Tag Archives: Missouri



There is a saying the 50 is the new 40.  Advances in health care, nutrition, and lifestyle allows us to live longer.  Today’s organization is promoting successful aging for those over the age of 50.

In 1982, Marylen Mann took a tour of St Louis senior centers with Father Lucious Cervantes, the St Louis Commissioner of Aging at the time.  The centers were meeting the important basic needs but Mann saw a world of potential.  She mentioned to Father Cervantes, “we can do better for older adults” and with that OASIS (Older Adult Service and Information System) was born.  The first OASIS centers were opened in 1982 with a two year grant from the US Administration on Aging.  Over 300 people attended the launch and to register for their first programs.  In the beginning, there was misunderstanding of what the older people could do.  Today there is a great respect for what 50+ adults can offer and more ways for them to get involved in their communities.

OASIS is headquartered in St Louis, Missouri, but provides programs across the Unites States.  They promote successful aging through a three-fold approach: lifelong learning, healthy living, and social engagement.  OASIS is currently active in 40 cities in 24 states and serves more than 56,000 individuals each year.

Karen Larkin has taken the mission of OASIS to heart.  After retiring from her job as superintendent with the Tucson Parks & Recreation Department, Karen took advantage of the courses that OASIS offered on history, beading, and exercise.  She has met new people and learned things in the process.

OASIS is not just about classes for retired adults.  They connect generations through intergenerational tutoring and their CATCH Healthy Habits program.  The tutoring program connects 50+ adults who have time during the day with children in kindergarten through fourth grade to work one-on-one each week as their tutors, mentors, and friends.  The tutoring program is currently in 105 school districts.  The CATCH Healthy Habits program brings children and adults age 50+ together to learn good eating and physical activity habits for a lifetime.  Over 1,000 children and 200 adults have participated in the CATCH program to combat obesity.  The program has helped children participants eat more fruits and vegetables, increase their knowledge of nutrition, increase their physical activity, and decrease their screen time.  At the same time, the adults in the program reported a 71% increase in their physical activity.

How can you become involved?

  • If you are over 50, you can find a class near you on their website and sign up.  You could also sign up for the tutoring or healthy habits program.
  • Volunteers are also needed to teach classes since 49% of their classes are taught by volunteer instructors.  You can learn more on their website.
  • You can also make a donation to the OASIS organization on their website.

To learn more about OASIS, visit their website at  You can also connect with them on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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The Blessing Basket Project

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”  ~Scott Adams

A tough situation can either lift a person up or break them down.  The founder of today’s organization had some rough times in her life, but she did not let them bring her down.  In fact, she found blessings in the kindness of others and turned that into a ripple of kindness that has become The Blessing Basket Project. 

The Blessing Basket Project Logo

The Blessing Basket Project works to reduce poverty in developing countries by paying Prosperity Wages® for products created by artisans in those countries. The unique financial model they have implemented allows the artisan to earn significantly higher than fair trade wages for a given period of time.  This creates a cycle of entrepreneur driven growth resulting in permanent financial independence for the artisan. 

The Blessing Basket Project was founded by Theresa Wilson.  She considers herself an ordinary person, who decided to ripple kindness out to ensure that good things really can come from a bad situation.  Theresa was born with fetal alcohol syndrome to an imprisoned mother and went through childhood only knowing a life of abuse and deprivation.  She was taken into state custody then grew up to get married and have two children.  Then after 13 years of marriage, her husband left her for another woman.  It was at this time that the acts of kindness started to pour in.  Groceries would appear on their doorstep, cash would arrive in the mail, and the lawn would get mowed while Theresa was at work.  Theresa kept each note, card, and picture in a basket as a visual reminder that she and her children were loved and life goes on.  By early 2000 Theresa began speaking at women’s organizations about overcoming trial using her “Blessing Basket” as a prop.  Women began requesting their own blessing basket and Theresa started selling them.  In 2004, this evolved into the Blessing Basket Project when Theresa started paying the basket artisans directly to help lift them out of poverty.  You can read a more detailed version of Theresa’s story here.

Since the start of The Blessing Basket Project, they have paid over $2,000,000 USD directly into the hands of artisans.  They work with approximately 1,500 weavers across the six countries of Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and Uganda.  They do not plan any expansion until at least 80% of their original weavers have achieved permanent financial independence from the project or sales allow expansion without impacting any of the current artisans.

