When the 110th annual Annie Malone May Day Parade was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, agency leaders worried about the loss of $100,000 in anticipated parade fundraising.
However, the St. Louis community stepped up to support Annie Malone Children and Family Services — and raised nearly $80,000 during the agency’s virtual May Day parade on Sunday, May 17.
“These were donations that averaged $25,” said Sara Lahman, Annie Malone CEO. “There were a few companies that stepped up, but for the most part this was an individual-donor, community-led effort. The number of first-time donors was staggering, especially among those 25 to 35.”
Bold Moves Worldwide also stepped up to handle logistics for the virtual parade. They also raised thousands through pre-parade online and social media fundraising efforts.
St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones served as grand marshall, following in the footsteps of her father, Virvus Jones, who served in the same role 30 years before in 1990. She challenged the public to match her gifts throughout the day.
Much has changed for Annie Malone since its founding as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home in 1888. The center has preserved its home base at 2612 Annie Malone Dr. in the historic Ville Neighborhood since 1922. When other ethnic orphanages closed in the 1950s, Annie Malone continued to provide residential care and emergency shelter. Today, the agency is an essential source for crisis intervention and preventing child abuse and neglect through a variety of services.
Lahman anticipates that the abuse and neglect calls are going to increase dramatically, as families become further impacted by the pandemic.
“We will see an increase in requests for emergency placements due to suspected abuse and neglect situations,” she said. “We need to be prepared for that. The longer this pandemic isolates children, the more likely the opportunity for abuse and neglect.”
As “phenomenal” as the virtual parade effort was, Lahman said the agency still needs help from the corporate community to continue providing services to those families that will come to them in the next few months.
“We are very concerned about another round of infection during the flu season,” Lahman said. “The recovery for our families will take longer, so to throw another round of COVID-19 in the mix means we will absolutely see an increased need for our services, and we will need help meeting that need.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, Annie Malone has been hit hard because of the increased costs to serve families and simply to run the agency — given the added costs of sanitization supplies, gloves, masks, temperature scanners and other needed health and safety equipment.
“Our families are African Americans living in the city ZIP codes most disproportionately impacted by this virus,” Lahman said. “We needed to stabilize them with emergency food, cleaning supplies, medical co-payments, emergency rent vouchers, utility payments, and other relief. We had no budget for that.”
The agency also had a drop in revenue coming from its education program at Emerson Academy because it primarily serves Saint Louis Public Schools (SLPS) students.
“When SLPS closed school and went to a virtual learning environment, that impacted our bottom line,” she said. “We had to furlough teaching staff and other direct-care staff. Our executive team also took pay cuts, and we began looking at every area to find savings.”
Some staff members have returned because the agency was successful in getting federal loans to cover those costs, but that funding doesn’t help with programs — just payroll and administrative costs.
“Our staff has been tremendous through all of this,” Lahman said. “They have been creative in keeping kids calm and entertained. They have gone above and beyond to make sure our families’ needs are met in terms of delivering supplies and emergency food. They have worked extra hours and supported each other. It’s been great to watch them work as a team to take care of our families.”
To donate to Annie Malone, visit the website or call 314-531-0120.