St. Louis is a generous and caring place. In times of need, we come together and take care of our own.
At no time is this more evident than during the holidays—the Super Bowl of giving. Every year, St. Louisans serve meals to the homeless and the elderly, donate to local charities, buy Christmas gifts for local children, and extend a vital lifeline to St. Louisans in need.
This year for our Holiday Friends program, Beyond Housing set a goal of helping 1,000 families in need in North St. Louis County by providing gifts for children and assistance for parents. Once again, St. Louis delivered. For the last several days, the gymnasium of the former Garfield Elementary school that is our headquarters has looked like Santa’s workshop after a highly productive week. It is great to see these gifts, knowing how much joy they will bring to so many children who otherwise would have little or nothing to open on Christmas Day.
St. Louisans make Christmas miracles happen.
Yet despite all of our generosity, there continues to be so much suffering and heartache in our backyards. With each passing year, the amount of need never seems to wane.
My wish for St. Louis is for us to begin addressing why so much need exists in the first place.
I wish for us to move beyond the transactional acts of food distribution and providing that important gift on Christmas Day to working with families to understand how they got to where they are and what is preventing them from fulfilling their own needs and dreams.
Think about it. How much stronger would our region become if just 2,500 families living below the poverty line became financially stable and thriving? How much brighter would our collective future look to have more children growing up in a successful environment and passing that success along to their children?
We have seen that when families become stronger, neighborhoods become stronger. When neighborhoods become stronger, communities become stronger. And when communities become stronger, so does our entire region.
This is the mission of our Once and for All effort in North St. Louis County: to strengthen families and our under-resourced communities to finally address the root source of our region’s greatest challenges—from failing schools to high crime rates, slow economic growth, and our region’s steady decline in prosperity and national prominence—to move all of St. Louis forward, once and for all.
I wish for us to radically rethink how we address the issues and inequities that hold down families, communities, and our entire region, and for us to have the courage and commitment to make St. Louis all it can be.
That would be the greatest gift of all.