Feature Story

VP Families Serve St. Louis

When people of all backgrounds team up for a worthy cause, it can have a tremendous impact on those who live and work in the community. That’s something the Veiled Prophet Organization understands. Its members make a commitment to serve St. Louis and continue a tradition of making the region a better place to live. T&S talked to two VP members and their families about how they give back and work toward the organization’s mission.

michael ruwitch
Michael Ruwitch says the VP Organization has changed significantly since he became involved more than two decades ago. “When I joined, it was primarily to meet people and be part of great events like the fair, parade and ball,” he explains. “Today, the organization has a great focus on giving back to St. Louis.” He adds that while the VP’s events are still entertaining, the meaning behind them is even more impactful. “It’s what they represent that is important,” he says. “The ball is a wonderful night, but it’s really a celebration of what the young ladies and their families have done collaboratively for the community.”

Working as a family to help others is something his daughter Dorothy also enjoys, and she says the VP provides great opportunities for that. “My parents taught me the value of helping others when I was young,” notes Dorothy, a 2018 Special Maid. “VP events build on what we’ve always done together but with a bigger community impact.” Along with VP projects and volunteering with her mother, Kay, at St. Patrick Center, Dorothy started a program at MICDS that makes meals for local soup kitchens. “My wife and I want to ingrain certain traits in our children so they strive to be better people,” Ruwitch says. “As a family, you want to do things together, but it’s also important to teach great values and build up the community.”

The Ruwitch family has been involved with Community Service Initiative (CSI) projects for 10 years. Ruwitch says his wife feels they are important, too. “If I have an engagement and Dorothy is at school, Kay will go by herself or with a friend,” he notes. “It’s more than just the members and maids who help.” The family has been involved with volunteer efforts for organizations like Great Circle, Mission: St. Louis and Missouri Veterans Endeavor. The latter was especially meaningful for Dorothy. She helped garden in the community, which provides housing for veterans and their families. “Children were running around outside, and some came over and wanted to help,” she recalls. “The families were very thankful. All we did was plant flowers, but it meant a lot to them, and that made it mean more to us. Every year the CSI continues to expand, and it’s so inspiring to be par t of the effort and watch the initiative grow.”

james mauze jr.
James Mauzé Jr. has been involved with the VP for more than 25 years, and his father became part of the organization in the 1970s. His family started participating in CSI projects together in 2010, and daughters Margaret, Louisa and Eve all have walked in the VP Ball. “It has been a great tradition in our family for many years,” Mauzé says. “Plus, the organization is evolving to become even more focused on giving back to the community and making St. Louis better for everyone.”

As the eldest daughter, Margaret says she enjoys getting to see her younger sisters follow in her footsteps. “It’s fun to watch them and their friends participate in service projects and go to the ball,” she explains. “It allows me to continue to be a part of the St. Louis community even though I’m currently living in Colorado.” And while the ball is certainly a highlight, Louisa notes that it’s much more than just a big party. “It’s connected to community service, s  there’s meaning behind it,” she says. “It’s unique to St. Louis and celebrates being a member of the community and getting involved to help others.”

Eve, a 2018 Special Maid, says she enjoys taking part in the family tradition as well. “It’s cool to do something my grandfather did,” she says, adding that her father and mother, Elizabeth, got her involved with CSI projects when Margaret started her volunteer efforts for the VP. “I love that we have been doing it for so long. I get to go back and see how things have improved.” Projects the family has been involved with include planting and gardening around Lake Louie with Brightside St. Louis, preparing and packing meals for Food Outreach, assembling and sending care packages for the military with Operation Sunscreen, and helping with educational programs at Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, Great Circle and Girls Inc.

“Last year, the VP had more than 800 volunteers working on more than 35 service projects and donating thousands of hours of community service to make St. Louis better,” Mauzé says. “It is rewarding to be part of it, and it’s so fun to spend a day with my family improving the lives of people who may not be as fortunate.”