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Biennial Report 2021-2022
Rooted & Pivoting

One of Deaconess’s greatest strengths is our commitment to deep listening and service to the mission while knowing when to pivot to meet community needs. As our world adapted with the shifts of the pandemic so did our funding strategy to meet the immediate needs of the community. The Foundation provided grants to more than 63 organizations and 8 separate initiatives. Several of the grant opportunities remained constant, like our nursing scholarships and responsive grants, and new funds were created, like direct response to COVID-19 relief, disaster and trauma-responsive grants, and our Leading Liberation Retreat Series launch crafted for Black women who are catalyzing change.

After closing the Center’s doors for over 12 months, Deaconess continued the work of the Movement and adapted to virtual convening and other means of support. These guiding principles led to Deaconess Center restricting physical access to indoor convening spaces and office suites while expanding outdoor open-air capacity and virtual convening opportunities. With the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine becoming widely available to the public, the Center reopened its doors, implementing phases of re-entry adhered to public health and safety best practices. As collaborative engagement has evolved during the pandemic, so has the Center’s ability to support our partners. We have continued to monitor guidelines and adapt convening requirements accordingly while also continuing to support partner access to the virtual convening platform through Deaconess’ Zoom Meeting and Webinar programs.

Invest in Endeavors that Improve the Health & Well-Being of Children
Healing Justice at the Grassroots Level
Racial Healing + Justice Fund
The St. Louis Racial Healing + Justice Fund (RH+JF) completed its initial three-year cycle. Deaconess Foundation, Forward Through Ferguson, and Missouri Foundation for Health collaborated to establish The Fund to invest in healing community trauma and changing the conditions that reinforce systemic racism. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported the launch of the Fund with a matching grant, and 21 local and national foundations have joined the pool of participating organizations. A total of $1.7 million has been invested over the three years to XX organizations for the Fund to facilitate sustainable, community-driven efforts to heal racial trauma and dismantle systems contributing to racial inequities for people of color in St. Louis.
The Racial Healing + Justice Fund is not a transactional, grantmaking enterprise, but an open invitation for community participation and empowerment for long-lasting change. We invite residents, organizers, advocates, healers, and artists to learn from and encourage each other about the vision we will achieve through the Fund.
Bethany Johnson-Javois, President & CEO


With the devasting tragedy at Central Visual Performing Arts High School (CVPA) and Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience in St. Louis, the RH+JF created a one-time crisis response grant in support of organizations dedicated to providing support and resources to the families, students, educators, staff, and community impacted by the school tragedy.

The RJ+JF is centered around healing the core of our community from racial trauma and changing the conditions of systemic racism that endanger lives. The Crisis Response Fund continues this mission with unrestricted funds that supported the organizations’ who have continuously been dedicated to frontline response to community trauma. The five organizations who received $16,000 each included: The T/BRIC, Black Healers Collective, UnGUN Institute, St. Louis Community Health Worker Coalition, and Freedom Community Center. These organizations promote healing, harm reduction, and action to meaningfully address violence and support community.

The Fund is a participatory grant making process, meaning it is led by a Community Governance Board comprised of grassroots leaders, artists, creatives, and residents of color that identify specific funding priorities and outcomes and distribute invested funds to a combination of midscale and grassroots organizations. Deaconess Foundation serves as the grant administrator for the Fund.

In Their Words
The RH+JF allowed us to do better storytelling and data collection, have better surveying and feedback, and improve how we connect and better understand the impact of our work from the voices of our students and parents. We hired a second full-time staff. We raised over $350,000 by the end of 2021. The fund was a huge piece of that, and the Community Governance Board allowed us to not have such a high barrier for funding.
Cynthia Chapple, Black Girls Do STEM
I had no money, I was going broke funding my own operation, then RH+JF came along. “Please believe in me, I’ve got this awesome vision and I’m willing to work my butt off.” But nobody gives you money if you don't already have money. Where most organizations are making you jump through all these hurdles, and then say no anyway, RH+JF was like, “come on in, tell us your story.”
Janet Lewis, Rustic Roots Sanctuary
To bend toward healing, we must have a timely and deep response...The RH+JF’s crisis response grants made us feel seen, valued, heard, and recognized in a way that was so joyful it got our creative juices flowing about what else we could do.
Dr. LJ Punch, Founder & Executive Director of The T/BRIC

