President's Message

Volunteers at the Heart of SOS Efforts and Impact

April is National Volunteer Month, a time when we celebrate the incredible impact that volunteers have on our St. Louis community and on the Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund. As we near the end of the current SOS grant cycle, I want to express my gratitude for the amazing work our SOS member-volunteers do to support our grant process. From reviewing Letters of Inquiry in the fall to doing site visits with prospective grantees in the spring, and everything in between, your hard work and dedication are instrumental in our ability to make a positive impact on our community. Thanks to you, we will soon be awarding grants to the deserving nonprofits that are making a strong impact in our region. These grants are a testament to the power of collective giving and the spirit of generosity that we embody as a group.

Our impact goes beyond the investment we will make this year. Together, we are becoming better, smarter philanthropists. Over the past few years, we've learned from our grantees as they creatively pivoted during the pandemic to serve their clients and communities. We continue to share new philosophies like trust-based philanthropy and community-centric fundraising. Our membership in Philanos, a national network of more than 80 women’s collective giving groups, is an important part of educating ourselves and seeking out new ideas. I welcome all members to consider attending Philanos’ 2023 national conference, PowerUP! Baltimore, scheduled this fall. It will provide an opportunity to explore new ways of thinking about collective giving, so that we can make an even greater impact in our community.

If you are new to our newsletter audience and interested in gaining a greater knowledge of philanthropy and the many nonprofits operating in the Greater St. Louis area, please consider joining SOS. No invitation or nomination needed. We welcome you to simply sign up and join us in supporting and strengthening our community.

Katy Dowd

Proud Member and President

Were You There? - February Book Discussion

Members had two opportunities to connect recently at events hosted by the SOS Education Committee. In February, author Carol Weisman brought humor and practical advice to estate planning as we discussed her book, Becoming One of the Grateful Dead: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way.

Were You There? - March Education Event

In March, SOS members and guests attended an education program where presenters Doneisha Bohannon of BJC Community Health Improvement and Kristen Sorth of the St. Louis County Library shared their unique partnership that focuses on improving behavioral health in communities in North County. Everyone attending gained new and surprising insights on the multitude of community wellness services offered by these vital organizations.

SOS Grantees in the News

SOS grantee Eye Thrive is one of four winners of the St. Louis Business Journal’s 2023 Innovation in Philanthropy Awards, celebrating local partnerships for new and creative philanthropic practices. Eye Thrive and its mobile vision clinic offer essential vision services to children who may not have readily available access. SOS members also support Eye Thrive through volunteer opportunities. In February, a small group of SOS volunteers gathered at Eye Thrive’s Maryland Heights facility to help prepare educational packets for recipients. (See Photo)

SOS grantee Angels’ Arms, which supports foster children and their families across the region, has been named a 2023 honoree of Focus St. Louis’ “What’s Right with the Region” award. They will receive the award at a May 11 event. Congratulations, Angels’ Arm! 

Why We Give - The Breakfast Club

North St. Louis is a designated breast cancer “hot spot,” with economic, social and cultural barriers discouraging many women from seeking diagnosis and treatment. The Breakfast Club Inc. (BCI), founded in 1997, is striving to overcome these challenges through innovative ways of reaching and assisting women at risk for breast cancer, focusing on underserved African-American communities in north city and county. 

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Members in the News

SOS’s own Shawntelle Fisher, founder and CEO of The Soulfisher Ministries, was featured in an inspiring story by Tony Messenger in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on her battle to become a foster parent. The Soulfisher Ministries helps educate and support youth whose parents are currently or formerly incarcerated. We are so proud of you, Shawntelle!


Our 2023 grant funding cycle is almost complete, with two important events that you won’t want to miss:

April 12, 5:30 p.m - 7:00 p.m.

Ballot Fair

Featuring information on the organizations selected as finalists and your opportunity to cast your ballot.


May 17, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Annual Spirit Awards

Where we’ll announce and celebrate the organizations selected for funding this year.


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Welcome New Members

Please welcome these recent new members to SOS:

Carol Benoist

Michele Bross

Sara Gelsheimer

Debbie Rushing

Nicole Shores

Meet Carroll Rodriguez
Chair, Impact Committee

A long-time executive with the St. Louis Alzheimer’s Association until her retirement in 2018, Carroll Rodriguez recalls that her transition from employment to SOS volunteer was short-lived. JoAnn Sanditz, a friend and enthusiastic SOS member, “came to my retirement party and said we needed to talk. The rest is history.”

From the start, SOS was a good fit for Carroll, who has long supported community service. “I was drawn to SOS because it’s open to all women who join together as equals in giving and voting,” she says. “I especially appreciate our focus on investing in small not-for-profits that know their communities and often struggle to find grant funding.”

For the past year, Carroll has chaired the Impact Committee, which tracks SOS grantees’ progress through mid-year reviews and an end-of-year Impact Report, accessible by members from the SOS website.

“Listening to the voices of our grantees and the impact being made in the community is inspiring, humbling, and heartwarming,” Carroll says. “I’m honored to work with such a terrific group of women on this important committee that continues to evolve and grow.”

Under Carroll’s leadership, the Impact Committee has expanded its focus and streamlined how it operates, according to JoAnn Sanditz, committee member.

“We’ve transitioned grantee reporting to Foundant, the Community Foundation's online grant management database. And mid-year reporting now occurs as an informal check-in between the grantee executive director and members of the Impact Committee,” she says. “This has eliminated unnecessary paperwork for the grantee, strengthened the personal connection between the agency and SOS, and resulted in volunteer opportunities for SOS members."

In addition to SOS, Carroll serves as chair of the St. Louis County Older Adult Commission and on the board of directors for St. Louis Village. In between volunteer activities, Carroll enjoys exploring and learning – as a hiker, traveler, reader and gardener. She and her husband are parents to two adult daughters.

We Need Future Leaders!

As members of SOS, please consider how YOU could make an impact by sharing your time and talents in a leadership role. There are many opportunities to be a part of SOS’ collective leadership through committee involvement, serving on or leading an LOI or site visit team, and Board service. 

Please make your interests and passions known by reaching out to Nominating Chair Amy Garrison at or feel free to reach out to any of our Board members. You can also visit Spirit of St. Louis Women's Fund - Members to learn more about our committees.

Do you have news to share? Please email us at