Deaconess Foundation Breaks Ground on New Home

Deaconess Foundation will soon have a new, permanent home.

The vibrant CHHSM member ministry held a groundbreaking Sept. 20 for the 20,000-square-foot Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being. Elected officials, board members and children from area schools attended the ceremony in the Grand Center Arts District of St. Louis.

Deaconess Foundation will move into the $8.5 million building next fall from its current rented office space downtown, says Alex Stallings, the foundation’s director of advocacy and communications.

“Deaconess Foundation has been a mission for 127 years in one form or another but has not had a home for all of those years,” Stallings says. “It’s time for a building that can help us continue and expand the mission.”

The current rented space has four offices and a small conference room. The new building will include offices, classrooms, meeting rooms and a conference center that can hold up to 125 people. The current conference room holds only 20 people.

Two other nonprofit organizations, Vision for Children at Risk and CHHSM member Neighborhood Houses, which receive grant funding from Deaconess Foundation, will also relocate to the new building.

The new space will help Deaconess deepen its mission to help children, Stallings says.

“One of our tenets is to make child well-being a civic priority,” she says. “We are making our meeting space available at no charge to organizations that want to discuss policy change for children.”

The foundation projects that up to 6,000 people will attend meetings on children’s issues at the new building.

Deaconess Foundation has deep roots in St. Louis that will be strengthened further by the new center, Stallings says.

In 1889, the Evangelical Deaconess Society of St. Louis and first Deaconess Sisters opened a home for the poor in St. Louis, followed by a hospital in 1930 and a nursing school in 1943. The hospital was sold in 1997 and the proceeds used to fund Deaconess Foundation.

The foundation, a ministry of the United Church of Christ, now partners with other organizations to improve the health and well-being of children.

“The commitment has remained, although the way to address change has shifted,” Stallings says. “It has moved from direct care to changing systemic issues to create an environment where children thrive.”

The move will help Neighborhood Houses financially and put the organization closer to the communities it serves, says Darlene Sowell, president and CEO of Neighborhood Houses. The organization provides services to young people, including early childhood education. And just like Deaconess Foundation, Neighborhood Houses’ mission will benefit from the new building.

“We feel blessed to have this partnership,” Sowell says.

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