Nonprofit organization has held three donation drives at three elementary schools over the past 10 months

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Ten months ago, four women from the North Shore suburbs decided it was time to do more than talk about the needs of inner-city children – it was time to do something about it.

Kate Sullivan, Krys Giesa, Sherry Bourgeois and Catherine Murray knew they wanted to help less fortunate families in Milwaukee, but they didn’t know where to begin. A social worker in a Milwaukee school asked them if they could help a mother fleeing an abusive home, and the North Shore women responded with mattresses, dishes and furniture from their own homes.

The foursome wanted to continue volunteering, but they hadn’t quite figured out the best use of their philanthropy. They didn’t want to interfere with any existing efforts, but by talking with school social workers and teachers, they learned that elementary students in Milwaukee were in need of clothing, hygienic products and school supplies.

They learned that these Milwaukee Public Schools teachers have been trying to meet the demands of their students where they could, but their financial means were limited. In some cases, these students were wearing their school uniform every day because it was the only clothing they had.

When four North Shore women showed up asking how they could help, the teachers gave them shopping lists with toothpaste, tissues, hand sanitizers and other basic items that might have ordinarily came out of the teachers’ paycheck.

“One school is much more in need of classroom needs: tissues, wipes, paper, markers, that kind of stuff,” Sullivan said. “Another school was in need of toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, socks and underwear. It’s amazing the need that’s out there."

In the last 10 months, the North Shore women have expanded their philanthropy to three Milwaukee elementary schools, which did not want to be identified. The women filled out paperwork to become a nonprofit organization, and under the moniker Neighbors Care, they have led three major donation drives and a bake sale.

Their donations have been greatly appreciated by the teachers and students, who have written stacks of 'thank you' notes to the Neighbors Care founders. In one of the notes, a second grade teacher said "the needed supplies that you donated to our school will absolutely contribute to those important aspects of a student's ability to learn, and feeling equipped and prepared while learning."

Neighbors Care has expanded its donor list to about 80 people. When they are organizing a donation drive, they will solicit contributions through emails and social media. They hope to continue to expand their list of donors, as well as expand to more schools in need of help.

Neighbors Care is also hoping to find organizations or companies that might be able to aid their efforts. They learned that one of their schools, for example, has the same red uniforms as St. Monica School in Whitefish Bay. St. Monica agreed to donate five large bags of used uniforms to the students in Milwaukee.

“There are a lot of social agencies out there that can fill the big needs,” Bourgeois said. “We are trying to find a way fill the gaps - things that have fallen through the cracks and fall on the shoulders of and in the pockets of the teachers.”

To learn how you can contribute to Neighbors Care, email neighbors.caremke@gmail.com or like the Neighbors Care Facebook page.

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