04 Jun

LESA to Award Record $505,000 in Scholarships for 2020-21 School Year 

LESA to Award Record $505,000 in Scholarships for 2020-21 School Year

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

(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 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 $6.1 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 kauble@lesastl.org.)

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 www.lesastl.org


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

Brenda Kimberlin
Communications & Outreach Coordinator
314-496-1799 – cell

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18 May

Thank You!

Thank You!

A Message to our Supporters

Even as we write this, we can hardly believe it. Once again, your generosity has humbled us and shown us the magnitude of the Lord’s grace.

When we made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel our 16th Annual Cooking for Kids Tribute Dinner-Auction fundraiser, we knew it was the right thing to do for our community and our supporters. But, like you, we were worried about the families and schools that we serve.

Cooking for Kids is our largest and most critical fundraiser. Each year, we rely on it to fulfill our mission to make Lutheran Christian education affordable for every family, regardless of income. We also knew that the financial impact of the pandemic would make that need even more urgent for the families we serve.

So we tried something new. We converted our in-person event to an online auction – new territory for us – and we turned to you, our faithful and generous supporters, for help. And once again, you not only answered that call, you humbled us with your response. Nearly every sponsor, donor and supporter made it clear, beyond any doubt, that they were with us.

Then, when our auction opened April 18 – the same day that we would have gathered to celebrate – we saw that support grow from both new friends and faithful donors. In fact, the gifts are still coming in!

In total, we raised over $263,000, a 25% increase from 2019 and our highest ever!

We shouldn’t have been surprised. For 15 years, you have faithfully supported LESA’s mission to sustain the future of Lutheran education in St. Louis.

This month we began the process of awarding tuition assistance for the 2020/21 school year. Since this pandemic began, we’ve seen a 49 percent increase in qualified scholarship applications from last year. We are still concerned for those families, but we know that the Lord will always provide the guidance and resources needed.  And He did, as He worked though your generosity – so, we praise Him and share our heartfelt thanks with you!

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

On behalf of the 8,300 students, 500 educators and 34 member schools that we serve, thank you for making this possible.

God’s Blessings,

The LESA Team

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30 Apr

LESA Secures CARES Act Funding to Protect Scholarships, Services during COVID-19

LESA Secures CARES Act Funding to Protect Scholarships, Services during COVID-19

As we navigate the new reality of this pandemic, our worries and concerns are for the students and schools that we serve. Although much remains unknown about this virus, one thing is certain – the financial impact of this crisis on the families we serve will be severe. Over the last 15 years, LESA has awarded more than $5.5 million in financial assistance to children of all faiths enrolled in our 31 member Lutheran elementary schools. But as this crisis continues, we know that many more students will need our help.

Under the careful and continued guidance of our LESA Board of Directors, we are doing everything we can to prepare for and meet that need. When Congress passed the CARES Act in March, which authorized funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, we moved quickly to apply for and receive assistance to cover payroll, rent and utilities. The program, administered by the Small Business Administration, is designed to help non-profits and small businesses keep their workers employed. For LESA, this emergency funding means we can continue to serve our schools during this time of need. In addition to that action, we recently secured an emergency line of credit to provide an added level of protection during these uncertain times. We are thankful for our ministry partners and donors who continue to support our mission through sponsorships, endowments, online donations and participation in our major fundraisers, our annual Cooking for Kids Dinner-Auction and Brew in the Lou (pending – Oct. 10, 2020).

So it is with hopeful hearts that we move forward with our mission to make Lutheran education available to every child, regardless of circumstances. Our LESA Scholarship Awards Committee is making tentative plans to meet in June to review applications for the 2020-21 school year. So far, we have seen a 48 percent increase in qualified applications compared to last year. Nevertheless, we are asking our member schools to encourage all eligible families to apply for assistance, including new students. We are also asking schools to alert us to families whose employment has been affected by the Covid-19 crisis. We know that for many families, this will be the first time they have had to ask for help. We know that with the Lord’s guidance and your continued support, we will be here to provide it.

To find out how our schools are teaching and connecting through this crisis, click here.

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30 Apr

LESA Welcomes New Board Members

LESA Welcomes New Board Members

Please join us in welcoming Alan Vogt and Rev. Alan M. Erdman to our LESA Board of Directors. Both are longtime advocates and supporters of the LESA Ministry and Lutheran schools. We look forward to benefiting from their insight and dedication as we work to sustain the future of Lutheran education. Read on to learn more about their expertise and backgrounds. 

