Rita Swiener is the Founder and Executive Director of Santa’s Helpers, Inc., which she created in 1968 as a college student at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Rita went on to graduate magna cum laude and subsequently pursued a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University in clinical psychology. As Rita fulfilled her dream of being a college professor of psychology, she never lost focus of Santa’s Helpers, Inc. She used her influence and exemplary negotiating skills to drive the exponential growth and ultimate reach of the organization, which today serves over 2,700 under-resourced and seriously ill children and their families every year.
In addition to her almost 50-year tenure with Santa’s Helpers, Inc., Rita spent 15 years on the Board of Directors of Call for Help, Inc., an Illinois-based non-profit whose mission is to foster “communities free of poverty, homelessness, hopelessness and violence.” She served as president for four of her 15 years.
Rita has been locally and nationally recognized for both her philanthropic work and her contributions in the classroom. Some of her accolades include:
• Swiener Hall dedication; Transitional Living Center of Call for Help, Inc., 2000
• St. Louis Rams Georgia Frontiere Community Quarterback Award, 2008
• St. Louis Community College at Wildwood “Faculty to Faculty” Award, 2010
• St. Louis Women of Achievement Award, 2010
• St. Louis Jewish Light Unsung Hero Award, 2013
Rita loves to volunteer and is an avid vacationer, taking as many cruises as she can fit into a calendar year. Her proudest accomplishment? Rita loves being a doting mother to her son, her two grandkids and her two great-grandkids, all of whom bring her immeasurable joy.