The St. Louis Housing Authority, one of the Arts and Education Council’s largest government supporters, kicked off their annual giving campaign on Friday, October 3. The housing authority’s annual giving campaign supports the Arts and Education Council as well as the United Negro College Fund and United Way of Greater St. Louis. The Housing Authority has been participating in a workplace giving campaign for A&E for over 20 years, since 1994.
For this year’s campaign, employees of the housing authority are participating in a 50/50 raffle in addition to making personal contributions. Employees are asked to purchase a raffle ticket for $1, or six tickets for $5. Fifty percent of the proceeds are divided between the three organizations, and the other 50 percent will go to the winner of the raffle.
Despite staff buyouts and overall budget cuts, over 80 employees came out to support the nonprofit organizations and kick off the campaign. The campaign would not be successful without the support from the employees, especially St. Louis Housing Authority Executive Director Cheryl A. Lovell. Lovell attends the campaign every year and speaks to the group garnering support, and is extremely supportive of her employees taking time from their busy work schedules to attend the campaign celebration. Another key person in this giving campaign is Althelia Powell-Thomas, the campaign coordinator who has assumed this role since 2003.
Like Lovell, Thomas is an avid supporter of the arts, singing in the St. Louis Symphony’s IN UNISON CHORUS and is a leadership level contributor to A&E.
“I enjoy being a coordinator, it’s engaging and it allows me to share my passion and drive when canvassing the agency for support,” she explains. “More importantly, I tell employees about the ARTS Card, which provides discounts to so many wonderful arts performances and events in town. I encourage them to visit and participate in the different arts groups so they can see what a difference their dollars are making.”
Family is an important reason as to why Thomas feels passionately about the workplace giving campaigns and specifically the Arts and Education Council. “As a child growing up I made a vow to my mother that her investment in me would not be in vain. She made sure I had the best of everything; being educated and involved in Music was at the top of her list. I honor her memory and have kept my promise,” Thomas said. “I consider A&E family,” she says. “It’s exhilarating to give the best for your family and enrich the lives of others.
A&E brought in renowned vocalist Brian Owens to perform at the campaign kickoff, and he delivered a heartfelt a cappella rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come.” A video of the performance can be seen below. Owens has long been a supporter of the arts in St. Louis and has recently led the social justice and organization efforts for many of the peace and unity concerts for the city of Ferguson, including #HealFerguson on Sept. 7, and “Ferguson’s Children: Our Voice,” which took place on Oct. 4. A&E helped support both concerts.
Other highlights of the campaign kickoff included presentations from both United Way and the United Negro College Fund, as well as multiple drawings for attendance prizes for employees.
A&E is so grateful for organizations like the St. Louis Housing Authority and businesses who participate in workplace giving campaigns. Workplace giving campaigns account for over one third of funds raised for arts and arts education annually. A&E could not thrive without the support of these campaigns and organizations.