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Young Friends Groups - Ladue News: Charities

Young Friends Groups

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Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:47 pm, Tue Aug 9, 2011.

Young professionals in St. Louis have the energy and desire to get involved in their community, but may not know how. Many local nonprofits have established groups that cater to them and provide opportunities to meet new people while contributing to the cause.

Nurses for Newborns Foundation Young Professionals Board

    Nurses for Newborns’ Young Professionals Board shuns formality wherever possible, instead focusing on awareness, fundraising and advocacy, says board president Tom Shaner.

    “It’s hard to keep people motivated in a young friends organization if they feel like they have a second job,” Shaner says. “By being ‘event-centric,’ we allow people to be involved without the requirements of serving on an executive board.

    Formed eight years ago, the 20-member volunteer group puts on three to four events a year to support Nurses for Newborns. “It’s important because low-income mothers are a very underserved part of the population,” Shaner explains. “A lot of us are starting our own families and it provides a lot of perspective on the quality of life gap for babies in St. Louis.”

    The Young Professionals Board hosts an annual trivia night and this year has assumed responsibility for the Boogie for Babies fundraiser. Scheduled for Aug. 27 at the Casa Loma Ballroom, the dinner-dance will celebrate Nurses’ 20th anniversary.

    Always looking for more members, the board encourages participation through social media, as well as word-of-mouth. Its members include husband-and-wife teams and stay-at-home moms, and range in age from 25 to 40. “While the young professionals might not be the top decision maker in terms of charitable giving right now, we know they will be,” Shaner says. “We need to reach people early on to count on their support later.”

Young Friends Steering Committee of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

    “Opera seems very intimidating, and it has a reputation of being a little stuffy. We’re trying to help people see that it is actually very approachable and enjoyable,” says Mary Ann Srenco, chair of Opera Theatre’s Young Friends Steering Committee.

    Repurposed in 2008 after Tim O’Leary took over as general director of the Opera Theatre, the group comprises 30 members ranging from 24 to 45 years old. “Some are new to town, some are singers, some just have a love of theater,” Srenco notes. The goal of the Young Friends is less about fundraising, and more about getting young people to the opera and building interest and appreciation, she says.

    To that end, the committee has scheduled three performances this summer as Young Friends nights, offering cocktails, dinner and a ticket to the opera for only $35, as long as you attend two out of the three available shows. Members also have opened their homes throughout the year for ‘musicales,’ where an opera singer performs for small groups. “We want to make it a year-round experience, where young people can get to know each other,” Srenco says. “When you know other people, it makes going that much more fun.”

    The board also is involved in Opera Theatre’s biggest fundraiser, the Wine and Beer Tasting, which supports professional training programs for emerging artists. Srenco hopes that the events geared toward younger adults will garner a new audience for opera. “It’s great when you get someone who had no interest before and then really enjoys the experience!”

Young Friends of St. Louis Children’s Hospital

    From clowns to kickball, the Young Friends of St. Louis Children’s Hospital have found creative ways to support the hospital and the kids it serves every day.

    “The hospital is an unbelievable asset to the community,” says committee chair Graham Goldwasser. “We think it’s important to get the word out about the great work that is going on.”

    The Young Friends committee was founded in 2006, and it has grown to 175 members. The committee helps organize events, including Cocktails and Clowns and Kickball for a Cause, which have raised almost $130,000 for hospital programs.

    “Cocktails and Clowns supports the Clown Docs program, which is a group of professional clowns who go around the hospital and try to lighten the mood for kids who are facing some scary things on a day-to-day basis,” Goldwasser explains. The funds raised through Kickball for a Cause have benefited Camp Hope, a summer camp for children and family affected by HIV and AIDS. 

    “There are a lot of young professionals out there who want to give back, but they don’t necessarily know how,” Goldwasser says. “It’s a great way to meet new people, but seeing the good it does for the kids is incredibly rewarding.”  LN

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