Alan Vogt

Alan and his wife Linda have been active LESA ministry partners for 15 years. In addition to establishing an endowment to fund LESA scholarships and educational programs, Alan is a member of the LESA Fund Development Committee. The Vogts are members of Concordia Lutheran Church in Kirkwood.


  • St Luke’s Lutheran Elementary School in south St. Louis (Class of 1961)
  • Lutheran South (Class of 1965)
  • St. Louis University (Class of 1969) – B.S., Commerce and Finance


  • Stifel Nicolaus – Vice President of Taxable Fixed Income Trading (1969-85)
  • The Heitner Corp. – Vice President of Fixed Income Trading (1985-90)
  • J.A. Glynn & JAG Capital Management (1990-present) – Vice President and Director of Fixed Income Trading
    • Alan is one of four shareholders and a member of JAG’s management committee. JAG manages Equity and Fixed Income Portfolios for individuals and religious institutions around the country.

Rev. Alan M. Erdman

Alan and his wife Lucy have been longtime partners in the LESA Ministry and Lutheran causes. In addition to serving on the LESA Fund Development Committee, Alan is a past Board Member of Lutheran Charities Foundation, St. Louis, and Lutheran Services in America (LSA), headquartered in Washington D.C. Lucy is the Director of Special Services for Westminster Christian Academy. The Erdmans have four grown children and are members of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Chesterfield. (And did we mention that Alan is an avid Green Bay Packers fan?!)


  • University of Utah – B.S., Philosophy (Class of 1974)
  • Christ Seminary Seminex, St. Louis – MDiv, Theology (Class of 1979)
  • Concordia Seminary, St. Louis – S.T.M., Pastoral Counseling (1983)


  • Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sappington – Associate Pastor (1979-84) and Senior Pastor (1984-92)
  • Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Missouri (LFCS) – CEO/President (1992-2016 – retired)
  • St. Louis University, Adjunct Faculty – School of Social Work (2007-16)


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23 Apr

Green Park Lutheran Student is St. Louis’s 2020 Lutheran Student Christian Leader

Green Park Lutheran Student is St. Louis’s 2020 Lutheran Student Christian Leader

Ella Arbeiter, 13, is the 2020 Student Christian Leader!

Ella Arbeiter, a recent graduate of Green Park Lutheran School in south St. Louis County and a new Lutheran South freshman, has been named Lutheran Student Christian Leader of the Year by the St. Louis-based Lutheran Elementary School Association (LESA). The award, which includes a $500 scholarship underwritten by the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, recognizes Lutheran elementary school students who demonstrate courage, compassion, leadership, academic achievement and a commitment to their community. (Click here to see a video interview with Ella.)

Ella, 13, had been scheduled to receive her award Saturday, April 18, at LESA’s annual “Cooking for Kids” Tribute Dinner-Auction at Orlando Gardens South. The dinner, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis, was converted to an online auction event to support scholarships and services for students at 31 Lutheran elementary schools in the St. Louis area. Bidding ran April 18 to May 3 at www.lesastl.org.

Ella was nominated for the award by one of her teachers, Mr. Joshua Dixon. “Ella has been instrumental over the past few years in the operation of our yearly food drives and donation drives for missionaries and other church work,” said Mr. Dixon. “She’s the first to volunteer, the first to comfort, the first to try new things and the first to jump into action when action is needed. She leads by example and encourages others to follow her example.”

Last year, Ella and her mother Emily participated in a mission trip to Hong Kong, where Ella helped students read and speak English. “It was so cool to be over there and to share our faith,” said Ella. She says her desire to help others is inspired by her mother, who raised Ella as a single mother after having her in college. “I look up to my mother as a leader because she did it by herself,” said Ella. “She moved to St. Louis where she didn’t know anyone. I see her as a huge role model in my life.”

In addition to her service work and studies, Ella is an active athlete. At Green Park, she played basketball and ran track and cross country. She also swims competitively year-round. Her favorite subjects are English and math, and she hopes to work in business or accounting someday. In the meantime, she’s looking forward to attending Lutheran South in the fall. For Ella, being a Lutheran Christian Leader is a way of life. “It means that you try to be the best role model – when someone is looking and when someone is not.”

