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The foundational thinking behind our work at Beyond Housing is our operational mantra of Ask, Align, Act. We ask the community, those we work for and with, what are the challenges but more importantly the solutions to make their home a better place. We align the resources and the partners to get the work done as well as attempt to impact policy to achieve the results the community desires. Lastly, we act, we get the work done either through our own work but we are able to accomplish much more through our partners.
The work of aligning resources and partners continues to evolve in our efforts and will be a pivotal point in our success. I have described aligning our partners as “facilitating, convening and herding cats.” Our region does not lack for great organizations to meet the needs of so many in need as for those that aspire for a better life. What we lack is a coordinated effort to align these great organizations in the same place and ensure intentional integration of their efforts.
Our work in the pre-k space is a great example of this. Our partners at the Normandy Schools Collaborative let us know several years ago that a majority of the children entering kindergarten were not ready neither cognitively, socially or emotionally. The approach we took, aligning, resulted in a wonderful collaboration of over 20 organizations with two main efforts: 1) working with as many of the state licensed pre-k providers to enhance their efforts and 2) coordinate all the other providers of pre-k services in our targeted geography of the Normandy Schools Collaborative. United 4 Children is our lead partner working with the pre-k providers.
The complete list of partners includes:
St. Louis County Library Natural Bridge University of Missouri College of Education
Children’s Service Fund United 4 Children
Belle Children’s Services of St. Louis Arc Parents as Teachers National Center
Nine Network Normandy Early Childhood Center
Family Resource Center YWCA Head Start
JCE St. Louis County Health- Nurse Family
Normandy Schools Collaborative Project LAUNCH
Loving Hearts Washington University Occupational Therapy
Lutheran Family and Children Services Early Explorers
Crisis Nursery Center for Hearing and Speech
AAFA First Steps/AWS USA
Epworth/Family Support Network St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund
Missouri History Museum Family Resource Center
Ready Readers Our Little Haven
UMSL Child Development Center Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition
LUME Institute Legal Services of Eastern Mo
Washington University Psychiatry Nurses for Newborns
Delta Gamma STL community Volunteer
Asthma and Allergy Foundation Youth in Need
Jump Start Brighter Daycare and Preschool
Special School District of St. Louis County Frist Choice Home Health
Our Day Care and Learning Center UMSL Public Policy Research Center
For over three years we have created a common table for our partners to come and work together to maximize the results for our children. In essence, we have been setting the table for our partners to be more effective, to have better results and to impact the lives of our youngest and most vulnerable in the best way possible.
In the process of setting this programmatic table we have been humbled by the drive, commitment and passion of our partners. Staying together this long with so many partners means that they all truly care and worked with us to create a better delivery system to serve our children. I could fill this space ten times over with words about each of them but let me take a moment and describe just a few. If I don’t mention you here please know you all have my heartfelt thanks for your work and partnership.
United 4 Children is our lead partner in helping the existing pre-k providers to enhance their delivery systems. United 4 Children staff are so committed to meeting our providers where they are given the difficult financial circumstance the State of Missouri puts them in each and every day (more on that another time). Creating trusting relationships is the most important task in this work and United 4 Children has accomplished this with our 15+ pre-k providers. We have advancement in all our providers as they have better trained teachers, better facilities and access to resources they never had before. Thank you United 4 Children.
Ready Readers provides volunteers throughout the region and in our community to read to children in pre-k settings. Research has shown the dramatic word deficit that many low income children have prior to entering even kindergarten. Ready Readers and their caring volunteers do the important job of reading to our little ones so they can learn to love reading and learn more and more words. Thank you Ready Readers.
These are just two of many examples that make me humbled to part of an evolving delivery system that will change the life trajectory of so many children. The passion and commitment to our community by so many partners and their staff is truly amazing. As a leader of an organization it is my job to tell people how great we are and to elicit their support. The reality is there are so many great organizations in the region and so many dedicated staff helping those in need. The fact, that I get see firsthand, is indeed humbling. While we have much more to do I am absolutely convinced with the team we have assembled that success for our children and their community is not too far away.
I’ve been working in community development in the St. Louis area for 25 years, and I’ve been the CEO of Beyond Housing since 1993. While I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t claim to be an expert. At Beyond Housing, the experts we listen to are the voices of the community members we serve. I’ll be raising issues here that I believe matter to our community. I hope you’ll join the conversation. We do reserve the right not to post comments containing offensive language. To paraphrase Dr. King, we can disagree without being disagreeable.