    Responding to a Community in Crisis

    Responsive Grants

    Deaconess Foundation recognizes that significant gaps in civic infrastructure, resources and power inhibit the health and well-being of children and families in the St. Louis region. Our Just for Kids strategy was designed to address these gaps by strengthening the region, system, and community’s capability to achieve positive outcomes through collaborative engagement and investment with diverse partners.
    Deaconess Foundation awarded $XX to 52 different organizations through the Responsive Grant Program.
    Responsive Grants supported positive systemic change for the well-being of children and families in the St. Louis metropolitan region and responded rapidly during great times of need and crisis.
    Flood Relief Efforts
    The greater St. Louis region experienced historic flooding in July 2022 with the most devastating impact located in predominantly Black communities. FEMA reported that 1,661 residencies in the region were impacted by the floods plus 946 more with significant damage (August 2022). Hundreds of renters, homeowners, and business owners were left with thousands of dollars in repairs and cleaning costs, displaced from their homes, and left to navigate relief assistance on top of the disruption of their daily lives.
    Deaconess Foundation awarded $20,000 each to Action St. Louis and United Congregations of Metro East for flood relief efforts to help alleviate the immediate needs of the heavily impacted communities.

    Action St. Louis led an effort (in partnership with Arch City Defenders, Faith for Justice, and Black Men Build) to launch a rapid response infrastructure including wellness check-ins, direct assistance, and an advocacy campaign demanding additional support to those who were impacted. They have raised more than $230,000 for these efforts, supporting hundreds of families in North St. Louis County’s affordable housing footprint.

    United Congregations of Metro East raised $24,000 for flood relief efforts in East St. Louis and Centreville in St. Clair County, Illinois. They continued to work with local officials to get an increased federal response for those impacted. Funds were used to purchase $100 gift cards to distribute to impacted families in the metro-east along with donated clothing, food, and cleaning supplies.

    Empowerment for Long Lasting Change
    Just For Kids (J4K) Anchor Institutions Program

    Five organizations were selected as multi-year partners to strengthen and ground systems change and community organizing efforts for child well-being in the St. Louis region. This was part of Deaconess’ Just for Kids strategy to build a movement for children through public policy and racial equity. The cohort of Just for Kids Anchor Institutions included American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri Foundation, ArchCity Defenders, Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), Metropolitan Congregations United and Missouri Health Care for All.

    Through the four-year engagement, the Foundation invested significant financial resources and consultative support to strengthen the organizations’ effectiveness and culture by enhancing their leadership, adaptive, technical and management capacities. In turn, the cohort is now better positioned to contribute to community efforts that build power, shift policy and influence the systems within which children develop and grow.

    Just Recovery Cohort
    At the onset of the global pandemic, Deaconess recognized that the economic and societal conditions that influenced the lives of Black and Brown people attempting to survive against systems that have repeatedly and purposely failed them, so too would the organizations and leaders guiding grassroots social change efforts in the region. As such, Deaconess identified six existing funded partners — all Black-led — to operate parallel to the Anchor Institutions program through the two-year Just Recovery Cohort. The cohort included Action St. Louis, Dutchtown South Community Corporation, Forward Through Ferguson, Metropolitan Equal Housing Opportunity Council (EHOC), Organization for Black Struggle, and United Congregations of Metro East. The cohort integrated seamlessly into the existing organizational support program developed and refined by Deaconess over the past two decades.

