In 2017 Deaconess committed to build a community that is just for kids. Throughout 2017 and 2018 we focused our work on increasing our community’s commitment, civic infrastructure and power to be leveraged for children and youth. In service to the most diverse generation in our region’s history, we refined our strategy to ensure that our real, relational and human capital were advancing racial equity in the social sector and public policy.

Our funding commitments and community action tank, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, supported grassroots organizing and policy advocacy. Our mission-related investments increased access to capital for community development financial institutions (CDFI) that serve families.

We strengthened our work through deepened connections with faith communities in the United Church of Christ and Black church traditions, social sector partners, volunteers and staff who advocate for kids and prioritize their health, voice and flourishing. Learning from these partners improved our practices, policies and public witness. Many are reflected in a set of Foundation evaluations shared with our community.

We lifted our voice and joined our partners to support statewide ballot initiatives for increased wages and fairer elections while opposing a measure that sought to weaken workers’ ability to care for their families.

Our greatest tool along this journey was the systemic application of a racial equity lens to decision-making and grant making as we pursue child well-being through public policy and racial equity.

Invest title


Just For Kids (J4K) Anchor Institutions Program

Deaconess selected five organizations as multi-year partners to strengthen and ground systems change and community organizing efforts in the St. Louis region. The J4K Anchor Institution Program launched in January 2018 and is core to Deaconess’ strategy to build a movement for child well-being.

The inaugural cohort includes: American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation, ArchCity Defenders, Community Organizing and Family Issues, Metropolitan Congregations United and Missouri Health Care for All. The group reflects the Foundation’s assessment that deeper investment in grassroots organizing and impact litigation strategies will be necessary for positive change in a tough legislative environment for our policy priorities for the next few years.

With support from capacity building consultants, executive coaches, peer exchanges, facilitation and funding from Deaconess these groups built and began implementing four-year plans to enhance their strengthen governance and leadership, technical infrastructure, organizational culture, financial capacity and strategy.

These powerful organizations anchored and contributed to these winning efforts...


Break the
school to prison

access to

Hold housing authorities
accountable for exorbitant fees

Educate the public
on the role
of elected

ACLU of Missouri Foundation defends civil liberties and the principles of equality and justice in Missouri through its litigation, legislative and public education programs. ACLU of Missouri focuses on legal and legislative advocacy, public education and communication.

ArchCity Defenders is a 501(c)3 non-profit civil rights law firm providing holistic legal advocacy and combating the criminalization of poverty and state violence against poor people and people of color in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County and the state of Missouri. ArchCity Defenders focuses on impact litigation, holistic legal advocacy, policy and media advocacy.

Community Organizing and Family Issues develops and engages low-income parents of color as leaders in their families, schools and communities in East St. Louis and across the state of Illinois. COFI focuses on systems change advocacy, parent training and organizing.

Metropolitan Congregations United puts faith into action by developing leaders who move their congregations, organizations, and communities to change public policy for the common good. MCU focuses on grassroots organizing, leadership development, issue campaigns, voter participation and engagement.

Missouri Health Care for All is a statewide, nonpartisan, faith and community-based grassroots movement for quality, affordable health care for all Missourians. Missouri Health Care for All focuses on policymaker engagement, coalition building, public education, grassroots organizing, and communications and storybanking.

Mission-Related Investments

Mission-related investments are a part of our commitment to socially responsible investing to address significant gaps in civic infrastructure, resources and power that inhibit the health and well-being of children and families in the St. Louis region. The intent is to expand access to financial capital, thus building community capacity while yielding dividends to support the Foundation’s mission, strengthening the region’s capability to achieve positive outcomes for children.

In 2017 and 2018, Deaconess deployed mission-related investments to three organizations, totaling [insert dollar value] dollars.

IFF is a mission-driven lender, real estate consultant and developer that helps communities thrive by creating opportunities for low-income communities and people with disabilities.

Deaconess’ partnership made low-interest capital available to IFF to provide loans to early childcare centers, charter schools, grocery stores and health clinics generating impact well-aligned with our goals to ensure children have full access to quality early childhood care and education and universal access to health care.