“Cooking for Kids” is LESA’s largest annual fundraising event to support and sustain the future of Lutheran Christian education in the St. Louis Metro Area.

About LESA

More than 8,300 children of all faiths attend LESA member Lutheran schools in the St. Louis Metro Area, making Lutheran schools the second-largest private school system in the Bi-State Region. A Recognized Service Organization of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, LESA represents 31 elementary schools, three high schools and three related agencies. Since 2004, LESA has awarded more than $5.5 million in need-based scholarships to 3,488 students in the St. Louis area. Visit www.LESAstl.org, or follow us on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/brewintheloustl/.

About Green Park Lutheran School

Green Park Lutheran School is a nationally accredited JK-8 school located in south St. Louis county. For over 55 years Green Park Lutheran has served as a destination and a pillar in the community, offering academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment. Located at Union on Green Park Road near I-55 and Reavis Barracks, Green Park is a ministry owned and operated by Christ Memorial, Gethsemane, Peace and Resurrection churches. For information on enrollment for the 2020-21 school year, or to schedule a tour, visit https://greenparklutheranschool.org/, or call 314-544-4248.


Katherine (Kit) Auble
Director, Fund Development and Marketing

Brenda  Kimberlin
Media Coordinator
Lutheran Elementary School Association (LESA)
314-496-1799 (cell)

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17 Apr

The Lutheran Difference: Teaching & Connecting through COVID-19

The Lutheran Difference: Teaching & Connecting through COVID-19

How LESA Schools are “Steering into the Skid” during the COVID-19 Crisis

Laura Montgomery, M.A., Ed.Director, Educational Resources

Learning continues for students in LESA schools amidst the closure of buildings due to the coronavirus outbreak. Many schools were on Spring Break when the transformation to e-learning full-time began, allowing principals and teachers a few days to prepare, but at the same time, surrendering well-earned time off. The result? The learning continues and better yet, the proclamation of the Gospel in our Lutheran schools and building of relationships that are Christ-centered are more important now than ever.

Schools are using a variety of online platforms to reach their students such as Zoom, Google Meet/Hangout, and YouTube. Stories are read to younger children. Class and staff meetings are held. Weekly chapel services are live-streamed or recorded and shared in addition to daily devotion and prayer time. Teachers have check-ins with students not just on academic issues, but for emotional support as well. Many schools have modified art, PE, and band to keep students engaged in these areas as well. Some schools also augment with learning packets families pick up from schools. This is also a needed option as not all students have equal access to e-learning devices or full-time Internet access.

The Lutheran education difference can be found in our relationships. “The main goal from the beginning was to keep the connections with students and families. Connected learners are going to work harder and longer to keep up with work. Parents have been very supportive of what the teachers have done and the love they have shown the kids. Now the emphasis is on preparing for the start of next year and narrowing the relationship gap before we worry about any academic gap,” stated Marc Debrick, Principal, Zion Lutheran School, St. Charles.

Our LESA schools have steered into the skid. It was unexpected, but we know that ultimately, God is at the wheel guiding our direction. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Kathy Chapin, principal at Trinity Lutheran in Orchard Farm, sums it up: “God has prepared our school for such a time as this, and we are counting our blessings as we count down the days until we can actually be together.”

Read on to find out how different LESA schools are serving their students and families.

Green Park Lutheran School, south St. Louis County
“We have continued our Wednesday chapel schedule. The person that was assigned to lead chapel that day has done a recording of their service/message and we have sent that link out to the kids for Wednesday chapel. We also provide Art for Grades K-8. Our Art teacher does a once-a-week Zoom time with the kids and puts the art project description out as a recording on YouTube. She has chosen Art projects that use products they would have around the house. Band for grades 5-8 continues with some one-on-one time and once a week a full group, to keep them practicing. This week we have added PE to the mix, logging some workouts and walks/runs.”
Stephen Eggold, Principal, Green Park Lutheran School

Zion Lutheran School, St. Charles
“The main goal from the beginning was to keep the connections with students and families. Connected learners are going to work harder and longer to keep up with work. Teachers are concentrating on the core subjects and not more than three lessons per week. The biggest issue for families was/is sharing band width while they work at home and having enough devices for everyone to get accomplished what was needed. Grades 3-8 have used Google Classroom to communicate academics and have students turn in homework. Parents have been very supportive of what the teachers have done and the love they have shown the kids. Now the emphasis is on preparing for the start of next year and narrowing the relationship gap before we worry about any academic gap.
Marc Debrick, Principal, Zion Lutheran School, St. Charles

