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!


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.

Haberberger familyAssistance League of St. Louis President Dawn Thomas today announced that the Haberberger family has donated $10,000 to the organization.

“Dan was looking for a non-profit to support,” said Thomas. “Every year Dan and his wife, Lusnail, and their two young sons, research a local charity, visit the charity, and if impressed, write a generous check.” This year’s search of local non-profit websites led the Haberbergers, of Kirkwood, MO, to contact Assistance League of St. Louis.

“I was impressed with the impact Assistance League makes on the St. Louis community,” said Mr. Haberberger, who in April with his wife Lusnail and their two sons toured Assistance League’s Ellisville headquarters. Following the tour, they wrote a check for $10,000 to support the organization.

The couple explained that this year has been a good one for Luzco Technologies, LLC, an electrical engineering consulting firm Lusnail founded.

“St. Louis has been good to our family, and we want our sons to experience first-hand the importance of giving back to the community where they live,” said Lusnail Haberberger, an experienced, highly skilled project manager. Dan Haberberger is a scientist specializing in the design and analysis of high-powered lasers.

“We are honored that this wonderful family chose to help fund our many programs that benefit the region’s children. The gift will help us advance the critical work of our all-volunteer organization,” said Thomas.

AL National ACTION! Week:  ALSTL Books From Friends (BFF) Celebrates Children's Literacy with a Virtual Book Festival in a Box & Character Parade

BFF urban league costume characters at Feb 23 2021 parade 2Assistance League of St. Louis Member volunteers have designed a unique Virtual Book Festival in a Box for two Urban League Head Start Programs and teachers. Inside the Box is a magical flash drive containing a video Puppet Show written and performed by the volunteers, plus 14 story time vignettes, and suggestions for classroom activities. The teachers were also given books corresponding to all the vignettes.

urban league costume characterOn Tuesday, Feb. 23 at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis' MLK Head Start Center and again on Thursday, Feb. 25, at the Urban League Magnolia Head Start/Early Head Start Center, preschoolers watched the Puppet Show and book reading on the flash drive. Then, in the school gyms, Assistance League members brought the stories alive in a costume parade dressed as book characters including Pete the Cat, Thing One and Thing Two, and the Cat in the Hat. After the parade, each child received two new age-appropriate books to take home.

Dr Suess characters at urban league MLK event In addition to the Virtual Book Festivals, Assistance League is participating in an Urban League drive-through on Feb. 27 to continue National Assistance League ACTION! Week's focus on literacy. This marks the third time ALSTL has partnered with Urban League in a drive-through and donated a total of 10,000 books. St. Louis area Girl Scouts collected and donated 3,000 of these age-appropriate, gently used and new books to ALSTL.

The creative and innovative volunteer members of Assistance League of St. Louis prove once again how to "think outside the box" with a Book Festival inside and outside the box!

susan long of wildwood MLK day drive through 1 18 21Assistance League of St. Louis Books from Friends (BFF) Committee Chairman Sue Long was among several Assistance League volunteers who spent the afternoon of January 18 at Jamestown Mall in Florissant, MO, distributing 3,300 age-appropriate books to aspiring readers at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis drive-through giveaway for food, personal protective equipment, toiletries and books. 

An estimated 4,000 vehicles came through a gauntlet of volunteers, including those from Assistance League, who distributed books collected through a book drive by the Girls Scouts of Eastern Missouri Troop District 12, Neighborhood 2. 

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Assistance League literacy program Books from Friends conducted multiple book festivals in elementary schools across St. Louis and provided over 13,000 books to aspiring readers.

WomanWithFoodA highly resourceful group of 27 Assistance League members annually helps more than 1,100 St. Louisans deal with everything from food insecurity to homelessness. And with COVID 19 case numbers spiking in the St. Louis area, the need for Assistance League’s Outreach Program has grown—with the case load tripling in recent weeks.

“Our program aims to address the total spectrum---to respond to the needs of the entire family or of individuals when they need help most,” said Outreach Program Chair Terri Spink. The members of Assistance League’s Outreach Program Committee regularly reach out to social workers in St. Louis city and county to offer help when their clients must flee their homes because of abuse or when their families experience food insecurity, eviction or are burned out.

Multiple agencies also turn to the Outreach Program for a range of needs. The program supplies everything from kits full of personal care items and nutritional treats to motivate students at Lift for Life gym’s after-school programs to sleep sacks, formula, bottles and diapers for the babies of young mothers.

In 2020, Outreach also gave clothing to Mission STL, which helps families work through the cycle of poverty by offering education, skills and basic assistance. Outreach sent food to the St. Louis Public Schools’ Students in Transition Program (pictured above) helping more than 3,000 students who live in cars and temporary housing. The program also provided hygiene kits to the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis for their Early Childhood (Head Start) Center. In addition, Outreach supplied bags of essential hygiene products to more than 50 homeless people in Ferguson, MO, working with A Red Circle—a North County-based non-profit focused on economic development.

PHOTO10 3DR.SEUSSSIGN Dr. Mary Hairston Assistant Director Dr. Gwendolyn Digss VP Ruth Ellen Barr Dawn Thomas Theresa Coons.JPG

Pictured from left, Dr. Mary Hairston, Assistant Director, Urban League, Head Start/Early Head Start; Dr. Gwendolyn Diggs, Vice President, Urban League Head Start/Early Head Start; Assistance League of St. Louis members Ruth Ellen Barr; ALSTL President Dawn Thomas; and Theresa Coons joined volunteer puppeteers plus other colorful, costumed book characters portrayed by Assistance League members to share their love for reading with 69 young children at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis’ Head Start/Early Head Start in Jennings, MO.

PHOTO10 30Pam Bogosian Clarkson Valley plays Pete the Cat.JPGOn Friday, October 30, Assistance League’s 16 volunteer members in the costumes of children’s book characters paraded before the center’s infants, toddlers and preschoolers after the children enjoyed videotaped book readings and a puppet show--- also created by Assistance League. Each child then received two age-appropriate books while meeting and posing for photos with puppets and favorite characters. In addition, 10 new story books were added to the teachers' collections at the center. In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Assistance League's literacy program Books From Friends conducted multiple book festivals in elementary schools across St. Louis and provided over 13,000 books to aspiring readers.