During this time of year, it is an LN tradition to salute local charities and nonprofit organizations that have commemorated milestone anniversaries in 2012. In celebration, we've asked a sampling of them to share some favorite memories, as well as even bigger future plans.
ST. JOSEPH INSTITUTE FOR THE DEAF, 175 years
Each year, St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf president Art Fitzgerald looks forward to the portion of the annual gala when the children have their chance to shine onstage during a play. "This is one of my favorite moments," he says.
For 175 years, St. Joseph Institute has been an integral part of special moments like these for children who are deaf or hearing-impaired. The Institute balances tradition and innovation to deliver the best quality education, Fitzgerald says. "Our goal is to teach children with hearing impairments to listen, speak and read."
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet from Lyons, France, founded the organization in St. Louis in 1837. Today, St. Joseph's services can be found in the homes and schools of children across the country. The Institute reaches hundreds of kids each year through a variety of programs, including audiology, internet therapy, outreach services, traditional school programs and early intervention. Its staff of certified deaf educators, speech therapists and audiologists helps students develop oral language without the use of sign language, giving children the best opportunity for mainstream education and independent adult living.
ST. LOUIS PUBLIC LIBRARY’S CENTRAL LIBRARY, 100 years
From helping a young child reach a book on a high shelf to successfully teaching a retired man to read, St. Louis Public Library executive director Waller McGuire says every day at the library is a moving learning experience.
This year, the library celebrates the 100th anniversary of its Central branch, which will reopen this month with the latest technology installed into its historic marble shell. “People need information more than ever before, and we work hard to help patrons reach the online world,” McGuire says. “You can now go to our website and download a book or a movie just the same as you can check one out at the library.”
Whether it is through a bound book or a computer class, McGuire says the 17 local branches are staying true to the library’s original mission: to be a resource for community members by providing whatever knowledge improves their lives.
“The Central Library reopening will be the event of the century for us. The branch is going to be a very important development for the region as a whole.”
THE SHELDON, 100 years
A slate of legendary performers has graced the stage of the century-old Sheldon, making it a favorite venue of numerous notable figures throughout the years.
“The goal of The Sheldon is to be the perfect place for music and art,” notes executive director Paul Reuter.
The concert hall, which was designed by 1904 World’s Fair architect Louis Spiering, welcomed speakers such as Margaret Mead, Thurgood Marshall and R. Buckminster Fuller in its early days. And in 1994, the 7,000-square-foot Sheldon Art Galleries was added to build on the venue’s mission of diverse art education for the community.
Today, The Sheldon hosts more than 350 events each year, including jazz, folk and classical music from world-renowned musicians. Artists such as Joan Baez, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, B.B. King and Wynton Marsalis have performed on its stage.
Countless epic musical performances are imprinted on Reuter’s memory, from “hearing Christine Brewer or Renee Fleming sing in the concert hall, to being thrilled by Russian pianist Olga Kern, and seeing jazz legend Dave Brubeck get younger right before our eyes as he performed.” Other memorable shows have included jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra performing in the hall “without a single microphone.” And Reuter will never forget a phone call from acclaimed soprano Jessye Norman of Salzburg. “She called to let us know The Sheldon was her favorite hall in the world.”
DANCES OF INDIA, 35 years
Dances of India, based in Ladue, has shared the Indian culture with the community through the art of classical Indian dance for 35 years.
“Dances of India was the first to introduce Indian dance to St. Louis,” notes founder Asha Prem. “The company always seeks to make more familiar to St. Louis audiences this very foreign, deeply intellectual and elegantly intricate art form.”
The dance group includes Prem’s daughter, Nartana Premachandra and Theckla Mehta, who has been involved with props and choreography since the organization’s inception.
Dances of India continues to give dance demonstrations and workshops at St. Louis-area schools and universities; corporations such as Anheuser-Busch, Boeing and Edward Jones; and museums, including St. Louis Art Museum and St. Louis Science Center; and festivals, such as the St. Louis Dance Festival, which the group has sponsored for the past 14 years.
The nonprofit also keeps Indian art and culture alive for many Indians who now call St. Louis home. “Through learning Indian dance, Indian kids also learn the morals of the stories that are expressed through dance; hopefully, these morals will aid and enrich their own life experiences,” Prem says.
In recent years, the organization has expanded from only presenting very traditional Indian dance pieces describing Indian stories and myths to offering additional creative performances. For example, one of its most popular dance-dramas—Rhapsody for the Blue Gods, features the tales of Hinduism’s 'blue-skinned' deities Rama and Krishna to George Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue.
Through the years, Prem says some performance highlights have included dancing at the Veiled Prophet Ball in the ’80s, “where the stage would get so hot that ice had to be poured on it to cool it down for the barefooted dancers”; and, more recently, performing in the midst of beautiful art during the Saint Louis Art Museum’s reopening of the East Asian Galleries.
BRIGHTSIDE ST. LOUIS, 30 years
The yellow glow of 500,000 daffodils along area highways signifies 30 years of operation for Brightside St. Louis.
Started in 1982 as Operation Brightside, the nonprofit’s focus has evolved from cleaning to beautifying St. Louis' public buildings, neighborhoods and streets. “We want to make people feel better about the community,” says executive director Mary Lou Green.
Through its cleaning and greening program, a city-wide clean-up has been held for the last 30 years, with one in four households participating each spring. The group also has collected and disposed of 7 million pounds of trash and debris—and about half of the waste is recycled. In addition, Brightside has removed graffiti from 125,000 buildings and homes during the last 25 years.
New projects for the organization include a demonstration garden – located at Kingshighway Boulevard and Vandeventer Avenue. The nonprofit transformed a vacant lot into and environmental education spot, where community members can learn about sustainable living, such as proper planting practices and stormwater pollution prevention.
NURSES FOR NEWBORNS, 20 years
For 20 years, Nurses for Newborns has provided a safety net for families who are struggling with a pregnancy or new baby.
Through home visits, the organization’s experienced registered nurses offer health care and resources to families, while also teaching positive parenting skills.
“The overall goal is to improve infant and mother health and wellness, and prevent child neglect and injury,” notes executive director Melinda Ohlemiller.
The nonprofit began through the visionary leadership of a local nurse and has grown into a professional preventive health care provider, with services in more than 20 Missouri counties, as well as in Tennessee. “We started with a handful of hard-working volunteers who helped gather baby items for the first two nurses and now have more than 1,700 volunteers of all ages who assist with our work,” Ohlemiller says.
This year, the agency has completed more than 17,000 visits to almost 3,300 families in Missouri and Tennessee. The group uses technology to help clients, as well as lower costs—the average cost for each family per year is about $1,000. During each home visit, nurses use laptops to record medical assessments and other pertinent information in a database that can be analyzed and transferred for future use. The system also is used to teach parenting skills to caregivers, link clients with vital community resources, and measure risk factors and outcomes. In 2011, the database shows that child abuse and neglect and avoidable hospitalizations were prevented in 99 percent of clients.
Other nonprofits celebrating a milestone anniversary this year include:
WILSON SCHOOL, 100 years
ROSATI-KAIN HIGH SCHOOL, 100 years
ANIMAL PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION OF MISSOURI, 90 years
ST. ANTHONY'S AUXILLARY, 50 years
GERMAN SCHOOL, 50 years
CIRCLE OF CONCERN, 45 years
THE WOMEN'S SAFE HOUSE, 35 years
KIDS IN THE MIDDLE, 35 years
OASIS, 30 years
ASSISTANCE LEAGUE, 25 years
CAMP RAINBOW, 25 years
COCA, 25 years
SHAW ART FAIR, 20 years