“Our teachers are utilizing Google Classroom, Hangouts, and Zoom to conduct their classes. Many of our teachers are even conducting class meetings with these platforms to just simply allow the students and teacher to hang out and check on their overall mental well-being. This has been huge for students to just see their friends and create a new normalcy and routine for them to grow. In the end, our focus has been put not just on the academic side of things, but the overall relationship of the class community.
Brandon Marolf, Asst. Principal, Zion, St. Charles
(Watch an episode of eChapel on YouTube with Mr. Marolf!)

“Our e-Learning has continued to morph in ways we never thought possible in early childhood education (ECE). Weekly chapels and daily stories are sent to families via YouTube. Teachers continue to send out daily or weekly blogs loaded with photos from families as they participate in activities at home. We have a very strong connection to our families in our ECE program. Our faith connection, strong parent-teacher relationships and Zion’s gift of technology make this happen. We are very blessed.”
Cheryl Haun, Zion, St. Charles

Trinity Lutheran School, St. Charles
What a blessing to be a small school and to be prepared for such a time as this. We meet as classrooms each week on Google Meets where we have devotions together, and then we share, laugh, and grow together virtually. We all agree (even students) that being together at school is such a better way to learn, but this seems to be second best. Our teachers also upload teaching videos that students access. Teachers are available via phone, Google Meet, and email to help in any way. One of our teachers created a Google site that has ideas for younger children. Our teachers also put together paper packets for younger students. We know that our parents are working hard to partner more than ever in their child’s education. Without our hard-working families, education would not be as effective. We are grateful for our parents who help their child log in, check their e-mails, navigate through some assignments as needed, and complete their work.
God has prepared our school for such a time as this, and we are counting our blessings as we count down the days until we can actually be together.
Kathy Chapin, Trinity, St. Charles

River Roads Lutheran School, north St. Louis
“The staff has made a tremendous adjustment to this new process and jumped in with open arms. I am really proud of the work they’re doing to partner with their students so that they can be successful. We meet every morning for staff devotions on conference call for 15 minutes and once a week for a regular staff meeting to cover professional development topics or answer any questions. Every morning, I record a video to keep our students focused on the Mission ministry first by leading a short devotions with prayer, praises and stories with them through Youtube called “Blessings with Ms. Boyd.” Nothing fancy, just a way to keep some normalcy with our students and staff because every morning they will gather in the school gym for morning devotions. We really miss those times. Also, within the learning plan we added a time for their Religion and Memory lessons which includes kids videos of the Bible story they’re learning for the week. For the remainder of the day, the students are engaged in learning through two online, educational apps (IXL and Khan Academy, along with Google Classroom/Hangouts) that have truly helped our students engage in their learning process (YEAH!). We also include break times and exercise, art, science activities and journaling/writing videos and projects. Thanks be to God that over 50% of our students are engaged in the online process with the few technology equipment we already had in the school and what their parents provided for them. We are also excited that the Lutheran Foundation has granted us a scholarship to upgrade our technology equipment due to this pandemic. We are awaiting on the funds to make those purchases and get the other students online. PRAISE GOD FOR THAT BLESSING! Oh, by the way, the other students who are not online, received learning packets for 2 weeks at a time so that they can also stay engaged in learning.”
Yvonne Boyd, Principal, River Roads Lutheran School

To learn more about The Lutheran Difference, click here to find and visit a Lutheran school near you.

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23 Mar

LESA Launches $500 Digital Marketing Match for Schools

LESA Launches $500 Digital Marketing Match for Schools

Nearly 30 LESA principals and marketing & admissions directors gathered Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at Lutheran North for LESA’s Spring 2020 School Marketing Gathering.

The focus of the event was Best Practices for Digital Marketing and Advertising to help schools navigate and evaluate the numerous digital options available to schools and education organizations. In addition to the presentation, Katherine Auble, LESA’s Director of Marketing and Fund Development, announced the launch of a new $500 LESA Digital Marketing Match program to help schools build and enhance their online marketing and recruitment campaigns.

