Deaconess Puts "Children at the Center" in East St. Louis

Free family festival includes advocacy forum, parent organizing and service fair

June 18, 2015 - Deaconess Foundation, as a component of its efforts to advance the well-being of children in the region, will host a festival for families on Saturday, June 20, 2015 at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation (101 Jackie Joyner-Kersee Circle, East St. Louis, IL 62204). The daylong celebration, led by honorary co-chairs Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Percy McKinney, will feature:

  • Awarding $500,000 in grants to child-serving agencies in the region,
  • A child advocacy forum and parent organizing workshop,
  • A children’s service fair,
  • Food, fun, and games for all ages.

The celebration highlights the need to make children a civic priority. Although one in five children in the bi-state region already live in poverty, the proposed $6.7 billion reduction in Illinois Governor Rauner’s budget will further impact children throughout the state, especially the most vulnerable. The budget cuts affect programs such as child-care subsidies, bullying prevention grants, and household utility subsidies.

Deaconess Foundation remains committed to enhancing the community’s capacity to care for children. During the event, Deaconess will announce $500,000 in grants to non-profits in the areas of nonprofit advocacy, collective impact networks, and youth organizing to strengthen the interconnected systems of support for children. Additionally, there will be workshops for parents and youth on how to make their voices heard.

“Children at the Center is an opportunity for elected officials, community leaders, parents and youth advocates to engage with issues and refine advocacy skills alongside organizations with traction in this area. Families will have a stronger and more unified voice through collective engagement.” said Rev. Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation. “Children are encouraged to enjoy activities while adults discuss ways to improve the community.”

The festival will commence at 9:00 a.m. with a children’s advocacy forum: Prioritizing Children led by East Side Aligned and Ready by 21 youth and adult participants. Non-profit CEO’s and representatives from over 30 local not-for-profit organizations will join in advocating for kids alongside The Honorable Dean Hardt, Treasurer, City of Belleville; The Honorable Gina Mitten, Missouri State Representative; The Honorable Rev. Tommie Pierson, Sr. Missouri State Representative; and The Honorable Susan Meredith, Missouri State Representative.

After the policy forum, families are invited to join community leaders for a free lunch and  activities and entertainment featuring DJ Nune is Lamar Harris, a performance by Kreative Pandemonium, a reading by Treasure Shields Redmond, inflatable games, face painting, a balloon artist, stilt walkers, break dance workshop and open gym.  All activities are free and open to the public.

Schedule of Events: 

9 a.m. -- Advocacy Forum; Grant Awards

10 a.m. --Family Entertainment including outdoor play and the Children’s Service Fair with numerous organizations

11 a.m. -- Outdoor Performances

11:30 a.m. -- Rams Cheerleaders

Noon -- Lunch and Ice Cream Treats

1:00 p.m. – Workshops -- Parent Organizing; Activism through Film; How to Have Your Voice Heard, A podcasting workshop; Rock N Groove Break Dance Workshop and more.

Deaconess, established in 1889, celebrates more than 125 years of service to the St. Louis area and continues its mission -- pursuing health and hope for all St. Louis children. A ministry of the United Church of Christ, Deaconess has invested more than $74 million to improve the health of the St. Louis community since 1998.  The Foundation believes healthy, hope-filled futures for children benefit the entire region. Deaconess Foundation invests in endeavors that improve the well-being of children, engages our region around the plight of youth, and advocates for change.