Pro bono legal program Sisters in Law awarded Toledo SOUP fundsWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of female attorneys who volunteer their time to provide legal advocacy and mentorship to young moms walked away March 8 with the most money raised yet at a Toledo SOUP event.
Between admissions, donations, a bake sale and raffle, the event raised $2,596 for Sisters in Law, a new initiative at Mom’s House. About 184 people attended the event, organizers said.
The organizers of four project finalists presented their ideas, after which attendees voted for their favorite. Sisters in Law was the clear winner.
Founded 21 years ago, Mom’s House is a Toledo nonprofit that assists mothers aged 13-24 while they raise their children. There are currently 13 mothers enrolled in the program — full capacity — with more on the waiting list, said Executive Director Christina Rodriquez.
Sisters in Law was established a few months ago by Toledo attorney Gretchen DeBacker after her friend Rodriquez called on her several times to help mothers in the program with legal issues.
“Sisters in Law is an example of necessity is the mother of invention,” DeBacker said. “Christina would call, and then call again, and then call again. Clearly there was a need.”
DeBacker tapped a dozen of her female lawyer friends, each of whom is paired with a mom at Mom’s House. The pairs talk regularly, working through any legal issues, including child support, custody, paternity, housing or school issues, that could hamper or distract the mom from her education or from the Mom’s House goal of breaking the cycle of poverty.
But more than just handling legal issues, the relationship often grows so that the attorney becomes a life mentor and friend, DeBacker said.
“What all of the research tells us is that it is more likely than not that when a single woman has a baby, she will be in poverty for her and her child’s lifetime,” DeBacker wrote in her Toledo SOUP proposal. “Breaking the cycle of a lack of education, poor support systems, living conditions and minimum-wage employment is difficult. Mom’s House offers a model that works. It is a model that provides all of the necessary support for a young mom to stay in school and work, all while her child is being cared for and prepared to start school.”
Kate Sandretto, an attorney with the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, was paired with Maraysia Dean, 20, mom to 8-month-old Aniyla.
“Being a mentor is about learning to listen,” Sandretto said. “I thought it would be about teaching, but Maraysia has gifted me with being a better parent and better listener.”
Dean said she gained “a lifelong best friend” in Sandretto.
“She’s not trying to tell me what to do, but to help me along the way,” Dean said.
“They have formed such a bond so quickly. They talk all the time,” DeBacker said of Sandretto and Dean. “It’s just been great. It really it working.”
Sisters in Law is planning three upcoming events: a professional etiquette and leadership training in April, a cooking and household budget training in September and a holiday party in December.
The Toledo SOUP funds will be used to cover the cost of caregivers for the moms’ children during the training sessions as well as supplies, food, transportation and administrative costs such as printing for the events, DeBacker said.
“It’s just exciting that people think it’s a good idea and that there’s buy-in,” DeBacker said. “It’s going to be so exciting for all our volunteers to know that we won.”
Rodriguez said she was thrilled with the win and thankful for the funds.
“It’s very exciting, one, that it’s more than I anticipated and that’s always a little bonus in the nonprofit world, but, two, for us it means changing lives,” Rodriquez said. “This money will relieve some stress from doing the fundraising we need to do. At the end of the day, it’s for the young women and changing their futures.”
Mom’s House was also recently named the new charity recipient for fundraising group Chicks for Charity, which chooses a new charity recipient every two years. Mom’s House will be the group’s 2015-16 beneficiary.
Three other projects presented their ideas at Toledo SOUP:
419 Tales is a bi-monthly podcast dedicated to collecting and archiving stories about life in Toledo.
“We reveal our history and the personal flavor of our hometown when we tell stories,” said founder Silke Goudos. “Everybody has a story. Toledo has a very unique personality I want to capture.”
Goudos said the project has many inspirations, including her job as a nurse, where she hears stories from patients; her late grandmother, who lived in Germany during World War II and how much she treasures a cassette tape with her singing voice; her husband’s uncle, who was full of stories from his days as an arson investigator in Detroit; and the late Studs Terkel, whose book “Working” features stories of everyday people talking about their jobs.
She needs funds for equipment such as headphones, a microphone, a mixer and an external hard drive, she said.
On her gofundme.com site, Goudos wrote, “Our beloved metropolis is packed with flavor and history, which deserves a platform. I’d like to provide that platform by developing a podcast dedicated to revealing the characters, personalities, and gems of Toledo; an adventure in mining the depths of our fair city for the stories of its inhabitants. I hope to capture this through great interviewing techniques as well as competent, high-quality sound processing and editing. These recordings would be digitally archived. … Essentially, by using this podcast as a mirror of Toledo, I hope to further the burgeoning movement of pride in this place we call home.”
Delightful Art with Dee
Delightful Art with Dee is a new nonprofit art gallery, founded by Dee Brown at 137 N. Michigan St., that provides local artists with a positive and encouraging venue in which to display and sell their work.
Her project, Art with a Heart, aims to offer free art classes to groups that may not otherwise get to make art, including veterans, people who are hearing-impaired, people with autism, people with Parkinson’s Disease and more.
Brown said her first Art with a Heart class will be a painting class for disabled women veterans. Her father is a disabled veteran.
“I want to bring a little color into their lives, bring a little color into Toledo,” Brown said. “I want to make each day a little brighter. When you’re nice, it rubs off. It will spread throughout the community.”
Because she doesn’t plan to charge the women, she needs funding to cover art supplies from local art shop The Art Supply Depo, payment for local artist Julie Schuster who will teach the class and a meal for the class.
“The ability and opportunity to create your own art can bring a very deep fulfillment within one’s self,” Brown told Toledo Free Press last month. “Art With A Heart will be providing the opportunity to create, to many who have none. We are raising funds to provide a great variety of free art classes such as drawing, painting, sculpture and found object art to those in life that have been left behind and often ignored.”
Toledo Youth Pages
Toledo Youth Pages is a prevention tool for at-risk youth that provides information on health care, social services, criminal justice and rights and responsibilities.
Sandy Sieben, one of the coordinators for Toledo Youth Pages, said, “With SOUP’s support, the Toledo Youth Pages will be distributed to Toledo high schools, libraries, and community centers. … This is an incredible opportunity for us to collaborate with community members, share our skills and resources while learning from others in the community.”
The app and website should be finished by April and the booklets printed by May, Sieben said. A printed version is important because not everyone has access to a computer or mobile device, organizers said.
Funds are needed to reimburse mileage to volunteers who distribute the booklets to sites across the area and any extra would go to printing new books.
For more information, email Sieben at email@example.com.
Chefs from throughout the region made soup for the event, including Alex Sutphin of Ciao Bella Ristorante Italiano in Port Clinton, Pam Weirauch of Pam’s Corner in Toledo and Aaron Hensley, of Bier Stube’s House of Eats in Toledo. Country Grains Market in Sylvania donated the bread.
Among those in attendance was newly appointed District 4 Toledo City Councilman Scott Ramsey and his wife, Melissa.
Toledo SOUP committee member Ryan Bunch encouraged attendees to support all the projects that presented if possible.
“It’s not about who takes home the pot tonight but about all the great work being done in the community,” Bunch said. “We need to see what they are doing and support them. That’s what this is all about — building community.”
For more information, visit www.toledosoup.com.