Faith Beyond Walls is the only interfaith service organization in the St. Louis region. Since 2001 they have mobilized nearly 1,600 volunteers to participate in community improvement projects in low-wealth neighborhoods in St. Louis City and County, as well as Southern Illinois. In 2005 alone, a total of 963 volunteers completed 47 community projects
The volunteers come primarily from faith-based institutions throughout the St. Louis region and cover a broad age range from six-months to senior citizens. Because most of their projects occur on the weekend and involve landscaping, cleaning, painting and general beautification efforts, they are often appropriate for all ages.
Of their1, 382 active (participated on at least one project since 2001 and requested to remain in our database), 562 are individuals and the remaining 819 make up approximately 220 family units (spouses, domestic partners, parent/child and/or siblings). Thirty-six percent of the family units (79) are repeat volunteers (volunteering on more than one episodic project). Forty percent (31) of families have participated on a project together more than three times.
In order to recruit and retain families, they provide the following to make projects as family-friendly as possible: 1) Age level recommendations in all their materials, 2) A safe atmosphere where families can feel comfortable bringing younger children, 3) Detailed project information sheets including driving instructions, recommended attire, and contact information for each Site Coordinator, 4) All necessary project materials, including smaller work gloves for children and 5) Refreshments and restroom and shelter access in case children need a break or snack.
Their organization seeks projects with immediate, measurable and observable community impact. All of their projects focus either directly or indirectly on revitalization of low-wealth neighborhoods in St. Louis City and County. Together with their community partners, they are forging the path to revitalization by erasing evidence of neglect and leaving neighborhoods with clean and useable parks, litter-free and landscaped streetscapes and enjoyable public areas.
Many residents and community organizations in low-wealth neighborhoods are working diligently toward revitalization but lack financial resources or people-power to improve their neighborhoods. Faith Beyond Walls volunteers provide much needed people power to those neighborhoods, and equally important the civic engagement connects volunteers and collaborating agencies to the community and provides coalition building and advocacy, which are key elements of neighborhood revitalization.
One successful project that utilized volunteers of all ages includes an ongoing partnership with the City of Kinloch, one of the poorest communities in their region. Beginning in September 2005, over 500 volunteers worked to rehab apartment units for 6 Hurricane Evacuee families. Another successful partnership has been with the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging. Since 2000 a total of 550 interfaith volunteers have delivered 2,750 meals to the homebound elderly and disabled on Christmas morning. In addition, they have also partnered with St. Louis Children’s Hospital on their Healthy Kids at Play initiative to build 4 playgrounds in low-income neighborhoods.