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.

Assistance League of St. Louis cares deeply about the health and safety of everyone we help and all of our 500-plus volunteers. While we have operated since the beginning of the pandemic with limitations as dictated by conditions and local regulations, we have found ways to continue safely responding to community needs through our various philanthropic programs. Consider the following examples:

OSB with Kris Lewis good pic.JPG• In fiscal 2019-2020, we served 6,690 elementary school students in 37 schools-- fitting and providing uniforms and 22 total clothing and hygiene items – plus age-appropriate books. Through this program, we have established 21closets in Saint Louis Public Schools, where most instruction is fully online. We continue to provide year-round clothing, shoes, coats and other necessities. During Covid-19, we have filled closets to Saint Louis Public School instructional support centers where students are present. This fall, we opened three more closets—one in St. Louis city schools and two in Jennings School District, where children are learning in-person and wearing uniforms. We are also supplying districts with dental kits, socks and other necessities.

• In the last year, we visited 39 schools in 7 school districts to fit and deliver shoes and socks to 3,741 school children. Now we are providing vouchers to families so that they can purchase shoes for their children. Approximately 2,300 vouchers went out this fall to 27 schools to be sent to the homes of deserving students. In addition,16,000 socks went to Saint Louis Public Schools to give to students.

• Our volunteers purchase, package and deliver gift bags with clothing and personal care items to 6 area crisis shelters and agencies and to sexual assault survivors. In 2019-2020, we served 1,777 women and children in shelters. That work is socially distanced and continues unchanged.

Outreach bedding 240x180Assistance League of St. Louis has a long history of collaboration with social workers in schools and agencies throughout our community. These tireless workers share countless, painful stories with us about unmet critical, basic needs experienced by so many of our fellow citizens. Through our programs, we fulfill many of these needs. 

-We helped a single mother of six who lost her job due to COVID-19 and needed help to set up her new home. We stepped in and provided not only beds and a kitchen table and chairs but genuine hope for better days ahead.

-We helped a family of five who lost everything in a fire and was sleeping on the floor. Assistance League provided beds, bedding, new clothes and dignity.

-Sometimes the needs are as simple as an alarm clock to help the family get to work and school on time, when they are struggling just to put breakfast on the table.

Assistance League strives to provide quick, compassionate solutions for the requests we receive. Unfortunately we can't answer every need. So, we are introducing an exciting and easy new way for you to help.


Here's how:  At the top of this screen, click on GET INVOLVED.  When you do, SHOP OUR AMAZON WISH LIST will drop down. Click on that and you will find a large variety of items to assist our programs in answering special wishes and urgent needs. We invite you to check out the will be updated as needs arise and offers a range of prices.

Answering these needs and fulfilling these wishes make you an invaluable partner with Assistance League of St. Louis. Together, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of so many families and students in our great community.

urban league august 1 2020 dawn thomas and jane Harbron with children and books croppedAssistance League of St. Louis President Dawn Thomas (left) and Past President Jane Harbron showed off books they were giving away to three children who attend the Urban League’s early childhood learning program and who were with their mother at the Urban League’s Urban Expo Back to School and Community Empowerment Festival.

The ALSTL leaders and 20 ALSTL Books From Friends volunteers spent August 1 in North St. Louis distributing 4,000 age-appropriate books to aspiring readers at this annual event, which attracts thousands each year. This year lines of vehicles came through a gauntlet of volunteers who distributed books, clothing, school supplies, personal protective equipment, toiletries and food.

Volunteers speedily placed everything in trunks and back seats of vehicles. “This collaboration with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and the Saint Louis Public Schools provided a great opportunity to help many more children in one day than we could possibly do safely at this time of COVID-19 with our in-school book festivals and other events,” said Dawn Thomas.

cropped group shot of volunteers at urban league expo august 1 2020


Assistance League of St. Louis has named Dawn Thomas president for 2020-2021. In 2016, after a brief career as an attorney in West County and decades volunteering at her children’s schools, for community organizations, and on non-profit boards, Dawn joined Assistance League of St. Louis.

Dawn has assumed several Assistance League leadership positions in recent years, including Vice Chair of Outreach, Chair of Corporate and Foundation Support and as a Grant Writer. As President-Elect in 2019-2020, Dawn played a key role in supporting the launch of Assistance League’s Advisory Council. This group of six influential business leaders in St. Louis meet quarterly to advise and educate the Board on emerging trends in the community.

Dawn worked with the Assistance League board to establish a new program in 2020—Books from Friends, which provides thousands


of students in the region books 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, Thomas, in 2019, recorded over 1,200 hours of volunteer service.

“Dawn’s forward-thinking and hard work led to her election as president,” said outgoing President Jane Harbron. “Her strategic planning abilities, strong commitment 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.” Dawn is a resident of Town and Country, Missouri.


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Ahhh...summer is here at last!  And we are open and looking forward to seeing you!  Our smiling volunteers would love to show you all the ways to summerize your wardrobe and home! 

Rest assured that we are following the St. Louis County Health Department Guidelines for retail stores, and we will adjust them as they change. Please note the following measures which will be in place for the foreseeable future:

* Everyone entering Fantastic Finds must wear a mask.
* Social distancing will be observed.
* We will accept credit card and check payment only.
* Please do not bring children 12 years old or younger into the shop. 

SweaterIf you have weaned and cleaned out your closets during your stay-at-home time, we're ready for you!  Our temporary Donation Center is right next door to Fantastic Finds in the space that used to be Bentley's Pet Stuff.  See the current hours for the Donation Center and the Shop.

West County Barnes & Noble Book Fair by Phone

kids readingAssistance League of St. Louis members partnered with West County Barnes & Noble the weekend of May 1-3 for a first-time Book Fair by phone. Over the three days of the fair, ALSTL members called in to West County B&N, where their knowledgeable staff of "personal shoppers" helped members select age- and grade-appropriate books for school children. Staff provided callers with an appropriate book list recommended by educators. Books were selected from the list or members could purchase gift cards instead. Members selected 225 books and purchased $2,400 in gift cards for a total of 1,000 new books for the St. Louis Urban League's Back-to-School Expo.

After the book fair, Barnes & Noble staff sorted all the books by grade level, affixed an ALSTL label to each one and sanitized the books and shipping boxes. B&N will send the boxes to a designated location for the Urban League's Expo.

ALSTL is very proud to have a long-standing community partnership with West County Barnes & Noble. For several years, West County B&N has invited ALSTL to hold a very successful in-store Holiday Book Fair and Book Drive. These fairs have enabled ALSTL to donate thousands of books to our community's most deserving children and young adults. We are very appreciative of this additional unique and generous Book Fair by phone during the coronavirus pandemic.