Volunteers from Assistance League of St. Louis (ALSTL) and St. Louis Children's Author Micheal Anderson Surprise Students!

On Friday, March 4th volunteers from ALSTL's literacy program Books from Friends and St. Louis children's author, Micheal Anderson met at Mullanphy-Botanical Garden ILC, 4221Shaw Ave., St. Louis 63110.

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National Assistance League's annual Action Week focuses on children's literacy and this year, the St. Louis chapter's celebration proudly included children's author, Micheal Anderson. Picture: Micheal in selfie with students at Mullanphy.

475 preschool through 5th grade students from Mullanphy Botanical-Garden ILC were entertained by a parade of costumed ALSTL volunteers dressed as book characters, who brought the books alive. Costumed volunteers, including Pete the Cat, Thing One, Thing Two, Clifford the Big Red Dog, the Cat in the Hat and a charming unicorn assisted 1st through 5th grade students to select two new books to take home.

How do volunteers meet the challenge of providing fitted, new clothing when schools are closed?

Claudia Dooley, Assistance League of St. Louis member and Co-Chair of Operation School Bell® (OSB), reminisced about past years in which OSB volunteers took pride in being able to directly interact with the school children who visited our headquarters for uniform fittings and fun activities. Besides everyone being in high spirits, the team could take accurate measurements so that each child had fitted clothes that looked good. But that was the past, so the team leadership, also co-chaired by Kris Lewis, reviewed current processes, took what would work, dropped what didn’t and adapted so that they could continue fulfilling those objectives.
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The OSB team developed a process which included forms sent to school personnel; these were then passed along to parents who were responsible for measurements and noting any special needs. Schools would return the forms in batches via email. The forms were reviewed, fulfilled, bagged and delivered by ALSTL volunteer liaisons to the school for distribution.

If you’ve ever measured someone for a sewing project or tailoring, you’ll appreciate the challenge that the OSB volunteers had when interpreting the responses. Claudia smiled and stated that the team was fortunate to have a number of ladies who “were really good fitters” and able to work out the appropriate sizes. Their success was realized when it was noted that very few of the packages were returned requesting a different size. The fitters hit the mark the majority of the time, even without being able to physically measure the children themselves.

HOW do volunteers provide children with shoes, when schools are closed & learning is virtual?

IMG 1191 3 kids croppedMindy Hellmich, Assistance League of St. Louis member and Co-Chair of Steps to Success explains HOW: “You think outside the box. You think WAY outside the box!” The all-volunteer Steps to Success (Steps) team has adapted and refined sizing, fitting and delivering children's athletic shoes and socks since COVID began. They continue to streamline the system to provide shoes to children in St. Louis City and St. Louis County Schools. The program's other Co-Chair is Beth Yeck.

The Steps team focused on 25 schools in St. Louis City in the Winter-Spring 2020 session, using a voucher system. An Assistance League liaison provided each school with an envelope of vouchers for shoes and instructions in English and Spanish to be redeemed within 8 weeks at the Maplewood Shoe Carnival Store. The returns and redemption rate were disappointingly low.

Results of a follow-up survey to parents revealed two issues: finding transportation and scheduling a fitting before the deadline. Undaunted, volunteers devised a new form for Spring 2021 to more accurately reflect the necessary requirements (child’s name, sizes/style). Parents' responses and vouchers were then given to our Shoe Carnival contact, Katie Junge, who filled the orders at the Maplewood location. ALSTL volunteer liaisons delivered over 1,900 athletic shoes and 3,300 pairs of socks safely to the schools.

Scout Creates Rainwater Garden, Goes for the “Gold!”

Gold Award raingarden photo2Troops in District 12 Neighborhood 2 of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, have provided over 6,600 books for Assistance League of St. Louis’ (ALSL) Books from Friends program, which brings books to nearly 14,000 deserving children annually.

The scouts also recently made tie blankets and scarves for ALSL's Project ROSE (Raise Our Self Esteem) program, which provides a range of items to women and children in shelters.

