30 Years of Volunteers

It was a sea of smiles at Wells Fargo Advisors last month, as the Coalition welcomed longtime supporters to our 30 Years of Volunteers Luncheon. It felt more like a family reunion, bringing together extraordinary individuals and groups who have been committed to serving our most vulnerable kids for the last three decades.

The room was filled with people of all ages from different walks of life, each with a unique reason for giving their time and talent, but united by a shared vision: ensuring every child has a place to call home. One of our founders, Wanda Stokes, and our very first Executive Director, Lynn Broeder, sat together, swapping stories about the Coalition’s early days when the office was housed in the Wainwright Building downtown. Emeritus board members chatted with new junior board members, inspiring this next generation of volunteer leaders.

“So much has changed since our beginning 30 years ago, but one thing has remained a vital part of our work … volunteers,” said Melanie Scheetz, the Coalition’s Executive Director. Shelley Thomas-Benke, Director of Volunteers, also shared her gratitude for the many hours donated by those in the room.

National Recognition

Although never motivated by recognition, our volunteers’ selfless dedication earned national attention. In 2018 alone, 737 volunteers donated 5,877 community service hours across more than 50 opportunities throughout the Greater St. Louis area. In the last 30 years, the estimated number of volunteer hours donated is 93,000, with an economic impact of $1,395,000 in the region. On behalf of this incredible service, the Coalition was presented with The President’s Volunteer Service Award, a national honor given by The White House and administered by the Points of Light organization. It is the premier volunteer award, encouraging citizens to live a life of service through presidential gratitude and national recognition. Ambassador George Herbert Walker, cousin of the late President George H.W. Bush who founded the Points of Light organization, presented the award. Also in attendance was Kathleen Fleming of Forward Focus kkf, LLC, who helped certify The Coalition for the honor.

“Volunteers truly are the heartbeat of our organization,” said Melanie. “We are so honored to be recognized by the Points of Light organization for the commitment of our volunteers in finding forever homes for kids impacted by foster care.”

Support at Every Level

Representing KSDK – 5 On Your Side, one of the Coalition’s most dedicated community partners, Anthony Slaughter emceed the luncheon, sharing why this mission is personal for him.

“I am especially touched to be involved because of my own journey in becoming a foster/adoptive dad,” he noted. “I never thought I would be a single dad of twin boys before I turned 30, but when my cousin’s boys needed a place to call home, I didn’t think twice.”

To acknowledge each volunteer and give a visual of the magnitude of support, he asked everyone to wave the orange flag at their place setting when he named the opportunity they had supported. Flags filled the air as he recognized the governing and junior boards, Birthday Buddies, Holiday Wishes volunteers, Cinderella Project personal shoppers and seamstresses, Foster Friends, event committees, ReFresh and Resource volunteers, Training Extravaganza supporters, supply drive organizers, CASAs, and foster/adoptive parents.

One of those volunteers was Angela Wakefield. Several years ago she started her journey with The Coalition by volunteering with her employer, Wells Fargo Advisors, but quickly found more ways to get involved. “I love the fact that they will go to any length to find forever homes for these children,” she said. “They also treat me like I’m a part of their family, which is really special to me.”

It was a beautiful day celebrating our volunteers who truly are the heart and soul of all that we do. Check out some highlights from that day below!

To learn more about volunteering at Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, please reach out to Shelley Thomas-Benke at shelley@foster-adopt.org.

*Special thank you to Andi Norwich for the photos, and KSDK – 5 On Your Side team and Michelle Shockley for creating the video!*

“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve…You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.