    Key Accomplishments

    • Three of four partners successfully navigated planned and unplanned leadership transitions
    • One partner transitioned from a fiscal sponsorship to establishing its own financial accounting infrastructure and securing office space
    • Three partners expanded staff capacity adding greater breadth and depth to their changemaking efforts
    • Deaconess provided over 100 hours of professional development training to leaders, managers and organizing staff in the areas of governance through a racial equity lens, financial forecasting, systems-change-oriented facilitation skills, effective intra-group communications, values-aligned human resources, marketing and public relations, risk management and establishing financial infrastructure for small-to-mid-sized organizations.
    • Partners adopted new strategic plans to guide their change making, evolved their organizational infrastructure through new user-friendly technology platforms and security systems, engaged in deep governance-led reflection and restructured staff teams for increased effectiveness
    Deaconess’ cumulative investment of over $1.9 million towards expanded capacity for key and critical movement partners has laid the groundwork for future changing making and impact.
    Total Investment
    Engage Eastern Missouri & Southern Illinois To Come Together To Make A Difference
    Responding to Community Needs
    American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Community Town Hall
    Deaconess Foundation co-hosted with the City of St. Louis the ARPA Community Needs Town Hall. With $250 million still to be distributed in the City of St. Louis, residents were asked to identify how the funds were to be invested into the St. Louis City community to meet the needs of residents. ARPA funding categories include Infrastructure, Negative Economic Impacts, Premium Pay, Public Health, Revenue Replacement, and Services to Disproportionately Impacted Communities.
    Grounded in the Pursuit of Healing
    Leading Liberation Retreat Series
    As an institution grounded in the pursuit of healing, Deaconess Foundation seeks to invest in holistic opportunities for enhanced health and well-being for leaders of color. In recognition of the deep and intensive work of movement building for organizers, advocates, and Black leaders across the bi-state region, we launched an experience specifically crafted for Black women who are catalyzing change. The retreat series creates a community for Black women change makers to experience restoration, liberation and culturally responsive healing practices. The first retreat had 18 participants and was entitled “Standing at the Crossroads: An Introduction to the Intersections of Liberation, Healing & Well Being.” Attendees had opportunities for group processing and individual reflection exploring the interconnectedness of liberation and healing. A prevailing theme that was reiterated for participants throughout the retreat was "You and your well-being matter." 
    Fostering Environments That Support Children and Young Adults
    CDF Freedom Schools®

    Deaconess-sponsored CDF Freedom Schools® returned following a two-year break during the pandemic, and we were thrilled to once again welcome scholars and their families and caregivers to join us for a summer filled with new experiences, culturally-rich literature, and fun-filled learning. We served more than 100 scholars at four locations (Christ the King UCC, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, Peace United Church of Christ, and Saint John's Church (The Beloved Community)) with 18 staff team members dedicated to to making sure this summer was safe, exciting, and filled with learning.

    Recognizing the impact of two years of relentless collective trauma, social and emotional wellness activities were woven into lessons for the scholars and workshops for their families and caregivers. Deaconess partnered with Alive & Well Communities to host the workshops which focused on self-care and trauma awareness, giving families the tools to tend to themselves and each other well beyond the summer months.

    Learn More About Freedom Schools® and Community Partnerships
    Deaconess Foundation CDF Freedom Schools® in the News
    It was very nice to see a structured and planned out camp. Summer learning loss is real, so it's nice that it was an opportunity for them to stay engaged.
    Parent of CDF Freedom Schools® Scholar
    All Children Deserve the Chance to Thrive
    Free Services for Families

    During the pandemic, food insecurity became more prevalent, and families were less connected to the same resources. Additionally, children often experience summer reading less during long gaps in school. To support children, youth and families during this time, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being formed community partnerships to provide free services while maintaining safe, social distancing outside.

    Bringing Food to the Table
    Deaconess Center hosted a free Summer Meals Program in partnership with co-Locating Partners, Deaconess Foundation, Unleashing Potential, and Vision for Children at Risk through Operation Food Search’s sponsorship of the Summer Food Service Program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. Families were able to pick up grab-and-go meals (a total of four meals per person, per visit) to be consumed offsite.
    Books for Keeps
    While visiting, children and families had the opportunity to add to their home libraries as culturally responsive age-appropriate books and literature will be available, at no cost, throughout the summer. Volunteers joined periodically to read aloud their favorite stories during meal pick-up times.
    Free Vision Care with Eye Thrive
    Additionally, Deaconess Foundation partnered with Eye Thrive to provide free vision care to children and youth in St. Louis City. While picking up their meals, Eye Thrive provides much-needed free eye exams to 16 children and a distribution of 14 prescription glasses to elementary and secondary school-age children through its mobile vision clinic. In most cases, eyeglasses were made and dispensed on-site.
    Fighting the Infant Formula Shortage
    Feed The Babies Project
    The Feed The Babies Project is a community-wide collaborative designed to address the infant formula shortage crisis that impacted families across the St. Louis region during the 2022 national crisis. Deaconess Foundation served as the Project’s fiscal sponsor and partnered with The St. Louis Integrated Health Network (IHN). Other community organizations continued to partner to provide immediate solutions for families facing the shortage, which disproportionately affected people with low incomes and people of color.
    1,382 ounces of packaged baby formula and 6,256 ounces of pasteurized human donor milk* was distributed to 60 families.
    *purchased by The Milk Bank of Indianapolis
    More than 80 families received fresh groceries from partners St. Louis Metro Maket and St. Louis Area Foodbank.
    A community baby shower event was hosted where over 15 families received maternal health and infant care items.
    Future Outlook
    The expanded coalition plans to replicate this model in rural and urban areas, including St. Louis County and the Metro East. A future goal is to establish milk depots and a locally accessible community-based milk dispensary, establish a strategic partnership with Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and establish employer adopted principles for breastfeeding advocacy. These goals help sustain the Project to serve families if there are future disruptions on the scale of the recent formula shortage, and to regularly support nutrition for mothers and babies.
    Organizing for a Vibrant Future
    North Central Plan