Justine PETERSEN is a community development financial institution that provides credit building, homeownership and small business services and alternatives to payday loans.

Deaconess’ partnership supported the provision of 200 low- and moderate-income families with children the opportunity to increase their wealth and assets by originating credit-building and Life Loans to clients participating in asset-building services. This aligns with our goal to assure family economic mobility - the opportunity to strengthen financial position from one generation to the next.

Employment Connection is the nonprofit parent agency to Managed Work Services of St. Louis (MSWstl). MSWstl is a job sourcing agency creating employment opportunities while generating self-sustaining income for Employment Connections.

Deaconess’ partnership provided operating capital to expand MSWstl. By connecting parents and guardians to job opportunities, Managed Work Services stabilizes the families within which children grow and develop.

Public Policy Campaign Grant

In the fall of 2017, when local protests rekindled over police accountability, Deaconess announced a $100,000 Public Policy Grant opportunity, to remind regional leaders of the recommendations in the Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity Report. The funding would support and policy campaign pursuing change through grassroots advocacy, civic engagement and community organizing focused on at least one of the report’s calls-to-action. We sought proposals from community organizations, coalitions and public campaigns positioned to marshall regional energy to move in the direction of racial equity.

As a result, Deaconess invested in the Raise Up Missouri African American Voter Engagement Campaign. The Campaign, a collaborative effort of Missouri Jobs With Justice, The Fight for $15 (a local union within the Service Employees International Union) and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, focused engagement in African American communities in St. Louis City and County to support the statewide ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2023. This aligned with the Forward Through Ferguson Signature Priority to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The effort of long-term organizing partners engaged key impacted communities including Black employers, high schools students and fast food workers.

Ultimately, the petition to raise Missouri’s minimum wage garnered more than 120,000 signatures and was approved to appear on the November 2018 ballot. Missouri voters approved the measure to increase the minimum wage with 62.3% of the vote.

The Policy Campaign grant was made possible through philanthropic partnership between Deaconess and the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock.



Responsive Grants

  • American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation
  • American Friends Service Committee
  • Arch City Defenders
  • Better Family
  • Beyond Housing
  • Black Leaders Advancing Community Change
  • Campaign for Youth Justice
  • Christian Activity Center
  • Community Action Agency of St. Louis County, Inc.
  • Community Organizing and Family Issues
  • Creative Reaction Lab
  • Dutchtown South Community Corporation
  • Epworth Children & Family Services
  • Forward Through Ferguson
  • Generate Health STL
  • Good Journey Development Foundation
  • Home Grown STL
  • Legal Services
  • LinkSTL
  • Metropolitan Congregations United
  • Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity
  • MICA Project
  • Missouri Budget Project
  • Missouri Children's Leadership Council
  • Missouri Health Care For All
  • Missouri Jobs with Justice
  • Missouri Organizing and Voter Engagement Collaborative
  • Mount Sinai Development Corporation
  • New Economy Coalition
  • Parents As Teachers
  • St. Louis Community Foundation
  • St. Louis Public Schools Foundation
  • The Greenhouse Communication Initiative
  • The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis
  • United Congregations of Metro-East
  • Urban Arts

Ecosystem Leadership Grants

  • Annie Malone Children & Family Service Center
  • Christian Activity Center
  • Fathers' Support Center
  • Generate Health
  • Nurses for Newborns
  • SouthSideEarly Childhood Center
  • University City Children's Center
  • Unleashing Potential

Mission Related Investments

  • IFF
  • Justine PETERSEN
  • Employment Connection

Church Related Investments

  • Eden Theological Seminary
  • Illinois South Conference United Church of Christ
  • Missouri Mid-South Conference United Church of Christ
  • Unleashing Potential

