Utilizing Mission: St. Louis to change lives


Courtesy of Laura Kleffner

Laura Kleffner stands on the red carpet with coworker Jason Watson at the annual Mission: St. Louis Night for the Town Gala in September 2018. Kleffner and Watson were emcees for this event that raised $450,000. “Professionally, [this was] one of my greatest accomplishments at Mission: St. Louis,” Kleffner said. “[I am] constantly [wanting to] expand the awareness [about Mission: St. Louis] but also raise more money through different avenues.”

Not only did freshmen hear from alumna Kelly Quinn for Day of Service, they also heard a speech from 2006 alumna Laura Kleffner. Kleffner joined Mission: St. Louis, an organization that provides education and employment opportunities for families in St. Louis, January 2018 as Director of Development.    

“I had lived in D.C. for more than five years working as a political fundraiser and I had always wanted to move back to my hometown of St. Louis. When I was interviewing for jobs I realized that St. Louis is abundant with nonprofits,” Kleffner said. “After hearing that Mission: St. Louis is involved with helping justice-involved men find jobs, I had not heard of another nonprofit doing anything like that and was sold on it.”

Since becoming a part of Mission: St. Louis, Kleffner has noticed a change in her life and her surroundings.

“I was born and raised in West County and had not really ventured to downtown other than to go to sporting events or the City Museum. When I moved back to St. Louis, I had really only known West County. I now go to North City every single day for work and it has changed the way I view the city in general,” Kleffner said. “I thought it was a dangerous place and I was scared of North City. The irony [that] I have learned with age is that I had never even been there. My view has changed to thinking that North City is a deeply loyal part of St. Louis and has family ties that run strong just like West County.

Kleffner believes that breaking misconceptions about the different areas in St. Louis is the most rewarding part of being a member of Mission: St. Louis.

“When we were having a staff retreat, one of my co-workers who grew up in North City said his family told him to never go to West County. Growing up I was told to never go to North City,” Kleffner said. “When I went to interview for the job, my dad had me call him right when I got out because of the connotation that North City had. I have talked to multiple people who have a negative idea of North City, from donors, friends and family. St. Louis is really separated so I try [to help] create a narrative that what happens in one part of St. Louis does impact us.”

The hardest part about working for Mission: St. Louis for Kleffner is adjusting to working at a nonprofit organization.

“It is a completely different environment from anywhere else I have worked. I worked in politics prior to this and politics is a very fast paced work environment [where] it is dog eat dog,” Kleffner said. “Now, most of my coworkers at Mission: St. Louis are simply caring supporters. It is a different timeline and there is just so much you can see change in someone’s load. It’s quite amazing and beautiful at the same time.”

For her speech on Day of Service, Kleffner educated the audience on Mission: St. Louis and then worked on a service project.  

“The project is to create a scavenger hunt and tour for our volunteers who come from out of town. For those that are coming from out of town, we want to have a scavenger hunt for them so that they can learn more about St. Louis,” Kleffner said. “There is just so much that this city has to offer and I want visitors to experience it as much as possible, from eating at Gus’ Pretzels to visiting the City Museum.”

Kleffner advises those wanting to pursue a career at a nonprofit organization to become involved with volunteering as early as possible.

“[Volunteering] will help you figure out what type of nonprofit you would like to work in and what drives you. Everyone who I have met that works at a nonprofit is passionate about it, so try to gather what makes you passionate by experiencing different nonprofits,” Kleffner said. “It is like the phrase says: the more you give the more you get. You really do get more out of giving and it is important for us to expand our minds and outlook.”