Community. Commitment. 

Centaur is Rooted in the Communities We Serve

People We Work With

Centaur is an active participant in volunteer opportunities and contributes to various neighborhood organizations, schools, food banks and charitable fundraisers.

 

"ST. LOUIS • Inside counselors’ offices, piles of gifts filled shopping bags and tables, waiting for dozens of unsuspecting students and their families to pick them up.

There were coloring books, activity books, journals, Legos, a scooter and an AirStick skateboard. There were boxes of diapers, clothes, nail polish and lip gloss sets, headbands, bath towels, Easy Bake Ovens and cotton candy machines.

In early December, the brother and sister team who head up, Centaur Building Services, notified Confluence Charter School administrators, that they would forgo the customary gifts normally sent to corporate clients during the holidays. Instead, they wanted to donate $5,000 to the Confluence network to brighten the lives of homeless and needy students at its five campuses.

The amount caught Confluence officials by surprise. “I was flabbergasted,” said John Klein, director of operations for the Confluence Charter School System.

Then the owners dug deeper. They personally matched their company’s contribution, and then threw in a little more. The donation grew to $12,500 to be split among the five schools: Aspire Academy in Walnut Park, Confluence Academy-Old North, Confluence Academy-South City, Confluence Prep Academy and Grand Center Arts Academy.

More than 200 homeless children attend the network of charter schools, which are tuition-free and operate independently of the city school system. Some live in hotels or shelters. Others move in and out of relatives’ homes as the weather gets cold and utility bills become unaffordable.

Janine Dulay and Frank Joubert, who run Centaur, began talking about a contribution to Confluence in the fall when they learned about the size of the homeless population enrolled at the schools.

“Being raised in a very poor home and being a product of the inner-city public school system, our family knows all too well the challenges and desperation these families feel when it comes to providing even the basic necessities for their children,” Dulay said. “It was an automatic reaction. We knew we had to help.”

Once the donation was in hand, social workers and counselors at the schools identified the students of greatest need and asked them for wish lists. At Aspire Academy in Walnut Park, children gathered in the counselor’s office. They wrote down three things they’d like as gifts. And then they wrote ideas for each member of their family, not knowing that they’d receive any of them.

Klein and Confluence staff took the lists and went shopping last weekend and throughout this week. They bought school uniforms, socks, shoes and underwear, to stock the closets at the schools that help support any child in need. And then they bought Barbies, games, Matchbox cars, superhero action figures, “Frozen” dolls and more. Teachers and staff have spent their free hours in counselors’ offices wrapping the gifts and labeling them.

“It’s been very exciting,” said Principal Angela Carpenter at Aspire Academy, surrounded by wrapping paper, boxes and gift bags. “It’s always a great thing to extend our services beyond academics. Especially during the holidays.”

At Grand Center Arts Academy, Jackee Jones, a senior, entered the counselor’s office, where dozens of wrapped gifts were piled in stacks on the floor. In 2012, Jones’ mother went to sleep and never woke up. Several months later, her father also died. Jones now lives with her older brother. Erica Snelson, college counselor at the school, handed Jones an envelope filled with gift cards.

“Not only did we want to bless you, but we wanted to bless your brother,” Snelson said, handing her another card. Jones looked at her, eyes wide and mouth open. She smiled and hugged Snelson. “Thank you!” she said.

One by one, students and families would arrive at the office to be surprised. Snelson and Vanessa Reed, a guidance counselor, had just finished wrapping the last of the toys. Shannon McDonald, a junior, walked in. She lives in an apartment alone. Before school every day, she rises at 3 a.m. to do inventory at a restaurant in Overland. She hopes to become a photographer.

“Everything in there is stuff you can use to furnish your apartment,” Snelson told her, handing her a gift bag with an envelope. Inside were gift cards to Target and Walmart for the towels and other things McDonald doesn’t have yet. And a gift card to Forever 21, for new clothes. “Thank you! I appreciate it,” McDonald said, hugging her and smiling. “I can’t believe this.”

At other Confluence schools, children with as many as eight siblings stopped by counselors’ offices to be surprised by gifts Thursday.

Altogether, several dozen families, including the students and their siblings and caregivers, received gifts. Some families have as many as nine children. All presents will be distributed by the end of Friday, when winter break begins.

“We told John, ‘Sky’s the limit,’” said Dulay, referring to the chief operating officer of Confluence. “Whatever the children need to a have a better Christmas. We love the fact that what we were giving went straight to the students. It gives us a lot of pleasure. When God leads you to do things like this, you should.”"

 
- Crouch, E. (2015, December 18). Student's at Confluence charter schools get $12,500 in toys, clothes, and gifts from donors. St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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