The charitable needs of our community are neverending, but these local organizations provide ways to make a difference—from a teddy bear to a $20 million donation.


When Assistance League of St. Louis provided uniforms to 120 students at Twillman Elementary in Hazelwood last year, the school was extremely grateful. But the response to the additional gift of a washer and dryer was overwhelming. “You wouldn’t think a washer and dryer would be a big deal, but when the principal introduced us as the donors, there was just a gasp,” says president Patty Alvarez. “The thank-yous we receive show us what’s important about what we do.”

For 24 years, the local chapter of Assistance League has created, implemented and funded programs that serve the unmet needs of children and adults in the community. Programs include providing new school uniforms and athletic shoes to disadvantaged students, activity kits to hospitalized patients, and teddy bears to traumatized children and adults. Because the process to approve a new program takes about a year, Assistance League also fulfills some one-time requests, like the washer and dryer for Twillman.

The 100 percent volunteer organization helped 37,000 area residents in 2010, thanks to the 40,600 hours contributed by its members. “We are very fortunate to be in St. Louis where people volunteer on a high level,” Alvarez says. Assistance League depends on a variety of funding sources to operate, from its Fantastic Finds resale shop to the annual gala, held this year at The Ritz-Carlton on Nov. 18.

The fundraising events, along with individual donors, have enabled Assistance League to recently purchase a permanent home, and the organization looks forward to what else it can do for St. Louis in the future. “We’re studying how we can expand our programs,” says VP of communications Suzanne Pratl. “It speaks for itself when we have so many groups who come to us—they know we follow through and have the resources to help.”


After 128 years of providing homes to orphaned children, General Protestant Children’s Home was reinvented as YouthBridge Community Foundation in 2005. “We recognized that we weren’t reaching as many children and we could better use our resources,” says Rex Reed, executive director of agency services. “Instead, we could help other children’s agencies that lack strategic vision and business planning.”

To achieve those goals, YouthBridge focuses on “strengthening the charitable community,” says executive director Norm Moenkhaus, whose father served on the board after growing up in the Children’s Home in the early 1900s. “The number one problem charities have is financial sustainability—having the resources to not only operate, but to expand and do more work.”

The organization helps children’s charities through its Education, Enterprise and Endowment program, which includes seminars and the Social Enterprise and Innovation Competition at Washington University. “We mentor nonprofits to help build up their revenue stream instead of relying on donations,” Moenkhaus explains.

On the other side, YouthBridge collaborates with people in the community to guide them in their charitable efforts. “We work with people of means, as well as wealth advisers, to help shepherd their philanthropic wishes in setting up various funds that will feed capital to the charity of their choice,” Moenkhaus says. “Then we can work with that agency to deliver our ‘three E’ process. It generates a greater return on a donor’s social investment.”

Situated on 20 acres in Creve Coeur, the organization is self-funded through its endowment and the small fees it charges for donor services. YouthBridge serves as a facilitator for three other independent agencies on its grounds: HavenHouse, Good Shepherd School and the World Pediatric Project. While the name and methods have changed since its inception in 1877, the organization’s main focus remains the same, says Reed. “We are trying to serve children in all different ways and make an impact in the community.”


Each year, the Greater Saint Louis Community Foundation provides $17 million in unsolicited grants to area charities through the 400 individual funds it administers. “We link donors and nonprofit groups,” says interim president and CFO Dwight Canning. “People come to us with an idea of what they’d like to do with their donations, and we work with them to create a plan.”

Established in 1915, the nonprofit organization is the second oldest community foundation in the country, and the component funds come from a wide variety of individuals, families and businesses, with donations ranging from $10,000 to $20 million. “We talk to donors about their interests and try to be as helpful as possible without directing,” Canning says. “Their dollars will grow tax-free, and it allows for greater granting in our metropolitan area.”

To make it easier to match charities with donors’ goals, the Foundation soon will launch a new section on its website, ‘Your Giving Link,’ which will allow agencies to input their information into a searchable database.

The organization also serves as a resource for financial advisers whose clients want to make charitable giving part of their monetary strategy.

The Foundation’s expertise can be of great help when clients have illiquid assets to work with, instead of the standard forms of cash or stock.

The Foundation’s operational costs come from an administrative fee it charges on a sliding scale for the funds, as it does not do any fundraising, Canning says. “We don’t want to be seen as a competitor to the area charities—we want to advocate for them.” As the Foundation approaches its 100th anniversary, Canning hopes that it can continue to be a valuable resource for St. Louisans. “I love seeing the generosity of our community, and a lot of it comes in a quiet way. The Foundation provides an outlet for people to figure out how they want to make a difference in others’ lives.”