Nursing Scholarships

  • St. Louis American Foundation
  • St. Louis Scholarship Foundation

Community Engagement and Policy Development Grants

  • Affinia Healthcare
  • Chicago Theological Seminary
  • Children's Defense Fund
  • Cities United
  • Fearless Dialogues
  • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
  • Missouri Budget Project
  • Missouri Jobs with Justice
  • National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
  • Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference
  • St. Louis County Department of Public Health
  • University of Missouri – St. Louis

Special Health Grants

  • SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital
  • St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Just for Kids Anchor Institutions

  • ACLU of Missouri Foundation
  • Arch City Defenders
  • City Garden Montessori School
  • Community Action Agency of St. Louis County, Inc.
  • Community Council of St. Charles County
  • Community Organizing and Family Issues
  • East Side Aligned
  • Families United
  • Gene Slay's Boys' Club of St. Louis, Inc.
  • Hispanic Chamber of Commerce STL Foundation
  • Jennings School District
  • League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis
  • Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
  • Mathews-Dickey Boys' & Girls' Club
  • Metropolitan Congregations United
  • Missouri Budget Project
  • Missouri Health Care for All
  • Missouri Jobs with Justice
  • Missouri Organizing and Voter Engagement Collaborative
  • The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis
  • Vision for Children at Risk
  • Voices for Illinois Children

Philanthropic Infrastructure

  • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
  • National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
  • Neighborhood Funders Group
  • Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference

Policy Campaign

  • Philanthropy for Systemic Change

*Black Funders Grants

  • Ferguson Youth Initiative
  • Imani Learning and Leadership
  • My 180 Youth Program

*Deaconess serves as the fiscal agent to the Black Funders of St. Louis – a Black-led giving circle dedicated to mobilizing time, talent and resources in support of Black-led nonprofits in the region. Black Funders of St. Louis is a space for Black leaders to donate their own money and time to a pooled fund, deciding together where to dedicate those pooled resources within the region. The foundation provides administrative support to the grants that the giving circle makes on an annual basis. This partnership serves as an extension of our commitment to advancing equity in the sector.

Engage title


Engage title

Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being

In a sacred dedication on March 1, 2018, clergy and members of the United Church of Christ (UCC), Deaconess Foundation Trustees and staff and Deaconess Center Board members gathered to bless the grounds of the Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being. The dedication celebration served as the Opening Worship for the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) of the United Church of Christ's Annual Gathering which convened in St. Louis from March 1 through March 3, 2018.

Due North of the St. Louis City Family Courts and Juvenile Justice Center, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being is situated as a physical critique of the ways the region has chosen to engage challenges related to children and youth. The Center encourages collaborative, systems-focused civic engagement for youth flourishing over isolated, program-oriented interventions or punitive approaches. Its mission is to build power to advance child well‐being in the St. Louis region by strengthening alliances for child‐friendly public policy, increasing citizen contact with policy makers, positioning youth and organizers to move systems and engaging faith communities in child advocacy.

Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being houses offices for Deaconess Foundation, Vision for Children at Risk and Unleashing Potential.
The $8.8 million, 21,000 square foot facility hosted:






child advocates,
civic leaders and
community members


of granted space

Just for kids community conversations

With Marian Wright Edeleman, founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund, as the Keynote, Deaconess launched its Just for Kids (J4K) Community Conversations series in April 2018. The set of forums was designed to introduce Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being to the St. Louis region and amplify Deaconess’ commitment to Building A Community Just for Kids. The series brings national thought leaders to the St. Louis region in gatherings designed to activate change for children and families. Each Community Conversation brings timely insights on justice, equity, and well-being for children.

Marian Wright Edelman

Children's Defense Fund

Building a Community Just for Kids

Learn more

Dr. Gregory Ellison

Emory University Chandler School of Theology

Fearless Dialogues

Learn more

Dr. William C. Bell

Casey Family Programs

Faith Community and Child Welfare

Learn more

Dr. Manuel Pastor

University of Southern California

Equity, Growth and Community

Learn more

Leslie Crutchfield

Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

How Change Happens

Learn more

The 2018 series was made possible with support from the estate of the late Mrs. Ruth and Rev. Carl C. Rasche, historian of The Deaconess Heritage and president emeritus of Deaconess Hospital, respectively and the support of various individual and institutional sponsors

Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools

Deaconess launched its network of Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools®, in partnership with the nation’s largest child advocacy organization, the Children’s Defense Fund in 2017. Rooted in the Mississippi Freedom Summer project of 1964, the CDF Freedom Schools program is a seven-week summer literacy and cultural enrichment program.