    The City of St. Louis Planning Commission conducted a Public Hearing at the Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being and adopted what is now known at the North Central Plan. The City of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones later joined residents at a later date for a public celebration to commemorate the completion of the Plan.

    The Plan was a multi-month, community-led process to define the vision and strategic plan for the 5,500 residents of the Covenant Blu-Grand Center and Vandeventer neighborhoods. This is now an official City planning document, used as guidance for future development in the neighborhood. This was the first plan submitted to the City of St. Louis after it’s announcement of shifting to an “Equitable Economic Development Framework” towards neighborhood-led efforts.

    At the Public Hearing, The members of 27 residents that compose the North Central Plan’s Steering Committee provided details about the engagement and resident-led planning process. Hundreds of residents engaged in community meetings, focus groups, and surveys to help shape The Plan. Aldermen and neighborhood associations within the Plan’s geographic footprint, institutions in the Grand Center Arts District, businesses, schools, medical facilities, social service organizations, and churches participated in and endorsed the Plan.

    The Plan encourages residents to remain in place while identifying new ways to revitalize their community and to create opportunities for others to become neighbors. This asset-based, resident-centered approach can be a model for future development.

    Learn More About the North Central Plan
    Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being
    In-Person Convenings
    Virtual Convenings
    Different Organizations with Approved Requests
    Total Estimated Attendance
    Advocate for Change in Our Community
    Educating Community About COVID-19
    As the supply of COVID-19 vaccines steadily increased in the St. Louis region, Deaconess Foundation provided information and resources that are helpful to individuals and families in making an informed decision about vaccination. We brought insights from people in our community who are deeply engaged in COIVD-19 response and recovery efforts, shared the work of our partners addressing health disparities and invited the community share resources that have been helpful for them. Guest authors included:
    Angela Fleming
    CEO, St. Louis Regional Health Commission
    Rick Stevens

    Christian Hospital

    Larry McCulley

    President and CEO,
    SIHF Healthcare and CEO, Touchette Regional Hospital

    Sylvester Brown Jr.

    Deaconess Fellow,
    The St. Louis American

    Empowering Scholars, Amplifying Local Issues and Educating Community

    As advocates for children, deeply understanding the issues is key to effectively advocating for policy change on their behalf. Every summer the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® mobilizes child advocates across the country to unite for a day of action to raise awareness about a policy/issue impacting the lives of children and families.

    Deaconess Foundation has deeply engaged in the National Day of Social Action (NDSA) through our network of CDF Freedom Schools®. This action showcases the unique brilliance of children.

    Thousands of scholars in Freedom Schools across the country set out to define youth justice during CDF’s 2021 National Day of Social Action and environmental justice for 2022 National Day of Social Action.

    Engaging children and youth is especially important in determining what youth justice looks and feels like from their vantage point. They must not be excluded from visioning and building a more equitable future. We encourage child advocates, parents, guardians, and educators to engage with children on this topic, invite them to reflect on what youth justice means, and commit to furthering the National Day of Social Action’s goals throughout the year by:

    Empowering scholars to lead and participate in civic engagement.
    Amplifying local issues of youth justice to broader community.
    Educating community about alternatives to carceral youth justice.

    St. Louis Affordable Housing Report Card

    The St. Louis Affordable Housing Report Card provides a road map for evaluating affordable housing needs and allows advocates to assess whether the region is actually making progress toward meeting our affordable housing needs. This is an accessible, easy-to-use tool for any to leverage work for affordable housing and a more racially equitable region.

    Deaconess Foundation funded the creation of the report card which was commissioned by the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Coalition. The project included public stakeholder meetings, focus groups and one-on-one interviews, working groups, online surveys and assessments, and a virtual public launch event. Funding supported contract services, collaboration meetings, and marketing and communications.

    Learn More
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