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

As the days on the calendar quickly unfurl to the end of 2023, I’d be remiss to not to take a moment to reflect on the tremendous accomplishments and hard work of our team over the past year.

2023 has been challenging, rewarding, and a testament to the incredible individuals that bring their talent, passion, and dedication to CSF. From our board to our team members, I am surrounded by a group of people who care deeply about our community. Each one of them keeps CSF’s mission of improving the lives of kids and their families at the core of everything they do. And this year, we did a lot.

Two of our proudest moments of 2023 were successfully kicking off our seventh Core Funding Opportunity and our second Grassroots Funding Opportunity. Through the 2023-2026 Core Funding Opportunity, we’re investing $150 million into 71 local organizations – our largest allocation to date. Through our Grassroots Funding Opportunity, we’re investing $3.6 million into 29 nonprofits, 12 of which are new partners to us. We enjoyed being able to recognize and celebrate all 100 of our partners during the Core Summer Soiree and the Grassroots Zest for the Best celebrations this summer.

In addition to our Core and Grassroots Funding Opportunities, we also partnered with St. Louis County Public Library and Epworth Children and Family Services for the St. Louis County Community Resource Initiative. The project, which launched in May, placed social workers in five County Library branches to provide mental health support, crisis intervention, and resource connection for library patrons.

This year, we also continued our partnership with St. Louis Mental Health Board (MHB) to provide multiple Youth Mental Health First Aid training sessions. Led by Missouri Institute for Mental Health, these trainings brought school staff together from across the region to grow their understanding of youth mental health and learn how to help young people in crisis and non-crisis situations.

In 2023, we also expanded the Dr. John M. Anderson Excellence in Mental Health Award, part of The St. Louis America’s Salute to Excellence in Health Care, to include the Excellence in Mental Health – Community Mental Health Provider Award. The new award compliments the Dr. John M. Anderson Excellence in the Field of Mental Health Award, which has recognized unsung mental health professionals in the St. Louis region since 2014. The Community Mental Health Provider Award is designed to recognize and celebrate the outstanding contributions of individuals who provide on-the-ground care and whose work directly addresses the needs identified by the community and actively works to reduce the stigma of mental illness in the Black/African American community.

We were proud to award Latosha Fowlkes, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Core Collective at Saint Vincent (The CC), the inaugural recipient of the Community Mental Health Provider Award, and Dr. Lizette Smith the Excellence in the Field of Mental Health Awardee.

In October we successfully held our second annual WellEducator STL event. We were so thrilled to partner with MHB and the Education Equity Center to bring this event back to the region and expand the offerings. The day began with breakfast and resource fair before educators and school staff attended sessions ranging from yoga to sound bowl meditation to horticultural therapy. From start to end, it was a day filled with joy and appreciation.

Throughout the year, we have been working toward adopting a racial equity framework that will drive how we approach every aspect of our work. Our board and staff members have engaged in multiple training sessions, and our policies and processes have been carefully evaluated by external consultants. We will continue this work into the new year when we finalize and share an implementation plan.

We also participated in multiple learning cohorts, launched research around the funding landscape, and began work on a policy framework.

As always, we continued work with our advisory committees and are thankful for the continued efforts of those who serve on them, including the School-Based Advisory Committee, Outreach Council, Community Advisory Committee, Psychiatric Services Cohort, and more.

In 2024, we will be partnering with MHB again for a collaborative community health assessment, which will help our organizations better understand the challenges facing our communities and the kids and families within. We are excited for this partnership because though a boundary divides our jurisdictions, it does not extend to the health and wellness of the kids and families within it.

Lastly, in the coming year, we will refresh our strategic plan and implement an impact framework. As our strategic plan was approved by the board in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2020 shifted our focus to emergent needs, we are looking forward to expanding upon our current strategic plan and targeting community investments for the best possible outcomes for children and families.

Again, this work – and there is a lot of it – could not be done without the support and guidance of our board and the commitment and passion of our team. I firmly believe our work is changing the funding landscape in the region. None of this would be possible without our funded partners. We are so proud to work with some of the best organizations in the region who share our passion and mission of making sure every child in St. Louis County has the resources and opportunity to reach their full potential.

Thank you for your hard work, care, and passion. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Here’s to 2024!