Regional Response Team Awarded $2 Million Grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation

Used to Create Rapid Response Infrastructure to Address Regional Socioeconomic Challenges

(ST. LOUIS, OCTOBER 4, 2023) The James S. McDonnell Foundation (JSMF) awarded more than $2 million over three years to the St. Louis area Regional Response Team (RRT), RRT officials announced today. The grant will be used to build organizational capacity and refine the organization’s innovative, collaborative, rapid response infrastructure to address regional systemic challenges.

Convened at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, today’s RRT is committed to improving the health and well-being of underserved communities by mobilizing the nonprofit, philanthropic, and public sectors to collaboratively address systemicdysfunctions and life-threatening crises.

“As the pandemic unfolded, representatives from government, nonprofits, and funders quickly assembled to develop plans to get aid to vulnerable populations most affected by the shutdowns — such as homebound seniors, the unhoused, children, and people with disabilities,” said Dr. Andrea Jackson-Jennings, managing director for the RRT. “This ‘quick-response’ model worked exceptionally well — so well, we intend to modify it so that it can be deployed to break down many of the racial, economic, and systemic disparities that remain in our region.”

As a program of the St. Louis Community Foundation, the RRT will be a vital component of Foundation’s efforts to help solve regional, systemic challenges and broaden its community impact from a redesign perspective.

“Going forward, the RRT will shift from the reactive response we saw during Covid and develop and promote policy and system changes that break down barriers and systemic practices through design thinking,” Jennings added.

Dr. Jason Purnell, who now heads the JSMF, was instrumental in the creation of the RRT in 2020 and sees value in continuing and enhancing its rapid-response framework.

“In 2020, this group quickly developed creative solutions that provided assistance to the people who needed it most. Now, it can go a step farther and leverage the nimbleness and interdisciplinary talent of the RRT to become an innovation platform for solving the region’s social problems,” said Purnell. “We believe it can be a model for the nation, and the James S. McDonnell Foundation wants to ensure it has the capacity to reach its full potential. The RRT’s mission aligns with our goals of increasing shared prosperity and quality of life for all in our region.”

Advisory Council Provides Strategic Direction

Setting direction for the RRT is an Advisory Council comprised of 16 representatives from funders, nonprofits, and governmental agencies across five counties in the bi-state area. 

Kristen Sorth, St. Louis County Library – Chair

Jim Wallis, Chestnut Health Systems- Co-Chair

Ben Perrin, Catholic Charities of St. Louis

Regina Greer, United Way

Rebecca Zoll, North County, Inc.

Julie Erickson, RX Outreach

Dr. Andwele Jolly, St. Louis Integrated Health Network – RRT CAN Co-Chair

Deb Patterson, Retired, Community Volunteer

Haley Elkins, St. Louis County Department of Health

Elizabeth George, St. Louis Community Foundation

Linda Huntspon, Community Action Agency of St. Louis County

Wendy Orson, Behavioral Health Network

Charlotte Hammond, Challenge Unlimited

Pat Holterman-Holmes, Youth in Need

Howard Hayes, St. Louis County Department of Health

Shontae Fluelen, St. Louis City Department of Health

“The pandemic demonstrated the problem-solving power of a cohesive, region-wide network that connected people in need with the nonprofits and agencies that could serve them and the funders who would support these efforts,” said Kristen Sorth, co-chair of the RRT Advisory Council. “Today’s RRT will continue that work by keeping these players at the table to solve current regional challenges.”

Sorth also pointed out that the RRT will not be a first responder that steps in during a natural disaster or regional tragedy. “Instead, the RRT will be focused on long-term, systemic challenges that require intense regional collaboration and comprehensive and innovative programing.”

About the Regional Response Team

The Regional Response Team improves the health and well-being of underserved communities by mobilizing the non-profit, philanthropic and public sectors to collaboratively address life-threatening crises and systems’ dysfunctions.

Members of the Advisory Council represent organizations and individuals working within the Regional Response Team’s five-county service area—City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Madison County, and St. Clair County—who are committed to racial equity, systems change, and enhanced community collaboration. Advisory Council members will coordinate responses to crises and longstanding community needs. 

The Regional Response Team is a program of the St. Louis Community Foundation. For more information about the RRT, visit

About the St. Louis Community Foundation

The Foundation is a nonprofit with approximately 800 charitable funds and total assets of more than $470 million. Each fund represents a unique charitable giving partnership between nonprofit recipients and an individual, family, or business. The St. Louis Community Foundation inspires purposeful philanthropy that connects the community and donors to build and preserve a more equitable and vibrant region, now and forever. Learn more at


For more information, contact: Margaret Welch at 314-703-1215 or

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