Logo for Children's Service Fund
Logo for Children's Service Fund

As we look back on 2020, I think it’s safe to say this was the year nobody expected. 

For CSF, 2020 was going to be a year filled with ambitious goals. We were going to dive deep into implementing our strategic plan by beginning a racial equity initiative, rebranding our organization, integrating a new billing and grants management system, all while having our staff participate in a change management program with the goal of enhancing our tools and strategies to more effectively manage the inevitable change that would come about due to the strategic plan. In addition, our funded partners were starting out the first year of service delivery for the 2020-2021 Core funding cycle.

What we did not know this time last year is that as eager as we were to take on these opportunities, the inevitable change would not come because of our strategic plan, rather a global pandemic that would create its own seemingly insurmountable challenges. However, because of our incredible partners, supportive board, talented staff, committed service providers, a dedicated funder community, and the families we serve, we were able to navigate each one of those unexpected twists and turns of the past year.

In the moments when the world was forced to stop, we saw time and time again our community and partners pivot and spring into action to serve the ever-growing needs in our region. For CSF, the Board immediately approved $250,000 in emergency funding as a response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. In April, we announced the 19 local nonprofits that would receive the funding. CSF also quickly expanded the use of telehealth units to better assist partner agencies as they developed new formats to continue serving clients. And because we know that a strong, sustainable non-profit community is the key to service delivery, we allowed our funded agencies to bill up to their daily rate despite decreases in services rendered due to the public health orders. 

In the summer, CSF had to adapt into another role as we were called by St. Louis County to aid in the program design and distribution of CARES Act funding. CSF co-led the Humanitarian response effort, which allocated $24 million to fund programs and services that support the basic needs of County residents suffering from the effects of the public health crisis. Programs implemented included supports and services for the unhoused and at risk for homelessness, seniors and homebound individuals, support for those facing food insecurity, those facing social isolation due to the pandemic, and the well-being of children impacted by COVID-19.  In addition, CSF staff were also instrumental in the distribution of funding under the Child Care Relief Program, Domestic Violence Relief Fund, and the Digital Equity Initiative. The Digital Equity Initiative allocated $4 million in funding to the St. Louis County Library to provide necessary technology and tutoring supports to support successful virtual learning for students throughout St. Louis County. 

The past year did have some bright spots. CSF added three new staff members – Tammie Crumble, program officer; Rachelle Siverly, executive assistant to the executive director; and Karyn Spory, communications and community outreach coordinator. We also welcomed two new little ones to team as Deputy Director Melissa Jamieson and Program Officer Jenny Lynch both safely delivered baby boys this fall. 

As we rounded out the year, we were able to begin some of that ambitious work we initially had our sights set on. In August we began our change management work and set things into motion so in 2021 we can start our racial equity initiative, rebranding work and implementation of a new billing and grants management system. 

We are holding our breath to see what 2021 may bring. We know we have continued challenges for children and youth in our community and we are listening to key stakeholders to understand where best to direct our resources. But we know no matter the nature of the year ahead, we will be able to navigate it because of our amazing partnerships. We are incredibly humbled as our community comes together in so many ways for the needs of children and families in our region, and we know that dedication will continue into the new year. 

I would also be remiss if I did not extend a note of gratitude to our staff and board of directors at this time. We knew this was going to be a challenging year, but even though these were not challenges we had planned for, our organization’s ability to keep our mission, and the children and families of the region at the heart of everything we do, made it possible for us to show up in ways never imagined. I want to thank each of you for your time, your patience, and your passion. This work is not easy, but knowing you were (virtually) by my side, I knew we could take on this ambitious work of making it through a pandemic and continue to serve youth, children and families in need. 

Myself and the staff at CSF would also like to extend our gratitude to our partner agencies and their unwavering dedication to the children and families in the region. We are unable to do what we do without you. Thank you for being there for our most vulnerable individuals during such a difficult year. 

Here’s to the New Year. With new challenges and a reinvigorated sense of joy, gratitude, and dedication. And hopefully seeing you all in person once again.