Leading Locally: St. James Area Community Foundation
The mid-Missouri area rich in natural resources is known today for grape-growing and winemaking .
Helping create greater good
The modern story of St. James began with iron. In the mid-1800s, Maramec Iron Works — as one of the first producers of iron west of the Mississippi River — began fueling development across the region. That start was also tied with the beginning of St. James, a town of about 4,000 people in Phelps County.
Today, that community is supported in part by the St. James Area Community Foundation. Since its start in 2003, the SJACF — an affiliate of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks — has distributed more than $260,061 back to the community. It also holds assets totaling $162,846 as of June 2023.
“I think the foundation helps in a way on some smaller projects — we don’t get involved with the big stuff, we just don’t have the resources to do that,” says Jack Kearbey, president of the SJACF. “But we help with the little extra step to get them to the next level.”
St. James was incorporated in 1892 and is located in the eastern half of Phelps County.
The SJACF’s work is largely for the wider benefit of the community.
“Some of the things we’ve done in town include the community building; we paid for the design phase of that,” Kearbey says. “The pickleball court downtown here, which is a building and we put some money into that from the foundation, in addition to the park and the library. We’ve funded some small grants here and there for different organizations.
“When people do come around, especially in the city, comes to us and ask if they need some help, we’ll do what we can.”
The history of St. James is deep, and includes iron works and wineries.
It also serves local students through scholarships and holds several funds for the local library.
Those quality-of-life efforts are impactful in the small town that is largely fueled by manufacturing and tourism, the latter tying to the Meramec River, a namesake spring-fed park, and the wine industry, for which St. James is largely known today.
“The sense of giving back to the community,” says Kearbey of what motivates his involvement in the foundation. “I just feel like I want to do that.”
Firehouse Coffee Shop, located in St. James, is operated by the St. James Youth Empowerment Project chapter.
In addition to the SJACF, another CFO-related effort in St. James is its Firehouse Coffee Shop, which is operated by the St. James Youth Empowerment Project chapter. YEP, an initiative of the CFO, exists to empower youth to positively impact their community. This is accomplished through education, service, grantmaking and fundraising. Through Firehouse Coffee Shop, students raise money that allows them to provide small grants to youth-oriented projects in the community and be part of the philanthropic process.