Challenging times bring out the best in people, and nowhere is that more evident than in St. Louis, where philanthropy and service are as integral to the region’s identity as the Mississippi River or Gateway Arch. At the center of the city’s helping heart are the Veiled Prophet Foundation and its Community Service Initiative, which offer members and their loved ones a wealth of opportunities to make St. Louis a better place to live.

Every year, members and maids who walk in the annual VP Ball complete service projects, and that focus is expanding to get their family members involved as well. That’s how the organization helps to ensure the tradition of volunteerism stays alive in St. Louis, says Tim George, who is in his third year as chairperson of the VP Ball. Each season, families roll up their sleeves and complete projects for a variety of area nonprofits, from food collection to campus improvements and park beautification efforts. “We do 35 to 40 projects a year, including working with Habitat for Humanity, gardening for nonprofit organizations and improving playgrounds for schools in the area,” George says. “We love getting whole families involved and putting as many hands to work for our city as possible. Our members and their loved ones want to build community here, and this is an ideal way to do it.”

By the time the young women hit the VP Ball runway in their stunning gowns, they’ve made an equally striking contribution to the people of St. Louis, who can see the effects of their efforts all over town. “Six years ago when my daughter was part of the program, we worked on a downtown park project together, and every time we drive past, it’s a great reminder of the importance of giving back,” George says. “We can proudly say we did that for the community.”

The VP Ball, held in December, is a time to celebrate all of the people who have worked on the Community Service Initiative, Fair St. Louis, the VP Parade and other programs, and it’s also a chance to make each member feel appreciated for their work, George says—a tradition that grows richer with time. “Like many other members, I joined the VP in my 20s, worked on various projects over the years, then enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing my own daughter walk 23 years later,” he says. “It’s so rewarding to be in the audience, get recognized for your efforts and watch everything you’ve contributed over the years come full circle.”

George says another reason the program endures is that it encourages networking just as much as family bonding and community building. “The VP organization is made up of St. Louis leaders and businesspeople who have been here a long time, as well as newer members,” he says. “People just moving to town can take advantage of opportunities to engage and meet long-established locals, and that helps them gain an understanding of what St. Louis is all about so they can help it grow too. Getting involved with the organization is a great way to gain a wider social and community perspective.” Members are encouraged to suggest nonprofits the VP might work with in the future, and their ideas are considered carefully to see if a partnership is possible. “We enjoy figuring out how to best address areas of need in St. Louis,” George says.

He adds that it’s no coincidence the St. Louis VP Ball ranks among the top such events in the world. “People from all over know this is a city that understands how to put on a very special formal event, and I think that shows very well for St. Louis,” he says. “This is a place where people truly want to be of service, and we enjoy getting the chance to celebrate it.”

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

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo courtesy of The Veiled Prophet Organization

Pictured at the top: Tim George
Photo courtesy of The Veiled Prophet Organization