''Our aim is to attract people into the city and to show them the variety of our neighborhoods and all the different housing options that are open to them,'' explains Elizabeth D. Cook, director of Neighborhood Marketing Services Inc., a private not-for-profit corporation here.
In a city that claims to lead the nation in residential rehabilitation, this unusual service exists in an exciting environment. It runs a housing information and referral office, for instance, which offers free up-to-date information from real estate brokers, developers, renovators, and professional and neighborhood groups.
''We also develop and coordinate special events to introduce people to different neighborhoods and housing concepts,'' says Ms. Cook. ''With our 'House of the Month' program, we open to the public, free of charge, on the first Sunday of each month, a different apartment, condo, restored house, or 'gut rehab' to let people see for themselves.''
At each open house a representative from the board of education is present to discuss city schools in the area and other educational options. And neighborhood residents are present to discuss what it is like to live there and to tell of the area's shopping and entertainment possibilities. Mini-tours of neighborhoods , by car, are also offered to people looking for new homes within the city. This service is particularly useful when major corporations and relocation firms are looking for new housing for employees on the move.
The organization's ''People on Tap'' program enables residents of the city to serve as hosts or hostesses for new or potential residents with similar interests and backgrounds and to help them launch a new circle of friends. They also share with the newcomers firsthand information on schools, shopping areas, and recreational facilities.
Each year Neighborhood Marketing Services Inc. also helps sponsor Preservation Week. This seven-day promotion highlights the city's architectural heritage and redevelopment efforts and features house tours, rehab rambles, street fairs, brown bag seminars, and classic church and urban garden tours.
The service also designs and publishes an annual City Home Guide that describes all the active neighborhoods and lists the people to contact in each area, including real-estate brokers and developers. Over 5,000 of these booklets are given out free each year, along with a Resource Guide to Goods and Services for Older Homes. This lists all the sources an owner would need to redo an old home, including sympathetic craftsmen, haulers, refinishers, strippers, upholsterers, architects, and stores dealing in architectural artifacts.
The three women who manage the organization's information and resource center located at 818 Olive Street in St. Louis, are Dayle Kline, Betty Payne, and, of course, Ms. Cook. Besides operating the programs mentioned here, they prepare press releases to publicize unusual residential projects and assist neighborhood-based organizations with copywriting, graphic design, and technical assistance on such projects as tours, brochures, posters, street fairs, and seminars.
The bulk of their funding comes through block grants administered through the City of St. Louis, and they also generate private funding on a project-by-project basis.