Meet Karen Kalish

Karen Kalish is an agitator.

“Picture your washing machine. If you just put the clothes in and just let them sit there, nothing gets cleaned. You need some agitation to get things done,” she says.

Kalish is the founder of HomeWorks!, a teacher home visit program that focuses on increasing academic achievement, attendance, and parental involvement for students attending St. Louis public schools.

“This program focuses on literacy, the achievement gap, and issues of race. I want to create a different future for our young people than the one they’re facing now,” Kalish said.

Independent evaluations show that the program is creating significant positive change. Math scores among students who participated in HomeWorks! increased significantly compared to those not participating. Attendance among participants increased while non-participants’ attendance declined. And 79% of parents participating reported feeling “very connected” to their child’s school compared to 48% before their home visits.

The St.Louis Community Foundation has been a valuable partner to Kalish as she pioneered HomeWorks! along with many other philanthropic endeavors.She set up a Donor Advised Fund with the Community Foundation in 2001, and a Field of Interest Fund in 2004.

STLCF allows me to live out my core values in a very easy way. They’ve mentored me when I had questions about being a philanthropist, introduced me to new ways of thinking, and shown me how to be more effective. They’ve seen the value that this program brings to the community and shared in the excitement of my vision,” Kalish said.

For more information about HomeWorks!, visit