ST. LOUIS – Though I'll be spending time telling you about Cornerstone Center for Early Learning, this story is really about United Way. And you. That's because it's your dollars through the United Way network that make Cornerstone's story possible. And Cornerstone is just one of 170 United Way agencies rooted here in St. Louis making a difference every day.
United Way of Greater St. Louis funds health and human services organizations that serve 16 counties in Illinois and Missouri. Last year, more than 150,000 people and 2,600 businesses donated $72.25 million to United Way's campaign. I know United Way has been a household name for decades (since 1922 in St. Louis), but that doesn't mean United Way is irrelevant or past its time.
On the contrary, United Way is perfectly positioned to channel your hard-earned dollars to a myriad of agencies. And all of them have strict guidelines on governance, programming and administration.
Let's move on to Cornerstone Center. I asked Jerry Ehrlich, the agency's Executive Director, if I could refer to his agency as "The" Cornerstone Center and he shot me down. So, I will omit the "the". But, it doesn't take away from "the" various ways Cornerstone hits a home-run with those whom the agency serves. Yes, Cornerstone provides child care. But it goes beyond being a fancy daycare. Cornerstone Center provides a key educational component at an important time in a child's developmental years: infancy to pre-kindergarten years.
Cornerstone is a fully accredited early learning center – the first in St. Louis. It was started in 1969 by renting space from the Compton Heights Christian Church. They were known as the Helping Hand Daycare Center back then.
Today about 150 children are served every day at Cornerstone's facility on Russell Avenue in the Shaw Park neighborhood. It has a staff of full time teachers, some of which have been there for 30 years. There's even a full time social worker. Breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack that not only meets, but exceeds the USDA standard for schools. At no extra cost are diapers, wipes, infant formula and baby food, as well as, medical, dental, vision, hearing and developmental screenings. If necessary, speech, physical and/or occupational therapy are also available at no extra cost.
Wednesday is KSDK's United Way of Greater St. Louis Blitz Day, and we are hoping to help them reach this year's goal of $72.5 million.