Nov 15, 2021


Ameren, one of the Hope Bell Presenting Sponsors of this year’s Tree of Lights, is a major donor to The Salvation Army Midland Division – and also helps install the downtown St. Louis Tree of Lights at Kiener Plaza before it will be lit up Saturday, Nov. 20, at 5 p.m.

“Ameren is all about our communities and doing what’s right by our communities,” Shawn Schukar, Ameren Transmission President and Salvation Army Board Member, said. “The Salvation Army is part of our community. They are in the fabric of our community tying together with all the things we do to grow our community.”

For more than 25 years, Ameren has helped install the Tree of Lights, including with underground electrical work to ensure the all-important electricity is functional.

During those years, Salvation Army red kettles would be in the Ameren offices for Christmas donations, and Ameren staff would bell-ring in cold temperatures at the kettles at Schnucks and other locations for spare dollars and change.

“Ameren’s values and what we focus on aligns with what The Salvation Army does,” Schukar said. “That’s why they have been a great partner for us in our community.”

With roots going back to 1902, Ameren is the state’s largest electrical utility, supplying electricity to more than 1.2 million Missourians, and second largest provider of natural gas, operating in 64 counties.

Besides its support for the Tree of Lights, Ameren views holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving as imperative times that its electrical services keep running to prevent interruptions.

“I’ve been there over Christmas, working with my teammates, keeping the lights on 24/7,” Schukar said. “Everybody comes together, doing the right thing, making sure that everybody is helping to power that quality of life, so that when you wake up, the lights are on, you get up, and enjoy Christmas.”

Reflecting on his childhood, Schukar gave a difficult and intense holiday memory that became one of his life’s most bittersweet, as the lasting feeling was one of community and people pitching in to help after his family’s house burned down before Christmas.

“We had to depend on the community,” Schukar said. “I remember the house burning down, but it was that community coming together, to make things better, that makes it one of my favorite memories of the holidays. Just thinking about what the holidays are really about. It’s about our community, it’s about us being better.”

Besides powering the Tree of Lights, Ameren has a Festival of Lights, which returns this year on Nov. 20, from noon to 8:30 p.m., at Kiener Plaza. Fredbird, live reindeer and a fireworks finale will be among the day’s highlights.

“The Festival of Lights is a great seasonal tradition that we have here in St. Louis,” Schukar said. “It kicks off the holiday season, with Thanksgiving and going into Christmas. Being part of that is what we do to bring the community together.”

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