In this issue: Big IDEA awards honor former CEO’s legacy; Youth In Need rallies for annual United Way campaign; and new Board members join Youth In Need.

Whose Big IDEA Is This?

After Youth In Need’s beloved former CEO passed away in 2017, a group of staff and Board volunteers decided to recognize Jim’s life of service with an annual award for staff who exemplify Jim’s attributes of Innovation, Dedication, Excellence and Advocacy. This year’s James A. Braun Big IDEA Award honorees are Debbie Gittemeier, a Family Advocate in the Early Learning Program; Tyra Grose, Staffing and Administration Manager for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs; Sarah Henry, Family Educator in the Early Learning Program; and Salam Saeed, Facilities Supervisor. Congratulations to the honorees and to the 16 other staff who were nominated this year!

Debbie Gittemeier, Early Learning Program Family Advocate: Debbie’s nominator said she is “an absolutely integral part of Lincoln County ELP.” Fueled by compassion and always giving 100 percent, what stands out about Debbie is her ability to build relationships with co-workers, clients and local organizations. One parent said, “I would not have made it the last six months without Debbie’s support.  I lost the people closest to me, my entire support system. She made it clear that I had support . . . she sat in silence with me when that’s what I needed, and we talked when I was ready.”

Tyra Grose, Runaway and Homeless Youth Staffing and Administration Manager: Tyra began her career as a Youth Care Worker at the Emergency Shelter right before the pandemic, and she’s already been promoted twice! Always striving for excellence, she embraces learning and holds herself and other to high standards. Her nominator said, “Tyra is a current and future leader at YIN and exemplifies the ideas of Jim in all she does. In ordinary times, Tyra deserves this award and in these hard times, she is stronger still. Residential programs would literally not operate without very dedicated, quiet doers—they don’t ask for much attention. Tyra is one of those people who just keeping getting the job done!”

Sarah Henry, Early Learning Program Family Educator: A true partner and advocate for families, Sarah helps parents problem solve and find resources all while building trust and rapport and giving encouragement and support. Always one to go above and beyond, Sarah literally helped one of her families escape Afghanistan and return to safety in the U.S. last year. Her nominator said Sarah is a “treasure” to her teammates and managers, always making others feel comfortable and included. “I believe her positive attitude naturally invites people to bring their whole self into any space that she is in.”

Salam Saeed, Facilities Facility Supervisor: Going above and beyond is just how Salam tackles his job. Every day, he ensures our facilities are well-functioning, safe, comfortable and inviting for our clients and staff. In addition to his many responsibilities, Salam has been highly involved with the Academy School renovation where he’s been on site daily to work with contractors. If the alarm goes off in the middle of the night, Salam responds. When the building flooded this summer, Salam quickly responded to salvage equipment and mitigate damage. Always smiling, quickly fixing problems, and coming up with ideas to make things better, Salam is widely loved and a huge asset to Youth In Need.

United Way Rallies for Annual Campaign

This month, the United Way of Greater St. Louis will wrap up its annual fundraising campaign, which supports 164 organizations in the St. Louis region including Youth In Need. For 100 years, the United Way has been helping people to create a stronger, healthier and more equitable region for all. With a continued focus on creating a strong safety net of nonprofits that can meet the vast needs of our community, the United Way’s vital funding helps us provide critical and direct services to children and families in the St. Louis region. And the best part of the United Way’s funding is that is flexible, allowing us to apply funds where they are most needed each year. Youth In Need is also holding its own internal United Way fundraising campaign this month, and our staff has already donated more than $12,000 to the campaign! Learn more about the United Way’s century of helping at

New Board Members

Youth In Need has elected three new members to our Board of Directors. Welcome!

Ryan Arnold is the Vice President of Division Operations at Ameren Missouri.

Jasmin Marshall is a Child and Family Development Assistant Professor at St. Louis Community College.

Candace Runions is an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher in the Hazelwood School District.