Under the match program, LESA will provide $500 in matching funds to the first 10 schools in a position to commit. So far, eight LESA member schools have committed to participating. Based on the outcomes from this initial match offer, we hope to extend it to more member schools in the future.

LESA organizes and hosts dedicated school marketing events each school year to give principals, support staff and marketing & admissions directors from our 34 member schools a chance to meet, talk and share best practices for growing enrollment and marketing their schools. Past presentations have included parent-school communication, social media marketing, admissions screening, crisis communication, school tours and best practices for student retention.

For more information on LESA’s school marketing outreach efforts, contact:

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

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23 Mar

LESA Extends 2020-21 Scholarship Application Deadlines due to COVID-19

LESA Extends 2020-21 Scholarship Application Deadlines due to COVID-19

A message from our Scholarship Program Director

With all the unprecedented changes in our daily lives over the past week and weeks to come, due to COVID-19, LESA feels it is in the best interest of our schools and families to extend the scholarship application deadline to allow families time to complete the application and extra time to get their taxes done and documents submitted to their scholarship application for 2020/2021.

We understand some families may not have access to a computer and we would encourage schools to assist these families and allow them access to the computers at school by appointment only. LESA staff are available by phone (numbers listed below) to assist with application questions and FACTS customer service is available as well. The FACTS customer service number is 866-412-4637.

Family Information:

April 10, 2020 – Scholarship Application Deadline

April 30, 2020 – Application must be Complete/Verified (Compete/Verified = all documents have been submitted, FACTS verified all documents, and application status is complete/verified on April 30). LESA only reviews applications for a scholarship award that are complete/verified.

School Information:

April 30, 2020 – LESA School Comments Form deadline:

  • The LESA School Comments Form is now open and available for principals to complete for each student that has a submitted application. I encourage all principals to complete the LESA School Comments Form on a weekly basis from now until April 30. The Comments Form needs to be completed for every student, whether they have a complete or incomplete application. So if you could take time each week to view the applications on FACTS from families at your school and complete the LESA Comments Form frequently, the LESA Scholarship Award Committee will be able to review more applications during our award committee meeting in May.

Notifications – LESA will notify the school and families of the scholarship award determinations via email by May 31, 2020.

LESA understands the challenges and difficulties facing our world today and we pray that everyone will continue to lean on their faith and put their trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Maureen Gersman
Office Manager & Scholarship Program Director
314.200.0790 – Main Phone & Voicemail

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23 Mar

Special Message from Sue Nahmensen on COVID-19

Special Message from Sue Nahmensen on COVID-19

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   

Isaiah 41:10

Dear Friends, in challenging times like these, how blessed are we to have faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! It is this faith that drives LESA’s mission to share the message of God’s mercy and grace and the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ with children and families through LESA’s support of the Lutheran school ministries in our community. We ask you to join us as we hold close to our hearts and thoughts and lift up in prayer those who are afflicted by the COVID-19 virus, as well as all those who are affected, perhaps not by the illness itself, but by the economic and social impact of the world’s current health crisis, and as always, for those served by and serving in our Lutheran school communities. We pray that the times ahead provide opportunities to reflect Christ’s love to all whom we encounter, especially to those in need. The Board of Directors and staff are so very grateful and blessed to have your partnership in this ministry! God bless you!

A final note, while our schools shift to at-home learning for the next couple of weeks, please know that the LESA staff continues to further the mission and activities that serve our schools and families. We will be taking opportunities to work from home as often as possible, limiting on-site work to that which is mission-critical. All staff members remain available by phone and email to serve you.

Sue Nahmensen
Chief Executive Officer
Lutheran Elementary School Association (LESA)
Building Blocks Scholarship Fund

314-200-0790 – Main Phone
314.200.0799 – Direct & Voicemail

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of GodEphesians 2:8

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23 Mar

LESA Volunteer Spotlight: Auction Action with Deb Hofmann & Jackie Roedel 

LESA Volunteer Spotlight: Auction Action with Deb Hofmann & Jackie Roedel

If you’ve ever stopped by our LESA office in the months and weeks leading up to our annual Cooking for Kids Tribute Dinner-Auction, you might have noticed two of our busy volunteers, Deb Hofmann and Jackie Roedel, putting together the 60-80 unique gift baskets that fill our Silent Auction tables at the event (or in the case of this year’s virtual “Cooking for Kids” – your computer screen!). Like all of our volunteers, Deb and Jackie are a vital part of LESA’s mission to serve our families, teachers and member schools. Read on to learn more about their contributions. 

