Nonprofit Spotlight: UrbanReachSTL

“When you feel unseen and unheard, it’s hard to have focus and dreams,” said Tina Squires, Co-Director of UrbanReachSTL, Inc. 

UrbanReachSTL works to empower and encourage long-term change in the homes, streets, neighborhood, and surrounding communities of Columbus Square, St. Louis. This area is the lowest income zip code in the state of Missouri and scores a 2 on a 1–100 safety scale (100 being the safest) and is considered a food desert. 

The organization provides programming for all ages year-round, such as summer block parties, trunk-or-treat, and a “Night of Hope” Christmas event. Their crime reduction initiative includes mentorship and will be implementing street walks with other community partners in the late hours of the night. 

In the summer, neighborhood residents of all ages participate in summer-camp style programming in a public housing square that belongs to the city. They sing, dance, participate in bible story lesson, and enjoy teamwork-focused games and crafts. Lunch or snacks are served daily, and breakfast is available to those who ask for it. The summer camp program supports 150–200 children per summer. In early August, 25-30 kids get to attend an overnight weekend camp in the country to ride horses, swim in a lake, and have new experiences. 

Tiffany, a camp participant, said: “Hi, my name is Tiffany. Bible study taught me a lot of things. I’m glad I’m close to God now. It’s a lot of very nice people there and they do a lot of nice things for you like have dinners every Thursday and take some of the kids to camp every summer at camp. You do a lot of nice things like swim in a lake, do a bonfire, ride horses and do a talent show. Urban Reach means so much to me.️” 

Volunteers complete community service such as street cleanup. UrbanReachSTL partners with organizations such as St. Louis Public School (Patrick Henry Downtown Academy), various youth volunteer organizations, and various mission teams. “It’s incredible to see our organization and our community come together for change,” said Squires. 

A large part of these community service projects is “The Building”—a structure that was once one of the city’s largest drug houses. The property was donated to UrbanReachSTL in 2019. Now, UrbanReachSTL is working to transform it into a place for the community to heal and flourish. The new center will have space for volunteers to be housed while serving in St. Louis, a kitchen, dining room, lounge, dance and art studios, chapel, and several large multipurpose rooms. “We want it to feel loving, accepting, and safe. It will be a place people can come to learn and flourish,” said Squires. The project will cost an estimated $3–$5 million. 

UrbanReachSTL’s programming is relationship-based: they will remain in underserved communities for the long-term to build consistency, trust, respect, and communication. “We want residents to understand that they have a voice for change and can thrive where they live,” said Squires. 

If you are interested in joining the 1,000+ volunteers who have served with UrbanReachSTL, click here to email Tina Squires for more information. The organization has a particular need for St. Louis-based volunteers, who provide consistency to neighborhood residents. 

If you would like to make a donation to UrbanReachSTL, click here 

UrbanReachSTL is a participant in Give STL Day. Give STL Day is powered by the St. Louis Community Foundation and will take place on May 5, 2022.