Cover Stories

Veiled Prophet Organization

St. Louis is a city rich in traditions, and some of its most beloved are the work of the Veiled Prophet Foundation. Each year, thousands of revelers enjoy VP events like Fair St. Louis, but many may not know the whole story behind those two familiar letters.

Mark Lewis, chair of the 2019 Veiled Prophet Ball, says the nonprofit’s main goal is to make the Gateway City a great place to live and work through philanthropy and community service, and it’s starting the new year with a renewed emphasis on that commitment. “The theme of the 2019 ball was the renaissance of St. Louis,” he says. “We chose that idea because we want everyone to know about the great developments happening here. We point to things like the St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup victory, the Major League Soccer announcement, new corporate headquarters, and local advancements in biotechnology and entrepreneurship. From our perspective, all of this ties in closely with the VP maids and their families, who also do their part to make the community successful. Our organization dates back more than 140 years, but it always stays true to the original theme of enhancing local economic growth.”

Lewis, who is chief financial officer at the advertising technology firm LockerDome, says the VP’s Community Service Initiative (CSI) is always evolving, looking for new nonprofit partners and ways to help neighbors in need. The program gives VP members, maids and their families the chance to roll up their sleeves, create connections and make a personal impact on community improvement efforts. In 2019 alone, 1,000 volunteers worked on 38 projects for 25 local charities. They cleaned school classrooms, planted sustainable gardens, built an outdoor fitness and learning station, packed and distributed meals, visited children in hospitals, gathered school supplies for students, assembled care packages for first responders and overseas military, and much more.

Over the holidays, volunteers helped Mission St. Louis host a pancake breakfast and affordable gift shopping day for area families, and they brightened the lives of patients at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital with festive caroling. “We wanted to make them smile and take their minds off what they are going through, even just for an hour,” Lewis notes. At other times of the year, volunteers also partner with local nonprofits like the Royal Vagabonds, a service organization of African-American men who support scholarships and other youth education programs.

Lewis says a team effort is needed to guide the city into its next phase of development and success. “Each year at the Veiled Prophet Ball, we celebrate the young women and their volunteer efforts, but it’s also about the members and their families who put time and effort into the community,” he says. “We want to reflect the city we serve, and our membership continues to grow and diversify. We’re proud that a lot has been accomplished in the past decade, and we are working hard to get people excited for the new one.”

Each year, the Veiled Prophet Foundation supports area betterment through events, philanthropic programs and its Community Service Initiative. Pictured on the cover: 2019 Veiled Prophet Queen Lily Shelton Baur and her father, Andrew Baur. For more information, visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Emily Owens

Pictured at top: Caroline Sant and her father, Frank, paint at La Salle Middle School.
Photo courtesy of VP Foundation