Gold Award raingarden photo7Scout Lauren King (pictured above), an Ambassador Girl Scout at Marquette High School, headed up another project with ALSL as she worked to earn her Gold Award. The Gold Award is the highest and most prestigious award that Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors can earn. Projects need to identify a community issue, create a lasting impact and ensure sustainability. King developed a Rainwater Garden project that met those requirements under the guidance of Bev Pettit, Landscape Chairman at ALSL's headquarters.

King assembled a team of volunteers from Marquette’s National Honor Society, her family and other Girl Scouts to create a rainwater garden. Two days were spent digging out the wet area and contouring it into a basin with a berm around it. The volunteers created paths, filled them with crushed rock and outlined them with sweet gum limbs from a tree that had been taken down on the property. “These paths not only add an artistic flair to the area, but provide easier access into the garden for both our maintenance volunteers and the children who investigate the area on their tours,” Pettit said.

PATHFINDERS1A group of five women and men, who are employees of neighboring Pathfinder Church in Ellisville, recently volunteered several hours of their time to haul and place rocks around the Assistance League Headquarters building to freshen up the landscaping. And what a great job they did! This was something that our landscaping committee could not have accomplished themselves and would have had to hire to get done.

How did this happen? When Pathfinder’s overseas mission work was cancelled due to COVID, they decided to help out in their local community instead. Being our close neighbor, the church knew of Assistance League and asked how they could help.

PATHFINDERS2After the landscaping project, they were given a tour of the Headquarters building and a more thorough explanation of our programs. They were so impressed that they offered to do more! They intend to donate items to Fantastic Finds Resale Shop in the future, and their facilities director even volunteered to help with some of our electrical needs.

Thank you, employees of Pathfinder Church! Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

MaryPriceMaureenSwingleFun and festivity abounded as over 200 guests attended Imagine!, Assistance League of St. Louis’ sparkling gala evening held on November 6 at the DoubleTree Chesterfield ballroom. Guests were grateful and excited to enjoy a festive evening of in-person camaraderie, all to support the Assistance League of St. Louis’ philanthropic programs.

Chaired by fundraiser-meisters Mary Price and Maureen Swingle, pictured here courtesy of Town & Style, the evening included a delicious dinner and wine, scores of beautiful silent auction items, the smooth vibes of the Tony Viviano Band, and soft twinkling decorations.ReneKnott

To everyone’s delight, Rene Knott bounded on stage as emcee and auctioneer, commanding the room with his always effervescent repartee, showcasing the exceptional auction items and eliciting the highest possible bids. Beautiful vacation homes, St. Louis Cardinal Green Seats, a Yadi Molina signed Jersey, and an evening with the Donnybrook crew were several of the coveted packages.

Special thanks to all our generous sponsors and donors, as well as our exceptionally talented Imagine! committee volunteers! For more photos from the event, see the Nov. 7 online edition of Town & Style.

 

Stix ECC 4 studentsAssistance League of St. Louis volunteers treated nearly 500 students at Saint Louis Public School’s Stix Early Childhood Center to a Halloween parade and book giveaway on Oct. 29.

This all-volunteer organization that for over 30 years has served the needs of thousands of St. Louisans, gave each student in grades pre-K through second grade two books to take home and a visit from such book characters as Pete the Cat and Penelope Rex.

“It was wonderful seeing the excitement of the children when their favorite book characters walked into class,” said Stix Early Childhood Center Principal Diana Dymond. “The Assistance League team not only delivered books to our students but their costumes made those books come to life.”

Chairmen of Assistance League of St. Louis’ Books From Friends program Susan Long and Ruth Ellen Barr chose books for meaningful content, such as an introduction to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Other selected books can help children process emotions through fun and entertaining plots, like Allie All Along.

“Presenting these books in a unique way with a Book Character Parade led by Penelope Rex of We Don’t Eat Our Classmates and Pete of Pete the Cat brings the books to life for young children,” Long said.

