Generosity that spans a lifetime

A trip down memory lane. That infinite road can route us all the way back to our mere, unassuming childhood, where whimsical moments are the norm and complex matters, well, typically aren’t. Once we scratch the surface, though, we may discover applicable life lessons tucked away. After all, that is Kim Cameron’s experience. 

Growing up in St. Louis, Kim thrived in a supportive household and, like any other kid, enjoyed the little things in life. She was happy, naturally curious, and eager for the life ahead of her. When her grade school teacher enlightened their class on a local charitable cause, Kim’s creativity swiftly found a home.

That program was 100 Neediest Cases, an annual holiday campaign jointly sponsored by the United Way of Greater St. Louis and St. Louis Post-Dispatch supporting thousands of families and individuals with essentials like food, transportation, winter coats, rent, shoes, and gifts. The aim of the program is to make the holiday season a more joyous one for people in the St. Louis region. Their classroom opted to adopt a case, or family, that had a holiday wish list of specific needs. Kim reflects on how eye-opening this was to learn. 

“I was young, but it put a lot into perspective for all of us, because not everyone gets to unwrap gifts during the holiday.” Kim got her family behind the cause, too, as her imagination ran free with the present-wrapping. “I remember thinking, ‘Let’s wrap these with extra care and thought put into it.’ I wanted to make the experience special for the family.” Decades later, that passion would again translate to action.

Now a local real estate agent, she thought back to her experience with the holiday program and reflected on the meaningful impact it had. Kim sought to support the cause, just as she did years ago – this time, alongside her teammates and coworkers.

“As I was reading through the cases from this past year, I couldn’t help but think how something drastic can occur in any of our lives, at any time.” Among the plethora of cases is one that struck a chord with her. A family of five in need of assistance with medical bills, rent, food, basic toiletries, and more following the July flooding. The son even lost his basketball shoes and outdoor hoop during the historic rainfall.

Kim knows the story of adversity all too well. It was a time in her life when it was hard to create a sense of normalcy. Cancer. Her body chemistry turned upside down. An endless rollercoaster with steep drops at every turn. 

Indeed, we never know when one of us may need that extra support. It’s an unprecedented time in this world, with growing concerns of a recession, lingering effects of the pandemic, recovery from recent local flooding, and rising costs. Affordable housing, basic needs, jobs and workforce development, and behavioral health support also still rank highest among our community’s needs. Families who were struggling before may be struggling even more now.

But one thing Kim believes to be true is that our community is generous – always willing to help those who need it, even in the hardest of times. Many of her friends, family, and clients showed their support and love with monetary donations and physical items for their adopted family.

Some of the items donated to the team’s adopted family.

“One of our clients donated $100 when she heard about it on Giving Tuesday. That $100 goes further than you may think.” Kim and her team also set up an Amazon Wish List with items needed. They created videos for their social media pages encouraging anyone to support the family and get involved. 

“Yes, it’s exciting to help people, but it isn’t really about the excitement factor. It’s about making it easier for folks with real-life stories. That’s the driving force.” In 2022, more than 11,300 people were served through the 100 Neediest Cases program. Of those individuals, 5,789 were children. Donations provided those in need with shoes, medication, transportation, and much more. 

“United Way makes it easy to make an impact in the community, and the time to support our community is now,” Kim says. “I’m forever grateful to have learned that at such a young age.” 

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Jaynie Vanatta
Jaynie Vanatta