Street Angel Lunch Pack

So proud of our little ones who became part of the Street Angels Community! Their hands made 25 lunches and sweet notecards to share with our homeless neighbors. Thank you for sharing your big hearts, and extra special thanks to Bridget McMahon and her husband for leading us on this mission! We are excited for the next one!!

Holiday Cookie Baking

Tummies are a little fuller! Hearts are a little happier! All because of the sweet cookie donations from our little ones 🎄 102 dozen delivered just in time for the holidays!! Our friends at three local agencies - Bayview Community Center, The Cathedral Center and Meta House - all graciously welcomed our treats (and many handmade cards) to share with their families. We are especially thankful to Alison Resch for your dedication to leading this mission! Thanks to all of you for your generosity and love. 

Trick or Treat at St John's on the Lake

"You know, so much has changed in the last 50 years but the one thing that remains the same is the sound of children laughing". -A resident friend of ours...

On Halloween our 5th annual Trick or Treat event took place at Saint John's on the Lake. Each year we go back on October 31st to trick or treat with the residents and staff and celebrate another year of volunteer! This year we celebrated 4 years as an organization and the amazing partnership we have with Saint John's, we are reminded that our children can do great things!

A Visit to Safe and Sound, Inc.

Several of our older kids visited the offices of Safe and Sound, Inc. to have a conversation about race, racism, and Milwaukee. The tone, set by Youth Organizers Daniela and Damien, was welcoming and judgement-free. We are so grateful to them for allowing us to have this opportunity. 

The kids learned about Chapter 220 in Milwaukee and listened to Damien speak on his personal experiences with it. The kids defined the terms race, racism, discriminate, and stereotype. Specifically to Milwaukee, Vel Phillips, Father Groppi, and the 16th St. Viaduct were mentioned.

At the end, we were given a list of places to visit/volunteer at as an action item. In case you are interested too, they are listed below:

El Centro Hispano, Journey House, Christ St. Peter Lutheran Church/School, United Migrant Opportunity Services, Urban Ecology Center, Walker's Point Youth Shelter, Artists Working in Education, City on a Hill, Express Yourself Milwaukee, Walnut Way, Northside YMCA, New-Life Resource Center, Running Rebels Community Org., COA, Dominican Center, Hepatha Lutheran Church, Wisconsin Community Services, Boys and Girls Clubs- Mary Ryan, Parklawn YMCA.

MLK Jr. National Day of Service 2018

We celebrate National Days of Service on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and 9/11 Day of Remembrance. These were started by the Corporation for National and Community Service. This year, for MLK Day we met to pack On the Go Bags for our Milwaukee neighbors who are homeless. This is a project that we started with HELP last year. Families brought in cash or item donations and then everyone moved through the tables packing bags with toiletries and other things. Some families brought home a bag to give out and the majority of bags were given to Mr. Bob's Under the Bridge

Reading Buddies, November 2017

Our buddies at Thurston Woods are wonderful mentors for our little ones in kindness and in reading. It came as no surprise that the mentors asked their teachers to add an extra service component to our Reading Buddies day in November. In addition to reading, snacks, and art this time we also packed care kits for the individuals we serve through St. Vincent de Paul. We contacted our lead, Ms. Ladonna, at SVDP to see what the diners needed. We collected the items and then our big and little buddies packed the bags together. The care kits were handed out over Thanksgiving. We are really looking forward to seeing our buddies again in 2018!

Family Volunteer Day 2017: St. Vincent De Paul

This year, we participated in Family Volunteer Day. It's an international day to celebrate the power of families and their ability to make a true difference in their community. This project was funded by donations from our families and supplemented with a grant from generationOn, a division of Points of Light Foundation. Our monthly taco night was a little bit more special with lots of families and special extras like t-shirts and hats provided by Disney.

Thank you to everyone who participated and we hope that this day encouraged many families to get out there and make their communities a better place with their love and care!

Potluck Dinner for the Cast of Annie

We were presented with a really unique experience in November by Skylight Music Theatre. Their production of Annie was in the final stages of rehearsal and for their very long technical rehearsal they asked us to come in provide their cast with a potluck dinner. Annie? Our kids? YES!

Families from Toddlers and Kids on a Mission gathered together to serve 70 cast members and then were able to tour the theatre, including enjoying listening to one of the songs from Annie. It was a day to remember!

Make a Difference Day, 2017

This was our second year participating in the citywide Make a Difference Day. We even got to return to the home that we spruced up last year in 2016. The purpose of this event is to visit yards of the elderly in the fall to get to all those tasks that have become hard for them.

It was an absolute pleasure helping Miss B with getting her yard ready for the winter today. We had 10 families (lots of big and little hands!) trimming bushes, raking leaves and chopping down brush. Miss B was beyond appreciative. She remembered us from last year and was overwhelmed at all of the families who came out to be “such a blessing” to her. A highlight was being able to sing “Happy Birthday” to her! (She recently turned 90!!!) Thanks to all the families who came out in this cold weather to make warm memories!!