How can you help?

  • If you live near their St Louis, Missouri location, you can volunteer to assist in the warehouse, prep baskets to be sold, or assist with special project in their office.
  • Monetary donations can be made through The Blessing Basket website.  All donations will go directly to the project of your choice, including general operations, travel, education, or more. 
  • You can also shop their online store or find retail locations to purchase baskets, bags, and other products. 
  • You could also host your own Seeds of Blessing party to view and purchase baskets or become a Seeds of Blessing consultant.  Learn more about Seeds of Blessing at

You can learn more about The Blessing Basket Project on their website,  You can also connect with them on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

Related post: Bead for Life

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Posted by on August 15, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Keys 4/4 Kids

Do a quick Internet search for the benefits of music education and you will quickly find long lists of benefits including better academic performance, improved creative thinking, and higher self-esteem through self-expression (just to name a few).  There are many organizations dedicated to music and today I profile one of them.

Keys 4/4 Kids is a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire young people to believe in themselves through the arts.  The primary programs are the Piano Placement program and he Paint-A-Piano program.  Both programs involve piano donations to low-income homes, churches, schools, or community centers that could not otherwise afford a piano.  The organization also promotes better access to music and the arts to all people by selling pianos and donating the proceeds to support local music and arts programs.  You can see a video about their Piano Placement program here.

Newell Hill began selling donated pianos out of his parent’s garage in 2000 to fund MUSE, an after-school music and arts program in North Minneapolis.  This program helped fill the gap in music and arts education that was created by budget cuts to schools.  He was able to successfully fund the program and felt he had a great opportunity to bring the idea of piano donations to a broader public.

The organization is based in St. Paul, Minnesota and also has locations in Belle Plaine Minnesota, Chicago Illinois, and Kansas City Missouri.  They offer a unique opportunity to recycle used pianos rather than struggling to find a new home for a piano when moving, downsizing homes, or purchasing a new piano.  A piano donation to Keys 4/4 Kids supports local non-profits and allows you to receive a tax deduction.  It also provides a lower cost option for families looking to purchase a piano.

How can you help?

  • First, you can spread the word about this organization!  If you hear someone looking to buy a piano or trying to find a new home for their piano, please suggest they look into Keys 4/4 Kids.  You can find information about piano donations and pianos for sale on their website.
  • They are also currently looking for volunteers to help out on Saturdays to greet customers and even help them pick out pianos.
  • They are also looking for volunteers to assist them with their social media campaigns.

Another project that Keys 4/4 Kids has launched is Pianos on Parade (POP).  This project places ‘artistically transformed’ pianos around the Twin Cities, Minnesota in various outdoor locations for all to play and enjoy.  The idea behind this project is to spur residents and visitors to spontaneously engage with art, music, and one another, creating moments of community and highlighting the city’s exceptional commitment to music and arts.  You can learn more about this program and watch videos about it at  Below are examples of the pianos as well as a map of their piano locations in 2013.

You can learn more about the Keys 4/4 Kids organization on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook.


Pianos on Parade



Pianos on Parade

Pianos on Parade

Pianos on Parade Map

Click the map for an interactive map.


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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma

Like me, many people who are reading this blog have never been through torture or war trauma.  Not everyone is that lucky.  Today’s organization is here to help those individuals.

The Center for Survivors or Torture and War Trauma (CSTWT) is a St Louis, Missouri based organization with a mission to facilitate the healing process for refugee and immigrant individuals and families who have survived torture and war, and to help them transcend the suffering and move toward healing and self-empowerment.  They work toward this mission by providing culturally appropriate, holistic mental health services in an atmosphere of professional, therapeutic support.

The Center began in the early 1990s when therapists were seeing an increase in refugees who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In response, Jean Abbott, CSJ, LCSW coordinated an informal coalition of service providers to address the special needs of these new Americans.  An early partnership with Provident, Inc (a St Louis area family service non-profit agency) made it possible for Abbot to provide on-site therapy to refugees and immigrants.  In the summer of 2001, CSTWT was incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit corporation in Missouri to continue this work with an emphasis on providing mental health services.

