fair, prominent local women formed the organization to provide social opportunities and entertainment for the wives of dignitaries that would travel to the fair. Back then, most of the activities were based around music and entertainment. Today, the group sponsors four programs a month, dedicated to expanding members’ knowledge about arts and sciences. The programs range from art museum outings to presentations by professors and dinner dances.

For the past 101 years, the 130-member club has called 4600 Lindell Boulevard home. The expansive manse has seen extensive updates throughout the years, including a new ballroom, grand staircase and professional kitchen.

Immediate past president Carolyn Farrell says the club continues to thrive by welcoming new members and giving back to the community. In addition to an annual fundraiser fashion show, the ladies of the St. Louis Woman’s Club sponsor a yearly scholarship.

“We give a check to a senior at Metro High School for the college of her choice,” Farrell says “The future for us is honoring women. Women who are in the work force, but also traditional women who are retired and are no longer working and are looking for a place to meet with other women.”

Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, 20 years 

When Forest ReLeaf of Missouri launched 20 years ago, volunteers started out by giving away trees in parking lots. Since then, the sapling of an organization has spread its roots and become a major player in Missouri arboreal conservation.

Dedicated to supplying trees for public and nonprofit plantings, Forest Releaf works toward creating cities and towns filled with healthy trees and forests, and volunteers to care for them. Thanks to partnerships with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Community Forestry Council, and the efforts of volunteers, the organization now grows 20,000 trees out of a nursery in Creve Coeur Park, specializing in 100 species of native Missouri trees and shrubs.

“We’ve given away 135,000 trees,” says executive director Donna Coble. “We hit 100,000 in 2010, and stepped up production after that. I suspect we’ll hit 150,000 in the next year or so.”

As it has grown, ReLeaf has added additional programming, including presentations and education programs. Coble says the organization hopes to build an education center and outdoor classroom adjacent to the nursery, in addition to starting a satellite office somewhere else in the state, to continue its mission to educate Missourians.

Pictured: Volunteers planted 10,000 trees along the riverfront in celebration of Earth Day in 1990. Forest Releaf was formed as a result of this planting.

Other nonprofits celebrating milestones in 2013:

YMCA of Greater St. Louis, 160 years

Neighborhood Houses, 100 years

Animal Protective Association of Missouri, 90 years

University of Missouri-St. Louis, 50 years

Rainbow Village, 40 years

St. Patrick Center, 30 years

Make-a-Wish Missouri, 30 years

The Haven of Grace, 25 years

Room at the Inn, 20

Stray Dog Theatre, 10

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