Deaconess’ network of CDF Freedom Schools enrolls children in grades kindergarten through five. Saint Louis Public Schools and Webster Groves School District were local school district partners. Hope United Church of Christ, Peace United Church of Christ, and Saint John's Church (The Beloved Community) were local faith partners and program sites.

Freedom School scholars engage in a research-based, multicultural Integrated Reading Curriculum that supports them and their families through five essential components:

High quality

Parent and

Civic engagement
and social action


health and
mental health



Reading levels


by as much
as 1 year and 9 months


Servant leaders
(college students)


staff members trained in
culturally competent
pedagogy and educated in
the contemporary civil
right movement

St. Louis Organizing Table - Mayoral Candidate forum

Born out of the Ferguson Uprising, the St. Louis Organizing Table is a collective of grassroots community organizations that center Black leadership, hold governing bodies and elected officials accountable and build political power for change. Using the Forward Through Ferguson Commission Report as its anchor, the collective envisions a racially equitable St. Louis region where: 1) people are healthy and thriving, 2) community members have voice and control over the decisions that impact their lives and 3) historic harm has been acknowledged and repaired.

The St. Louis Organizing Table, of which Deaconess is a member, co-sponsored the 2017 St. Louis Mayoral Candidate Forum: Questions from the People for candidates to inspire residents with their vision for the children of the city and respond to questions from the community. About 1,500 attendees gathered at the Saint Louis University Busch Student Center to hear all of the Democratic candidates expound upon written answers to twenty questions received prior to the Forum. Topics included minimum wage, gun violence, cash bail system and the criminalization of students.

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Child advocacy in Jefferson City

Deaconess led delegations of more than 100 individuals to Jefferson City to advocate on behalf of children in the state of Missouri. Deaconess' delegations included members and clergy of the United Church of Christ, youth service providers, children and families. Deaconess joined the larger statewide delegation of over 400 individuals and attended policy workshops, the Missouri Kids Count Roundtable, a rally in the Capitol and meetings with legislators and legislative staff.

Deaconess joined advocates in prioritizing support for extending Medicaid coverage for new moms, enacting a State Earned Income Tax Credit, for raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction and increasing funding for public K-12 education.

Proposition A, "Right-to-Work" Bill

Deaconess joined several of our partners, including Missouri Budget Project, Missouri Healthcare for All, Missouri Jobs with Justice, and Vision for Children at Risk, in the fight to defeat Proposition A, commonly referred to as the “right-to-work,” bill in August 2018. The law sought to effectively weaken labor unions' capacity to collectively bargain for better working conditions, fair wages and family supporting benefits of employment. Proposition A would have driven down wages for Missouri families, thus impeding upon Deaconess’ commitment to family economic mobility. Research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that "right to work" laws like Proposition A are associated with lower wages and a weaker middle class.

Deaconess supported the Campaign by hosting a press conference at the Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being to amplify the Campaign’s message and encouraged voters to defeat the measure, Vote No on Proposition A.

Missouri voters defeated Proposition A with 67.5% of the vote.

Proposition B, "Raise Up Missouri"

Working families, faith communities, and community and business leaders from every corner of the state engaged residents and gathered signatures to give Missourians the opportunity to increase the minimum wage in November 2018. Higher wages are markedly important for Missouri's children and families and align with our goal to assure family economic mobility - the opportunity to strengthen financial position from one generation to the next.

Deaconess supported the Campaign with a $100,000 investment in early focused voter engagement in African American communities in St. Louis City and County. We complemented out investment by amplifying the Campaign’s message while centering Missouri’s mothers and children in the public discourse in a published opinion editorial.