St Louis has become one of the largest new resettlement homes for immigrants and refugees and is the largest resettlement city for Bosnians. The Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma serves immigrants and refugees who have fled countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Iran, Somalia, Liberia, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they have experienced persecution, war, or other forms of trauma.

Common after effects of trauma for refugees and immigrants include fear, isolation, flashbacks, nightmares, dissociations from the present, difficulty regulating emotions and distrust of others.  Common mental health issues reported by refugees who have experienced torture include post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.  Such complex mental health issues make it especially difficult for individuals to maintain employment, sustain housing, and take care of themselves their families.

How can you help?

There are many ways to give your time to the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. Opportunities include office support, pro-bono therapeutic services for professionals, teaching different types of performing arts to high school youth, mentoring with their after-school program, and administrative projects like grant-writing, advocacy campaigns, or fund raising events.  You can also make a donation on their website

You can learn more about the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma by visiting their website,  You can also contact them via e-mail at or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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501 Connect

Have you ever seen something and thought, “somebody should do something about that”, but then just moved on with your day?  The founder of today’s organization saw a need and did something about it. 

501 Connect was co-founded in 2010 by Kathleen Rose and Maureen Shryock.  Kathleen was assisting her son as he searched for a community service project that would be meaningful to him in the St Louis, Missouri area.  She watched him search multiple websites to research organizations and found herself wishing that there was one place that contained all the information he needed.  So, she founded 501 Connect along with Maureen Shryock with a vision to create a central location where community members can learn about the mission and needs of St Louis organizations and quickly locate opportunities that are meaningful to them. 

The organization’s mission is to enhance the presence of nonprofit organizations and promote social responsibility throughout the St Louis region.  They would work toward this mission by educating, sharing knowledge, facilitating relationships, and inspiring others through their programs and services. 

To work toward their mission, the 501 Connect website serves as an online community and resource for non-profit organizations and their donors, volunteers, board members and communities that they serve.  They provide a venue for St Louis nonprofit organizations to broadly share their call to action messages and provide a forum to motivate community members to take action and make a difference.  In addition, it allows nonprofits to share knowledge and ideas. is the only online resource of its kind dedicated exclusively to the St. Louis area nonprofit community.  Thousands of people visit the website monthly to search for volunteer opportunities, job opportunities in the nonprofit sector, charity events, and the latest Buzz from St. Louis nonprofits.  In addition, site visitors can find industry related articles, nonprofit professional/career development resources and information and advice from nonprofit and philanthropic leaders in the St. Louis Community.

In just over a year, over 200 greater St Louis Area non-profit organizations have utilized 501Connect’s online services.  One of these organizations is the The People’s Resource Site, whose founder and president, Ly SyinLobster, states, “ has done an excellent job of helping Dress for Success Midwest
Professional Women’s Group get more exposure online for their Community Action Project.”  Stephanie Rea Perry, a writer and producer for the St Patrick Center, another organization utilizing 501 Connect, states, “We are so grateful to be included in such a comprehensive and enlightening publication and hope that the word continues to spread about its benefits in the local nonprofit scene.”

How can you help?

While doesn’t have any volunteer opportunities directly, visitors can find volunteer opportunities for groups and individuals of all ages, interests and skill levels with local organizations.  There are ongoing and one-time opportunities available for a variety of organizations so everyone can find something meaningful for them. 

You can learn more about 501 Connect on their website, or via e-mail at  You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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Wyman Center

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Abstract on education, in 2008 approximately 98.7 percent of children ages 7-13; 98.6 percent ages 14-15; 95.2 percent ages 16-17; and 66 percent ages 18-19 were enrolled in our nation’s schools.    Those numbers were significantly lower for economically disadvantaged and minority students (in some cases, as much as a full percentage point lower, depending on race).   High School dropout rates are significantly higher in minority populations and lower-income communities and rose significantly from 2007-2008 among Black and Hispanic populations.    Regardless of race and household income, the United States’ educational attainment and enrollment data suggests a recent trend towards lower percentage enrollment with a growing disparity between lower-income and minority populations. 

Our nation’s youth, particularly our teens, are our immediate future.  Trends downward in educational rates, attainment, and enrollment percentages are disturbing, no matter how slight.  But what can we do to reverse this recent slip, and help prevent it becoming a trend?  For starters, we can support organizations that support economically disadvantaged teens.   Organizations like The Wyman Center.  

