Cover Stories

A Better STL: Veiled Prophet Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered the landscape of Veiled Prophet Foundation service projects this summer, but the organization’s commitment to neighborhood betterment hasn’t wavered. Bob Otto, vice chair for the organization’s Community Service Initiative (CSI), says young women in the 2020 program have focused mainly on outdoor projects to keep everyone safe.

“It’s been a challenge, but we’ve been able to adapt,” Otto says. “Some of the nonprofits we usually work with were not comfortable having volunteers on their campuses this summer, and we needed to be sensitive to that. As a result, we stuck mainly with outdoor programs where everyone could stay socially distanced.” Participants worked on a campus cleanup at North Side Community School, planting and beautification efforts at St. Louis City Hall, landscaping and outdoor recreation facilities at the Great Circle mental health nonprofit, and other similar projects.

Even with physical distancing restrictions in place, CSI still fosters a spirit of closeness between VP participants and charities that change lives. “It’s increasingly important for us to be outward-facing in the community, especially during difficult times,” Otto notes. “The pandemic has been a major stressor for many people, but it also has highlighted other critical areas where we can help.” In July, for example, the foundation partnered with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and area food banks to provide meals for families in need.

Some VP participants were able to complete their community service projects in St. Louis this year, but others could not because of the pandemic, so the foundation gave them credit for volunteer work performed in other cities and online. “We simply ask the young women to serve the community, whether it’s through a VP program or something else,” Otto says. “The current situation has required us to be more flexible than usual, but it also has brought out everyone’s sense of resilience.”

According to Otto, the organization hopes to fill the remainder of the year with additional efforts to bring comfort and cheer. “Participants will organize donations of school supplies and backpacks for students, sing holiday carols for patients at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and create gift boxes for National Guard troops overseas,” he says. “The packages include personal care products, candy, movies and other items. Also, this fall, we will fund and staff an affordable Christmas gift shopping event for area children and families.” And next year, the foundation plans to get VP participants involved in a beautification project with Forest Park Forever.

Otto says the pandemic, though challenging, has renewed the VP organization’s commitment to serving others. “We look for additional nonprofits to partner with and new ways to grow the program each year,” he says. “At the end of the day, our purpose is always to make St. Louis a better place for everyone to live.”

The Veiled Prophet Foundation and its Community Service Initiative are dedicated to improving the lives of St. Louisans through financial and volunteer support. For more information, visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photos courtesy of The Veiled Prophet Foundation