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Menomonee Falls-based nonprofit a beacon of hope

Organization helps thousands of single mothers

Jan. 8, 2014

Menomonee Falls — For three decades, HOPE Network has given children a safe place to rest their heads.

The nonprofit organization provides emotional and material support to single mothers and their children in the greater Milwaukee area. During its 31 year history, HOPE Network has given 2,675 cribs to babies who didn't have a safe place to sleep and has offered countless hours of parenting support to mothers in need of some encouragement.

HOPE Network was founded by Falls resident Gail Grenier Sweet in 1982. Over the years it has evolved and formed partnerships with local organizations to better help the people it serves.

When HOPE first started, its main mission was to provide cribs for free to new moms. Volunteers would rummage and collect cribs, often storing and refurbishing them in their garages. As more and more research about crib safety started to emerge, the organization began to offer portable Pack N' Plays to moms in need.

They partnered with the Milwaukee Cribs for Kids program to aid their effort. HOPE Network fills in the suburban gaps, helping moms who live in areas outside of Milwaukee, including Brown Deer, Cudahy, Waukesha, West Allis and Brookfield, Executive Director Pauline Beck said.

"When we're helping mothers and their children, it's easy to see something directly being done to help them," she said. "It's not a large organization where there's money going toward rent or administration costs. Most of the money goes toward direct services."

Education first

Education has always been at the forefront of HOPE Network. Every quarter, a 20-plus page resource newspaper is mailed to 4,511 mothers and agencies. The newspaper provides parenting education, want ads, and community resources such as inexpensive family activities. A volunteer nurse also hosts free sessions discussing the importance of safe sleeping habits and gives parenting advice. With a rise in co-sleeping deaths in the city, these sessions have become increasingly important.

HOPE also offers daycare tuition grants for mothers seeking a college education.

Grenier Sweet started HOPE Network because she wanted to give expectant mothers a choice for life. The organization, however, isn't meant to be religious or political despite its pro-life message, she said. Rather, it is meant to be a resource for women and children.

"I always feel good that it's not just talking about being pro-life, but really acting pro-life, that makes me feel good especially when these babies are dying on couches and in bed with their siblings, what's better than saving babies who are already here," Grenier Sweet said. "People who work here just want to help mothers and children."

HOPE's reach grows

There are numerous ways to get involved with the HOPE Network. Money donations can be made at the organizations website hopenetworkinc.org.

If new mothers become members of the organization — a cost of $5 per year — they will receive a basket full of items including bottles, diapers, toys and blankets, as well as a portable crib. Those items are always needed. There are currently 254 paid members.

New books are also being collected. HOPE partners with Christ Child Society, which gives out free books to children who attend monthly meetings. Beck said they go through about 1,200 books a year.

In addition, HOPE partners with Holy Cross Luther Church in Menomonee Falls, which runs the Northwest Trading Post, a clothing bank open the third Monday of every month. HOPE often refers single mothers to the Trading Post where they can take home a bag of clothing in exchange for two cans of food. It also gives out strollers, high chairs, pots and pans, towels and bedding.

"We want to really encourage people who have used items to donate," Beck said.

Clothing items can be dropped off Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the church, N8131 Pilgrim Road. The Trading Post serves about 650 families per year, Beck said.

BY THE NUMBERS

2,675

cribs delivered since 1982

4,511

resource newspaper mailed free every quarter

72

backpacks with supplies given in 2013

83

portable cribs delivered to single moms in 2013

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