Helping Moms with CareNet

TOAM families gathered in Brookfield at the end of September to assemble bags for moms who are assisted by CareNet Milwaukee. CareNet is located within the city of Milwaukee and serves 800-1000 mothers every year. The majority of the moms live below the poverty line (considered $11, 880 for individuals) and as such, have difficulty securing basic items for their babies. They are in great need of material items such as new/used baby clothes, strollers, baby toys/items, car seats (within expiration dates), and VOLUNTEERS. The place we thought we could help the most with this project was donating diapers and wipes.

TOAM gathered at Elmbrook Church under the leadership of one of our new KOAM directors, Debby.  It was also very special that we had Rachel, Care Net’s director, join us for the event. In the end, we helped make 35 bags for these moms in need!

We had a lot of new faces show up to our mission and we really appreciated the positive feedback we heard:

  • Parents appreciated the laid back atmosphere and didn’t feel judged for walking in late or if their kids decided to play instead of “work.”
  • It felt good to “give back” without having to leave babies and toddlers at home.
  • The inclusion of crafts in our project allowed the kids to give a part of themselves to the mothers at CareNet and that was really empowering to them.
  • The friendly atmosphere allows for relationships to be made between parents and their children, which helps to create a mini-community of like minded, caring people.

I’ll close with this beautiful reflection from Debby and her husband Nick:

If the little ones don’t remember or grasp all of the meaning of what we did, it is a great steppingstone to a lifetime of volunteering and helping others. If kids continue to stay involved, helping will be part of their “norm.” That is a goal that I would love to see happen with my family. Giving back is just something that is done.

 

St. John’s Inter-generational Play Group

Much of our organization’s mission focuses on empowering children to build relationships. We see this “friendship-making” as varied and multidimensional. Some of our events cross racial, economic, cultural, or neighborhood divides. Since we were given the gift of working with Allie Holliday who is professionally trained as a rehabilitation therapist for stroke survivors, we also have a strong constellation of events that help our children build relationships across generations.

Lynn Raines, co-founder of TOAM, initially made contact with St. John’s on the Lake for our first ever TOAM event because she was aware of the great reputation of the facility. After our very positive Trick or Treat event in 2014, we sought to deepen our connection to St. John’s. We started with an idea  and then Allie and Angie, from St. John’s, just ran with it.

Now, we have two separate playgroups that meet monthly, three sessions a year. Some of our TOAM families have attended since they started in October, 2015 and many new families have joined us- which is so exciting.

When it comes to raising children to thrive in our modern world, an important component of that is learning to get along with diverse groups of people including people they might not get to see at the playground or on the street every day. In the playgroups at St. John’s, our children are getting to know men and women who were born sometimes 90 years before they were! Sharing stories, smiles, and fun helps both groups appreciate the light in each other.

It is hard to overstate what Allie’s inter-generational events have meant to some of our TOAM families.  Families who have brought their children into hospitals find their children more at ease and aware of their innate power to lighten the mood. A TOAM family spent part of their summer vacation in a retirement complex in Texas and their son went into “TOAM-mode” and chatted up everyone he saw in the hallways. Our children are still young but it is our greatest hope that we will see their inter-generational experiences shine through their actions when they are older. 

One of our original TOAM kids insists on calling St. John’s “the place that TOAM was born.” And in many ways, that makes a lot of sense. We treasure our relationship with St. John’s and we are so very grateful to Allie who has made our inter-generational missions so special.

KIDS on a Mission: Riverwest Food Pantry

We’re a community of generosity. We’re all here to give and we’re all here to receive.

This is how Samantha, the volunteer leader, started out our morning at Riverwest Food Pantry. We are so grateful to her and the rest of the staff and visitors at RFP for welcoming our organization. We were treated the same as everyone else there- we were expected to help, to follow the rules, and to be kind. This was our first event for the Kids on a Mission and that level of responsibility and expectation was exactly what kids in the elementary age group need to start their lives in service. Kids have a true sense of fairness (although they might not always practice that with their siblings) and it really is our duty to empower them to become those change-makers we know they can be! 

RFP is a dynamic, necessary part of our Milwaukee community and we hope to return again early in 2017. We would encourage you to check them out on their website, to visit them as a family, or to consider making a donation. They are in great need of shopping carts (they raffle them off), new underwear, socks, and have an especially great need for men’s clothing. They receive donated clothing Wednesday and Friday mornings between 9-11am at their St. Casimir site. Food donations are taken at their St. Casimir site Wednesday, Friday or Saturday mornings between 8-11am. 

 

Lunch Pack for Kids Working to Succeed Program 2016

TOAM returned to the project we worked on in 2015 with All Peoples Church and their Kids Working to Succeed program. We value the small part we can play in sustaining this program that teaches responsibility, community, and gardening skills to children. While the church handles the bulk of the program, they ask that outside organizations make lunches for the kids at the end of their morning. 

All Peoples also has expressed needs to help fill their food pantry, donate gardening gloves, and supply paving stones in order for them to complete their labyrinth in the middle of the garden.  Our mission today and for the following two events making lunches will incorporate all those requests. Today, we brought down lunches, food for the pantry, and paving stones!

Our next lunch pack will be July 7. We hope to see you there!

-Jean

Summer Activity Bag Pack

Kim, a TOAM parent, approached us months ago with the idea to create activity bags for students to use over their summer break. Her inspiration came from a friend who taught in Milwaukee and created activity bags for her students. This was a lovely idea but Lynn and I weren’t sure where our funding would come from to create such a project.

Early this spring, we learned that we would be the lucky benefactors to a fundraiser at the Athleta store in Bayshore Mall. We would earn a percentage of all the purchases made in one evening at the store AND it would be matched by Gap Corporation. Suddenly, we had our answer! We could use some of the fundraiser money to make the activity bags.

With our fundraiser  money we purchased toys that were safe, multi-purpose, and would hopefully inspire active and creative play (that could be shared with friends and/or siblings).  Kim contacted  Wagner Pediatric Dentistry and the North Shore Fire Department for donations of toothpaste, toothbrushes, and fire safety books. 

Our TOAM families met in the evening this week to assemble the bags. First, we read How Full is Your Bucket? and then we discussed all the different ways kids spend their summers in Milwaukee and how these activity bags would help keep kids entertained.

This might have been the most difficult pack we’ve done and we were so impressed by how the kids resisted the urges to play with the toys and packed them up for another kid instead. We’re so proud of all of them! 

Today, the bags were delivered to our partner school, Thurston Woods Elementary. We left the bags in the office with our well wishes for a relaxing summer for the staff and huge amounts of gratitude for letting us into their school once again. We can’t wait to see our Reading Buddies next fall and we hope all of them have a fun, active summer!

-Jean