Our Work Continues
While we’ve encountered many obstacles over the course of our 118-year history, this pandemic hit our agency and our families hard. Knowing that our community needed us, we pivoted to provide crisis services. We converted our market operations into curbside food distribution. We created a recovery fund to help our participants with rent and utilities. We’ve also been providing breakfast and lunch to kids who would normally be in school or camp.
Equally important, we’ve adapted programming across our agency to ensure that our participants can continue working towards their economic and wellness goals.
Our early childhood center is open for our working families. Our summer literacy camp was a success despite being virtual. Our after school and LifeWise Academy programs will operate virtually as well. Our health and wellness program moved outside, and it has even grown in size. Our social workers are providing mental health services via phone and social media. Our financial social workers are coaching and hosting financial literacy classes virtually. Credit building continues through lending circles.
We’ve been successful engaging older adults remotely in our senior resiliency fund program. Our Senior Companion volunteers are connecting with their clients via phone.
I’m very proud of our staff, who is working harder than ever during these unprecedented times. And I’m thankful for our supporters, like you, who enable us to continue the vital work that’s needed now more than ever.
Scott E. Walker
Over 500 supporters joined us from across the nation for our first-ever LifeWise STL Virtual Event and Auction! The event, which replaced our annual Spring Bling Brunch and Golf Tournament, aired on Facebook and YouTube on Saturday, July 11, 2020. It featured testimonials from individuals who have benefited from our services and special messages from staff. Virtual guests were also entertained by old-time folk, blues and mountain gospel band Catching the Westbound, led by our very own Director of Family Development, Emily Stuart.
We are grateful to all who helped us RISE to the challenge of supporting children and families within our community. With your help, we were able to raise over $80,000, which will be used to fuel our efforts and further our mission. As we are unable to host in-person events for the foreseeable future, this fundraiser was vitally important for our organization and we could not have done it without you!
Don’t worry if you missed our RISE event; our next event will be held in November! We’ll be sharing details soon regarding our family-friendly Scavenger Hunt, Virtual Trivia Night and Auction. The unique event will provide a variety of ways to have fun while supporting our mission!
2020 Scholars of Distinction
The Hamra Scholarship was set up in the memory of Albert R. Hamra, an educator and supporter of LifeWise StL who believed that each person should have the opportunity to the best possible education to achieve his/her goals. For the last 5 years, the family of Albert R. Hamra has been awarding yearly scholarships to two or more LifeWise Academy students to further their post-secondary education.
The Hamra Scholarship Advisory Group recognizes the following LifeWise Academy Alumni as graduating Scholars of Distinction in 2020. Yabarafundi (Gladys) Nzango graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Maryville University. Erick Chatman graduated with his Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Missouri. Gladys will be pursuing her Masters in Biochemistry, and Erik will be working on his Master’s degree in Bioengineering. We congratulate these two young people and know they will continue to accomplish amazing things!
Seniors Keep Shining
The LifeWise Senior Companion Program has been in service to the St. Louis region for over 30 years. Senior Companions are volunteers who provide assistance and friendship to older adults who have difficulty with daily living tasks, such as shopping or paying bills. The program aims to keep seniors independent longer and provide respite to family caregivers. Volunteering leads to new discoveries and new friends.
In the face of the pandemic, our volunteers have remained in constant contact with their clients either over the phone, through “driveway visits,” or by delivering necessary supplies. We are incredibly proud to know and love them, and we can’t thank them enough for their perseverance and dedication!
Ms. Edwards is one of our amazing SCP volunteers. She joined the program because she loves caring for others. As a CNA, she worked with older adults because that was where she felt she was needed most.
During the pandemic, Ms. Edwards has stayed engaged with all of her clients. She calls each of them multiple times a week. They play solitaire and other fun games using their phones to stay engaged. She has even dropped off care packages with masks and other needed items because her client was not able to leave her house. Ms. Edwards shared that she loves her clients, and it feels like caring for others has always been her calling. She says, “It’s something I love doing.”
We continue to take on new clients. We love teaching them how to use Zoom
Summer Camp Update
Before the pandemic hit, we were preparing to host our sixth summer of Freedom School, but we quickly had to adapt and go virtual. A focus on literacy was more important than ever as scholars had been out of a traditional classroom setting for nearly three months.
We created a 5-week summer learning program where scholars grades K-10th logged into a pre-assigned Zoom link Mon-Fri from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm. Despite the quick pivot, we enrolled 80 and had a weekly average attendance of 60.
Mornings began with an abbreviated virtual Haram- bee, which consisted of motivational songs and morning stretches. Under normal circumstances, volunteers would read a favorite book to our scholars. This year, we played pre-recorded videos of our volunteers reading. We were thrilled to be able to keep this valuable component in the virtual program!
Classes included literacy lessons provided by Scholastic, as well as intern-led activities such as music, science, cooking, arts and crafts, and fitness. Each week, interns created and distributed supply bags containing the materials scholars needed to complete their activities.
Despite the move to virtual, the program was a success! We will build on what we learned as we adapt our after school program into virtual for the near future.
Health & Wellness Program Moves Outdoors
We’ve moved our wellness programming outdoors to the Thomas Dunn Learning Center, one of our collaborative partners. We’re also hosting a weekly mindfulness program in person and online via Zoom.
All of our in-person classes observe social distancing. Groceries provided by LifeWise and fresh produce donated by St. Martins Episcopal Church have enabled our participants to prepare healthy meals at home. To remain engaged, participants share photos and recipes via our WhatsApp group. We admire our enthusiastic and committed participants!
Fall nutrition programming will be offered in collaboration with medical school students from Washington University and St. Louis University.