While the glitz and glamour of the annual ball attracts most of the public’s attention each year, behind the scenes, the Veiled Prophet Organization works to have a positive impact on the St. Louis area. Through its community service initiative, maids of honor and their families give back by volunteering with various projects around the city. But today’s debutantes don’t just stop there. We learned how three young women who walked in this year’s ball are helping others throughout the community, across the country and around the world.
As a business major and honors student at Indiana University, Alex Schenk juggles a full schedule, but that hasn’t stopped her from helping others. “My dad has always encouraged me to go above and beyond the minimum, so I love that the Veiled Prophet community service initiative has allowed me to dedicate my time to something that is for the greater good,” she says.
Attributing many sunburns to her VP volunteer efforts, Schenk has spent the past four to five years helping out with various summer projects around St. Louis, from repainting buildings to assisting with landscaping. “I’ve gotten a chance to meet a lot of different people and it’s made me aware of the many other ways to help out,” Schenk explains.
She plans to remain involved with VP volunteer work into the future, from working with Fair St. Louis, to pulling weeds on the landscaping projects with her father, Robert Schenk. “I’m always so busy, so it’s nice to spend time with my dad, while helping someone else.”
Schenk’s enthusiasm for volunteer work also has carried over into her college life. Through her sorority and business fraternity, the sophomore has been active in the Bloomington community. Schenk’s participation in the annual Indiana University Dance Marathon helped raise money for the Riley Hospital for Children, while her other efforts have benefitted the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington and Habitat for Humanity. This summer, a school trip to India included a day working at a camp for kids from a Bangladesh orphanage, an experience that had a profound impact on her. “My parents have always told me to be thankful for what God has blessed me with, and I think the best way of being thankful is to give back to others who haven’t had the same opportunities.”
The community service initiative has been a family affair for Kate Rouse. With her sister, Kelley, having walked in 2009, and her father, John, on the initiative committee, Rouse is well-versed in summers spent volunteering around the city. “We’d sign up for projects that sounded interesting, and it was nice to spend a Saturday working with my dad,” she says. “It’s a good bonding experience.”
The Lehigh University sophomore’s recent contributions included working at a book fair, packaging and distributing meals for Food Outreach, as well as painting and cleaning St. Louis Public Schools, readying them for the new academic year. With many of the projects being a group effort among debutantes past, present and future, Rouse enjoyed spending time with her friends while meeting new people. “It’s neat to see a large group working together to give selflessly,” she explains. “You get a lot done and you feel pretty accomplished.”
During the school year, Rouse has translated her passion for helping children into working with a middle school book club, along with her other Alpha Omicron Pi sorority sisters. “I’ve enjoyed tutoring the kids and getting to see that excitement when they understand what they’re learning,” Rouse says.
The hours she has spent volunteering has made Rouse’s Veiled Prophet experience that much more meaningful. “I think the community service initiative is a really good way of getting younger people involved in the community and it has a positive effect on both us and the people around us,” she notes. “It makes it more special to know that you helped out.”
Stellie Powers is not content to just make a difference here in St. Louis, or in San Diego, where she is a sophomore at University of San Diego. Instead, she is ready to go international, as she prepares to participate in the Semester at Sea program, starting in January. “I have this awesome opportunity to go see the world, and the best way I can learn about what’s going on out there is to see it firsthand and help out where I can,” Powers says. “I’m so privileged to have so many things in my life, so I need to help others who don’t.”
During her voyage, Powers will volunteer at excursions along the way, from an orphanage in Brazil, to Operation Hunger in Ghana. She is most looking forward to working with the Amy Biehl Foundation in South Africa, helping with the after school program. “They provide constructive and safe activities that teach the kids life skills to help them in the future.”
Powers’ enthusiasm for service began through hours spent in high school contributing to the community service initiative. She volunteered in the afterschool and summer school programs at City Academy, helping out in the classroom and interacting with the kids. “They have so much potential and it’s important to show them that and be a role model,” she says.
In San Diego, Powers’ contributions have ranged from a diabetes walk to a coastal beach clean-up, and Christmas carols at retirement homes. While she gets ready to embark on bigger philanthropic adventures, Powers knows that even the smallest volunteer efforts count. “There are so many people out there who could use a helping hand. Every little thing makes a difference.”