What do you do at LESA?

Deb: We organize and procur items that come in for LESA’s Annual “Cooking for Kids” Dinner-Auction and also Brew in the Lou, to a lesser extent. We put them together artistically and then catalogue and keep track of what went over well the year before. And the day before the event, we help set everything up. All the little things that have to be done behind the scenes. 

Jackie: We get all the supplies and everything out, and then we decide what would go well with what in each basket. Then we build the basket, and then we complete the basket. The better the job we do, the more LESA can do for our students and schools. 

How long have you volunteered for LESA?

Deb: This is my third auction. I started volunteering after I retired from working in healthcare administration at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University. 

Jackie: I started in 2009 after I retired from working as a physical therapist at St. Anthony’s (now Mercy Hospital South) Acute Care division. However, when I was still working, I helped set up the tables when the dinner-auction was held at Royale Orleans. And then when I retired, I didn’t know how to do baskets, I’d never done one in my life! But my good friend Linda Lehr, another longtime LESA volunteer, recruited me. 

How many hours a week do you volunteer? 

Jackie: When we’re really going strong, five days a week, 9-3 pm, basically a full work week. 

Deb: We start working on the baskets the first week of January. And then after the event, we clean up and then we start again in August for Brew in the Lou.  

What’s the secret to a successful auction basket? 

Jackie: Teamwork – we decide on the items together, we put it together, we build it together. We each have our own niche. We bounce ideas off each other. And then I will usually do the shrink-wrapping and Deb bows them, she is so good at bows! She picks out the color and what kind. And so it works well that way. 

Why do you volunteer for LESA? 

Jackie: Oh, I enjoy it. My husband was born and raised Lutheran and he always says his daughters received a good Lutheran education (at Word of Life Lutheran School in south city and Lutheran South). I’m not actually Lutheran, but they’ve welcomed me and they appreciate us. There’s never a day that people don’t say thank you and they mean it. 

Deb: Well, Jackie actually asked me to help! But I’m also a product of Lutheran elementary and high schools – Lutheran South and Word of Life Lutheran when it was called Ascension Lutheran School, and my step mom taught in the Lutheran schools for 40 plus years. In fact, she taught Laura Montgomery (LESA’s Director of Educational Resources!) My husband went to Hope Lutheran and Lutheran South, and my kids went to Word of Life and Lutheran South.  

What’s your favorite part of what you do for LESA?

Jackie: I think shopping for items to add to the baskets. Everybody works so well together and it’s fun. And I have to say the best part of it is that we’re appreciated. 

Deb: I would say being able to have some creativity in how we display the items but the biggest thing is the people there. Sue (Nahmensen, LESA’s CEO) was the secretary at Word of Life Lutheran when my kids went there! We have a lot of fun. You don’t get a paycheck, but the benefits are way beyond that. And I feel fortunate that I can do it. 

What do you do when you’re not at LESA?

Jackie – I also volunteer for the American Czech Hall in south St. Louis, where I grew up. I’m the Animal Booth Lady – Deb helps me with that too! I also work the festival and help make all the pastries and dumplings for the festival, like kolache and all kinds of things. And then we make the dumplings for the Pork & Dumplings and the Duck & Dumplings. (You can taste Jackie’s cooking at this year’s Czech Festival, which has been rescheduled for Fall 2020, date to be determined.)

Deb: I like to work on home projects and I also have gotten into looking up my family tree. I’ve traced my family’s roots back to Germany, Scotland and the Alsace-Lorraine area of France. In terms of volunteering, I also co-chair of the Decorating Committee for our home church, Ascension Lutheran. We decorate the facility for Christmas and other holidays as well as for the Vacation Bible Study we hold every summer. I’m also co-chair the Fundraising Committee for Ascension’s Capital Campaign, which includes coming up with various projects and events to help raise funds for the school and church so we can continue to share Christ’s love now and in the years to come. I wanted my children to know that belonging to a church meant more than just sitting in the pew for an hour or so each week.  In addition to that, volunteering has blessed us with many great memories as well as good friends.

Thank you, Deb and Jackie, you are a blessing to LESA’s ministry and those we serve!

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