The Wyman Center is based out of St. Louis, Missouri and serves youth ages 11 to 18 years who are, “economically disadvantaged and whose circumstances create risk of lower life opportunities.”   This equates to roughly 1,200 teens in the Greater St. Louis area each year.   Through partnerships with many organizations and agencies, Wyman’s Teen Outreach initiatives are projected to reach nearly 41,000 teens across the nation this coming school year.   Always with an eye on the future, Wyman plans to expand that support 6-fold in the next five years. 

Philanthropically supported, Wyman coordinates partners to help identify gaps in youth services.  Working with those partners and programs, Wyman is able to implement solutions and identify barriers to many problems preventing teen development.  Broad social problems, such as low graduation rates are definitely on Wyman’s radar.  Recently, Wyman collaborated with The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis to establish a Teen Leadership Program whose ultimate outcome is to offer opportunities to college-bound high school students that will better prepare them to graduate from college.  

Through this partnership, staff will work with 300 students in the Teen Leadership Program from high-school graduation through their sophomore year of college and help them to integrate educated goals and outcomes for integrating financial, psychological and institutional support.  According to Wyman’s data sources, those are the three key reasons that nearly 75 percent of students are likely to leave college.   

How successful is Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program?  Well, according to Wyman’s data, in a  12-year study of the program participants, those participating in the program are:

  • 52% less likely to be suspended from school;
  • 60% less likely to risk course failure;
  • 53% less likely to become pregnant and;
  • 60% less likely to drop out of school.

Those are positive and measurable outcomes that serve as strong building blocks towards success.

Wyman is supported through partnerships, as well as grants and offers teens access to the Scholarship Foundation’s Interest-Free Loan Program – with a default rate less than half of the rate of peers borrowing from other programs. 

With so many roadblocks, and obstacles towards college graduation facing today’s disadvantaged and lower income teens, it’s comforting to know that organizations such as Wyman exist to help guide these students towards a successful education that will carry them into successful careers and successful lives as adults. 

If you’d like to reach out to the Wyman Center or follow their successes online, their contact information is below:  

Email: info@wymancenter.og
(636) 938-5245


Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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It seems like some people get new computers, smart phones, or other electronics as soon as the technology changes – which is quite frequently these days.  Today’s organization is on a mission to keep those electronics out of the landfills and get them to those in need.

WITS was started in St Louis, Missouri in 2002 as Web Innovations & Technology Services.  At the time, Angela Haas was a college student and saw that many students needed computers in their home to get their work done.  She worked with student groups at a variety of colleges in St Louis to create WITS, Inc.  Initially, the main goal was to get computers and internet access to low income students and families.  Later a recycling program was added because so many materials were collected and the organization did not want anything to go into the trash.  In 2004, the first ever St. Louis Earth Day electronics collection event was held.  People brought everything from computers and monitors to televisions and lamps.  The group didn’t turn people away so they now run the largest donated computer and electronics reuse stores in Missouri. 

Their mission is to keep electronics out of the landfill by putting them back into the community and appropriately recycling those that cannot be reused.  WITS has locations in St. Louis, Missouri; Danville, Illinois; Benton Harbour, Michigan and Farview Heights, Illinois.  They will soon be adding a South Bend, Indiana location as well.

The organization diverts more than six million pounds of electronics from the landfill each year.  They offer programs that no other organization in the United States offers and are 100% sustainable with their programs.  In addition, they do not depend on grants or corporate sponsors for their funding.  They currently have 20 permanent drop-off sites for residents and businesses to bring electronics free of charge as well as other opportunities such as events and scheduled pickups. 

The computers they refurbish are offered back to the community through several programs including seniors, youth, and a Volunteer-For-Free-Computer program.  In addition, they donate computers and electronics to needy families in the United States, such as hurricane, flood or disaster victims.

Current volunteer opportunities include computer repair, software installation, phone calls to inform clients of our programs, and assistance with reaching more businesses.  In addition, they will be needing assistance for their Computers for Christmas program, where they hope to donate 500 computers to needy families.  Monetary donations are also accepted on their website

You can learn more about WITS at their website,  You can also follow them on Facebook Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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