Missouri voters passed Proposition B to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2023 with 62.3% of the vote.

Amendement 1, Clean Missouri

An inclusive, representative democracy is critical to achieving Deaconess' vision of child well-being through racial equity. A statewide coalition of organizers, advocates, and volunteers collected and submitted more than 340,000 signatures for Amendment 1 - CLEAN Missouri to be placed on the November 2018 ballot.

The CLEAN Missouri ballot measure:

  • Lowered campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates.
  • Eliminated almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly.
  • Required that House and Senate members wait two years before becoming lobbyists.
  • Required that legislative records be open to the public.
  • Ensured that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, by asking a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps, which would then be reviewed by a citizen commission. This would make Missouri one of the first states to mandate the use of a new statistical model for redistricting to diminish partisan gerrymandering.

Deaconess supported the Campaign by providing space for organizers to host phone banks with volunteers and an informational session for elected officials at Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being.

Missouri voters passed Amendment 1 in support of fair and transparent state governance with 62% of the vote

Community Reports

Deaconess aims to expand community knowledge by resourcing and informing translation of research into policy in areas of child well-being specific to St. Louis in partnership with universities and community-based organizations. In Fall 2018, Deaconess commissioned or supported reports to move our region, state and sector in the direction of early childhood education and family economic mobility, racial equity in the social sector, and power-building for progressive governance.

Make Work Work

Funded in part by Deaconess, the Make Work Work: Strengthening Missouri through Quality Child Care for Working Families policy report focuses on the effects of low wages on access to quality child care for working families, Missouri’s economy and child well-being.

In alignment with Deaconess’ child well-being policy platform, the report proposes three evidence-based policy recommendations that can advance change: 1) Increase the minimum wage to a family sustaining wage. 2) Modify child care subsidies to ensure that parents can make a family-sustaining wage and still access quality child care. 3) Develop a system for measuring child care quality and provide supports for child care providers to improve services.

Deaconess distributed the report at our Just for Kids (J4K) Community Conversation: How Change Happens following Leslie Crutchfield’s, author and the Executive Director of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, keynote.

Follow the Leader

Inspired by philanthropic action in other regions, Deaconess commissioned Follow the Leader: A Philanthropic Strategy for Effectiveness, a report which highlights the impact of diversity in social sector leadership and the critical value of investing in Black-led nonprofit organizations.

In addition to identifying more than 150 Black-led nonprofit organizations in the St. Louis region, the report was designed to inform and support philanthropic decision-makers - from trustees and donors, to executives and program officers - who want to effectively pursue their stated missions by responding to one particularity of race in the context in which we live.

The report invites funders to be effective in advancing equity by: (1) Altering the Ecosystem to make it more supportive of Black leadership, (2) Investing in Black-led Organizational Capacity Building and (3) Nurturing the pipeline of Black leaders in the social sector.

Changing States: Missouri Power Audit

Deaconess, in partnership with Missouri Foundation for Health, funded the Changing States: Missouri Power Audit to identify capacities, capacity gaps and necessary supports for progressive change in Missouri. Noted author, sociologist and professor, Dr. Manuel Pastor’s work and partnership with PolicyLink laid the foundation for the framework of the Audit which was released during Dr. Pastor’s Equity, Growth and Community Conversation at Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being.

The public release of the report followed a discussion with St. Louis-based social change leaders working in community organizing, economic development, racial equity and philanthropy on how leaning into racial equity and power-building strategies for progressive governance lead to regional growth.

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  • Grace C. Poertner
  • Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Webster Groves School District
  • Laura Dierberg Ayers
  • Derek Mays
  • Claire C. McCaskill
  • Peace UCC
  • PolicyLink
  • Estate of Carl and Ruth Rasche
  • Network for Good
  • St. John’s Church – The Beloved Community
  • St. Paul Evangelical Church UCC
  • Stauffer Charitable Trust
  • Estate of Audrey Sodemann
  • Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Wells Fargo Advisers
  • Rev. Starsky Wilson