President's Message

Elevating Our Future

At the beginning of each year, my friends and I make vision boards and we build our goals around a single word. This year’s word is “elevate.” As I begin my term as president of Spirit of St. Louis Women’s Fund (SOS), I’m considering how the concept of elevating applies to my individual role as a leader as well as to our collective efforts as an organization.

Our operational excellence varies based on each person’s experience with SOS and their time to give. We recently completed a member survey to help us better understand how well SOS is meeting the expectations of our members in our grant processes, communications, educational and volunteer events, and other areas of involvement. The board will be using this information to consider how to elevate what we do right, where we can make improvements, and how best we can make a difference in our community. We have a lot of exciting decisions to make this year. With your continued input and support, I’m looking forward to making sure that our outcomes elevate our future! 

One final thought: as a financial advisor, I’m particularly interested in how behavioral economics applies to our decision making and helps drive our mission. An example that comes to mind is a trust-based philanthropy group I examined while I was in college. A group of thought leaders dove head first into a mission to help families in Africa. Recognizing that the families knew their needs better than the donors did, they ultimately chose to give the families a direct cash donation in lieu of other types of support. One family took the money and bought a car to start a taxi service. They elevated! 

Ally Melvin

SOS Board President

2023 Spirit Awards Lift Up 11 Agencies

Fulfilling our mission to “turn good into greater good,” SOS members and guests gathered May 17 to celebrate the 2023 recipients of the Spirit Awards. Thanks to the generous support of members, this year SOS granted $230,000 to 11 nonprofits across our community.

The 2023 grant process included a review of 144 Letters of Intent (LOIs) and 42 site visits, supported by more than 75 SOS volunteers. This year’s grants bring SOS’s total contributions to the community – over 16 years – to $3.3 million, invested across 99 agencies.

We are pleased to announce the following 2023 grantees. For a description of the 11 grant recipients, click here.

To see the news release and photos from this year’s Spirit Awards, click here.

One-year grant recipients

Books for Newborns ($10,000)

City Greens Market ($25,000)

Girls in the Know ($25,000)

Kerengende Foundation ($25,000)

MindsEye ($12,000)

Missouri EnergyCare ($15,000)

Room at the Inn ($25,000)

St. Louis HELP ($10,000)

Welcome Neighbor STL ($25,000)

Urban Harvest ($25,000)

Three-year grant recipient

Lift for Life Gym ($33,333)

Get to Know the New Board

On July 1 we marked a new year for SOS, and with that we ushered in a newly appointed Board of Directors. Brief biographies and photos of the new Board can be found here on the SOS website. Many thanks to the 21 women who have stepped up to serve on the Board, including six who are first-time SOS Board members.

Why We Give: Welcome Neighbor

Established in 2016, Welcome Neighbor STL provides assistance to refugees seeking a fresh start in the St. Louis region. 

While the original call to action was to help newly-arrived Syrian families, in the years following Welcome Neighbor has helped more than 600 refugees from 11 countries. Its multi-faceted program includes pairing volunteers with St. Louis families, teaching English, organizing supper clubs/catering events, and assisting with driving lessons, citizenship classes, housing, employment, family outings and holiday gatherings. 

During the height of the COVID crisis, Welcome Neighbor helped with vaccine appointments and virtual tutoring for students.

View Full Story

The Joy of Collaborating to Create Change

Philanos reports that “giving circles have grown significantly in visibility and popularity over the last 25 years.” And who is fueling this growth? Women! Take a few moments to view this brief and inspirational TED Talk presented in 2022 by the CEO of Philanthropy Together, Sara Lomelin, where she discusses the joyful and collaborative environment created by giving circles. It reaffirms that SOS’s spirit of giving and our bonding together with a sense of belonging and purpose can - and does - create change!

Meet the Board:
Amy Conard, Philanos Liaison

Looking to her future, Amy Conard was initially drawn to SOS as a way to build a plan for early retirement once she left the corporate world. She envisioned seeking connections with like-minded women and filling her passion for helping non-profits. What she got more than met her wish list.

With a background in information technology, including a stint as senior VP of software engineering at MasterCard, Amy was quickly recruited onto the SOS board to help lead our technology strategy. She joined the board in 2018 and served as Technology Chair from 2019-June 2023.

"Amy has done a wonderful job creating efficiencies across our technology platform, including the website and membership portal, over the past few years. The result is lower technology costs and user-friendly technology tools for our members. Amy is a true advocate of our mission and we're so grateful that she's shared her talents and expertise with us," says Amy Garrison, a past SOS president.

As her knowledge of SOS deepened, so too did Amy’s interest in the power of philanthropy on a broader scale. She became involved in Philanos, an international collective of more than 80 women’s giving groups including SOS, as a way to learn best practices that might strengthen our local efforts. Amy’s expertise in technology raised her profile within the organization, and she is now serving a three-year term as chair of Philanos’ Technology Committee. She continues to serve on the SOS board as Philanos liaison.

Although full retirement is still in the future, Amy is more than prepared thanks to her SOS connections. “I’m so grateful for the friendships I've developed since joining SOS. These women have supported me through my life changes in recent years and encouraged me as I figured out what I should do after my ‘corporate’ career,” she says. “I'm also so impressed by the great work so many nonprofits are doing in the St. Louis area. It brings me hope."

Members in the News

Congratulations to SOS co-founders Susan Block and Shelby Schagrin, who received the 2023 Leadership Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement from the Royal Vagabonds. The award was given at a leadership awards luncheon on June 17. Founded in 1930, the Royal Vagabonds is an African American social, civic, and philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the lives of the underserved. 

Three SOS members – Christy Beckmann, Nina Needleman and Peggy Symes – are sponsors of The Sheldon's latest exhibition, Artists First: Connection, Cohesion & Changeability. The exhibition features 20 local artists, each with their own unique story to tell, and runs through August 6 in the Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Gallery.

Were You There?
SOS Volunteer, 
Education Events

SOS provides ample opportunities for members to learn, network and support grantee organizations, including these recent gatherings:

April 25 – Book discussion on The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. 

May 31 – Volunteer day at Migrant and Immigrant Community Project (MICA).

June 12 – Volunteer day to make holiday cards for individuals and their families served by VOYCE, which advocates for quality living across the continuum of long-term care. 

Welcome, New Member

Please welcome this recent new member to SOS.

Gail Glenn

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