Donations from supporters, online auction will help fund a 49 percent increase in scholarship applications due to COVID-19

Note: This news release is being re-posted following an original posting date of 6/9/20.

(ST. LOUIS, MO) June 9, 2020 – The St. Louis-based Lutheran Elementary School Association (LESA) will award a record $505,000 for need-based scholarships to help fund a 49 percent increase in qualified applications due in part to the COVID-19 crisis. The increased need and funding amount mean LESA will award scholarships to 624 students of all faiths this year during the first round of awards, compared to final total of 371 in 2019-20.

The additional funds were made possible by endowment earnings, extraordinary gifts from LESA’s donors, and the unprecedented success of its first-ever Cooking for Kids Online Auction, which raised a record $263,000 (a 25 percent increase over last year) to support scholarships and services for LESA member schools. In addition, a generous family redirected their $50,000 annual endowment gift to be applied exclusively to scholarships due to the pandemic.

“Historically, 36 percent of LESA Lutheran school scholarship recipients live at or below the Federal Poverty Level, so we knew right away that the financial impact of COVID-19 would be severe,” said Sue Nahmensen, LESA’s CEO. “Thanks to the generous and overwhelming support of the St. Louis community, we are now in a much stronger position to support those families than when this pandemic began.”

To answer that need, LESA extended its 2020-21 application deadlines and asked families to specify if they had experienced job loss or underemployment. As a result, 82 families reported a loss of employment or reduced work hours, compared to eight families last year.

Currently, 1 in 10 Lutheran elementary school students in the St. Louis Metro Area receives need-based tuition assistance from LESA. Of those students, 47% are of non-white ethnicity, 36% attend urban ministry schools and 48% are non-Lutheran.

In late March, LESA made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel its largest and most important fundraiser – its 16th Annual Cooking for Kids Tribute Dinner-Auction, which had been scheduled for April 18 – and convert it to an online auction.

“Event tickets had been sold and sponsorships had been secured, and we just couldn’t afford to lose those funds for our schools and families,” said Nahmensen. “Fortunately, when we contacted those supporters, nearly every sponsor, donor and event guest made it clear, beyond any doubt, that they were with us, and that made it possible for us to succeed with our online event.”

In May, LESA received additional good news from Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis when announced it would award a $50,000 Partner Stability Grant ​to help LESA continue to provide services to students and member schools.

Since 2004, LESA has awarded more than $5.5 million in financial assistance through its Building Blocks Scholarship Fund to children of all faiths enrolled in Lutheran elementary schools. Scholarships are funded annually through the generosity of LESA donors, special events and endowment growth. (To learn more about donating to LESA, or setting up special endowment gifts, contact Katherine “Kit” Auble at 314-200-0797, or

More than 8,300 students attend LESA member Lutheran schools in the St. Louis Metro Area, making it the second largest private school system in the Bi-State Region. A Recognized Service Organization of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, LESA represents 34 elementary and high schools. For information on our members schools and enrollment, visit


Katherine (Kit) Auble
Director, Fund Development and Marketing
314-200-0797 – voicemail

Brenda Kimberlin
Communications & Outreach Coordinator
Lutheran Elementary School Association (LESA)
314-496-1799 – cell