Cover Stories

Birthday Wishes: Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis

On his 16th birthday, Michael McMillan joined the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis after he was inspired by his uncle’s work with the organization. Now, more than three decades later, he serves as the nonprofit’s president. “My relationship with this organization transformed my life and gave me the ability to live out my passion and purpose through my profession,” he says. To celebrate this long-lasting partnership, the Urban League is throwing McMillan a special 50th birthday celebration that also will support its mission of providing the community economic opportunity, educational excellence, community empowerment and civil rights advocacy.

The event will be held July 24 at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park. “It will be an evening for friends and supporters to celebrate the Urban League and for me to share the blessings that I have received from the agency,” McMillan says. “I wanted any gifts that would have been given to me personally to go to the organization.” An affiliate of the National Urban League, the nonprofit offers programs and resources to help African-Americans and others in the region achieve success. The local organization currently is partway through its Restoring Hope Campaign, and the celebration will help it reach its $20,000,000 goal.

The Restoring Hope Campaign’s objective is to transform the Victor Roberts Building, also known as the Old Sears Building, on North Kingshighway into a new headquarters for the nonprofit. Built in 1928, the 205,000-square-foot facility has played a pivotal role in North St. Louis’ history, especially for the African-American community, and McMillan notes that the Urban League plans to build on that legacy and establish an essential community resource. “Our goal is to create a beacon of hope, opportunity and empowerment,” he says. “We want to build on the facility’s history to create a better and brighter future for the community.”

The Urban League serves thousands of people annually through more than 50 programs in areas like housing, education and employment. Last year highlighted the importance of these services as the pandemic put extreme pressure on many people. “COVID-19 required us to take our mission to new heights, and our staff and board rose to the challenge,” McMillan notes. “Our goal was to do the most that we could for as long as we could, and that work continues to this day.” In 2020, the nonprofit distributed food, toiletries and personal protective equipment to more than 125,000 families and provided millions of dollars in critical funds to help people struggling to pay rent and utilities.

Along with the Restoring Hope Campaign, the Urban League is looking forward to continuing to grow in other areas. Last year, it merged with Grace Hill Settlement House, and McMillan says that moving forward, the nonprofit will expand its housing and economic development services along with those for youth and seniors. “Coming out of the pandemic, we’ve continued to be the beneficiary of enormous support, and we’re looking forward to helping families stay whole and find security again,” he notes. “We rely on donations to do meaningful work, but with the generosity of the people of St. Louis, I know we’ll achieve our goals.”

Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis provides programs for economic opportunity, educational excellence, community empowerment and civil rights advocacy. Its fundraiser celebrating president Michael McMillan’s 50th birthday is July 24. Pictured on the cover: Michael McMillan, state senator Karla May, Urban League board member Keith Williamson of Centene Corporation. For more information, call 314.615.3668 or visit ulstl.com.

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Bill Barrett

Pictured at top: President Michael McMillan
Photo: Bill Barrett

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