Each Stix Early Childhood Center teacher received a container of books and a video-taped reading days before the parade to help build excitement and anticipation about the books each child would take home. Dr. Nicole L. Freeman Williams, Chief of Staff of Saint Louis Public Schools Superintendent’s Office, visited the school to see the parade.

pumpkinrun3On Saturday, October 23, more than 30 members of Assistance League of St. Louis participated for the first time in the 20th Annual Gumbo Flats Pumpkin Run held by the Chesterfield Regional Chamber of Commerce. Assistance League was grateful to be chosen as a nonprofit to receive a portion of this year's registration fees to help benefit its many philanthropic programs. Nearly 1,000 walkers and runners participated in this year's event.

Proudly carrying the Assistance League banner, volunteers from the Books from Friends program wore character costumes recognized by delighted young children participating in the walk and those watching in the crowd. Pete the Cat (aka 2021-22 President-Elect Pam Bogosian) was parents' top photo request!

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Allie All Along Debuted at Urban League Back to School EXPO

Sue Long Ruth Ellen Barr BFF UL 2021On Saturday afternoon, August 21, Assistance League of St. Louis provided St. Louis Public School children with a new customized children's book by Sara Lynne Reul - ALLIE ALL ALONG. This book was one of several given to each St. Louis Public School child who attended the annual Urban League Back to School EXPO Drive-Through. The event was held at Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis' headquarters.

At the event, Assistance League's literacy program, Books From Friends volunteers, provided 5,500 new, age-appropriate books to the children, including over 800 copies of Allie All Along. In 2020-21, Books From Friends distributed over 15,000 new books to St. Louis Public School children.

ALLIE ALL ALONG IMG 3174 2ALLIE ALL ALONG, with an engaging set of illustrations and storyline, has important themes on family engagement. "The custom book enables Assistance League to communicate with children and their families and provides questions to think about as the book is read aloud," said Assistance League President Yolanda Perez-Cunningham. "The goal is to help children understand and process their feelings and to enhance social and emotional growth." A special page in the book allows the children to write their names, as owners and readers.

In addition to the books, ALSTL volunteers also distributed 900 unique age-related activity kits to educate and entertain toddlers through high school.

"Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and Barnes & Noble have been invaluable partners with Assistance League of St. Louis and share a commitment to our community and to literacy," Perez-Cunningham added.

AL Yolanda 8338r 4x5Assistance League of St. Louis has named Yolanda Perez-Cunningham president for 2021-2022. Yolanda retired from her position as a Staff Manager-Business Analyst for Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages in June 1994. She spent 10 years volunteering at her children’s schools in Southern California and four years as a member of Assistance League of Huntington Beach. After moving back to St. Louis in 2007, she continued to volunteer at her children’s schools and joined Assistance League of St. Louis in 2008.

Yolanda has assumed several Assistance League leadership positions in recent years, including Chair of Operation School Bell, a program that provides school clothing and other basic items to deserving students throughout the St. Louis community. She also served as Vice President of Operations, Chair of Property Management, and as President-Elect.

In the past year, Yolanda played a key role in supporting then-President Dawn Thomas during an unprecedented year. She assisted the Philanthropic and Fund Development programs in navigating the ever-changing pandemic landscape so that the organization could continue their efforts to assist children and adults in the St. Louis community.

Dawn worked with Yolanda and the Assistance League board to establish a new program in 2020—Books from Friends, which provides books to thousands of students in the region through interactive book fairs and other activities. The program’s goal is to distribute 12,000 books to area students in the coming fiscal year. In collaboration with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Books from Friends will distribute over 3,000 books this summer at a back-to-school expo.  As a champion of this and other Assistance League initiatives, Perez-Cunningham, in 2020, recorded over 1,000 hours of volunteer service.

“Yolanda’s commitment and hard work led to her election as president,” said outgoing President Dawn Thomas. “Her strategic planning abilities, focused energy and excellent people skills will help our organization continue to move forward in these unusual times to serve the many needs of the people of the St. Louis region.” Yolanda is a resident of Ladue, Missouri.