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Economy & Business

Urban League, Grace Hill Settlement House Merge To Bring More Aid To Low-Income Areas

Michael McMillan, CEO and president of the Urban League, said he hopes the collaboration with Grace Hill Settlement House will open the doors for more nonprofits to merge to serve low-income communities in the region.
Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis
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Michael McMillan, CEO and president of the Urban League, said he hopes the collaboration with Grace Hill Settlement House will open the doors for more nonprofits to merge to serve low-income communities in the region.

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and Grace Hill Settlement House have merged.

The combined agencies will operate under the Urban League’s name and provide housing, food, education and employment services to about 125,000 people.

The Urban League and Grace Hill Settlement House share a mission of helping St. Louisans gain self-sufficiency and not count on social services, said Michael McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

“Combining our organizations means that we have a better and brighter future going forward as stable, fiscally responsible entities trying to serve the community,” he said.

McMillan said the Urban League worked for two years to merge the two agencies. The organization will now have 20 locations and more than 300 employees administering over 50 social service programs.

The Urban League also plans to use a five-year, $38 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand its Head Start and early childhood education programs.

The expanded Urban League will be able to help more children from low-income families who have not had access to early childhood education, said Gwendolyn Diggs, vice president of Head Start at the Urban League.

The Urban League now offers Head Start and early childhood education programs at 13 locations across the region for nearly 1,000 children. Over the next five years, its Head Start team plans to use the grant funds to better train staff, purchase more supplies, implement new programs and buy new computer tablets that will allow children to learn online.

“When it comes to educating the young, vulnerable population, many times that group may fall through the cracks,” Diggs said. “So we're hoping that our reach and our expansion will be able to serve more families.”

McMillan said the merger will allow the Urban League to economically develop St. Louis’ neglected communities by redeveloping neighborhoods and improving deserted areas.

“I think that going into our most challenged neighborhoods will give us the ability to use the tried-and-true methodologies of dealing with those individuals in the neighborhoods that need us the most,” McMillan said. “They are just waiting for those same opportunities, that same care, attention and affection.”

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