And thank you to our parters at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and Interfaith Older Adult Programs, Inc. for giving us this opportunity!

Leadership Workshop with Just Ministries

Our leadership gathers monthly to strategize and brainstorm but this month, we gathered for education. The non-profit organization Just Ministries led us all in a poverty simulation. We were all assigned new names and new lives and for an hour, we tried to make life work as that person while managing an income that was below the poverty line. We had to drop our kids off at school, go to work or look for employment, pay our bills, buy groceries, and arrange for transportation. Our leadership has varying levels of professional and personal experience with persons living below the poverty line and so at the end, when it was time for debriefing and processing, we had a lot to talk about. We were very grateful for the insights we gained from this training and we are newly motivated moving forward to find and create projects with the lessons we learned.

-Jean Heffernan

Co-Founder and Development Director

Reading Buddies at Thurston Woods Year 3 Starts!

Perseverance. Mixing colors.  Sign language. Budding friendships. Snacks.

What do these five things have in common?!? Thurston Woods Reading Buddies, of course!

Our third year of building relationships with our Reading Buddies program at Thurston Woods Campus began today. Children, educators and parents shared a morning full of joy getting to know one another.  The photos speak volumes about the love, compassion and patience that come from the children.

We started our time together with a read-aloud called The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, and focused on the importance of trying hard and keeping a “can do” attitude. We used sign language to sing “The More We Get Together.” Then the little buddies partnered with their big buddy mentors who read self-selected books to them.

Ms. Nicole continued our theme of perseverance by sharing a quote by Artist Georgia O’Keeffe: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” Jointly, the partners mixed color and created “tints” to paint an O’Keefe-inspired landscape to donate.


Snacks and casual chit-chat wrapped up our time together before the Thurston Woods students picked a take-home book and headed back to class.  Kudos to the children for demonstrating what it means to treat one another with love and respect!  My heart is filled with hope.

-Lynn Raines

Thurston Woods Reading Buddies Project Manager

Toddlers and Kids on a Mission Co-Founder and Managing Director


Third Saturday September St. Vincent DePaul Meal

My kids, ages 7 and 4, are familiar with the idea of helping others -- we have been the beneficiaries of much help from our community of friends and family in recent years, and we talk often about paying it forward -- but this was their first experience serving food to others at a soup kitchen/meal program.

Earlier in the day, we read the book "Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen" by DyAnne DiSalvo, which opened up some discussion about what we would be doing at All Peoples Church that evening, as well as a little bit about the folks that might be coming there for a meal and why they may be choosing to come.   

After a quick drive, we had a few extra minutes before we had to be at the church, so we walked over to the beautiful Darius Simmons Memorial Garden across the street.  We were greeted by a lovely woman who was tending to vast vegetable gardens, and she offered to have us pick some ripe and ready sweet tomatoes.  My 4-year-old daughter was very interested in holding the little bucket while we picked tomatoes and listened to a few stories about the garden and the Kids Working To Succeed program.  After a few minutes, we thanked the gardener and headed over to the church.

After donning our hair nets, aprons and gloves, we were happy to incorporate those tomatoes into the taco dinner that would be served.  My kids were eager to chop the tomatoes and take on any and all tasks they could find.  I was really happy to see them jump right in with helping hands, joining the other families and kids who were there to serve.  Kids are "do-ers" with such big hearts!

We served meals to many folks, young and old, ate a bit ourselves, and then helped clean up before heading out.  On the ride home I asked my kids if they had any thoughts or observations about the meal program or what they had done.  My 4 y.o. said that, as she served peaches with a long-handled slotted spoon, "some people used their manners and others didn't. One lady said, 'Gimme some peaches,' and that hurt my feelings."  I could see that she was a little puzzled by this, given how much we harp on good manners as a family, and I took this as an opportunity to tell her that I'm sorry she felt that her feelings were hurt and that sometimes we don't know what someone else is going through or what kind of a day they're having, and sometimes it means they may not be thinking about their manners.  Or, maybe that particular lady hadn't had a good meal in a while and she was just plain hungry.  And sometimes it's hard to be polite when you're really hungry... my daughter seemed to be thinking about times when she feels hungry and maybe at that moment she felt a twinge of empathy...

My 7-year-old son observed that "It was fun and a lot of work!"  And later he commented, "Almost all of the people that were there tonight were black... and I don't know why."  Using words that I thought he'd understand, I explained that the church is in a predominantly black neighborhood and that many of Milwaukee's neighborhoods are pretty segregated by race.  I asked him, "Do we have very many black people in our neighborhood?" and he replied, "No."  I tried as best as I could to explain a little bit about housing discrimination (we have talked many times about Jim Crow laws, oppression of people of color and the Civil Rights Movement, so this was not a totally new topic for my kids).  I also told him that while those unfair laws have changed now, some of the same problems still remain.  It has been hard to change the patterns that were set back then, but it doesn't mean we should stop trying to change them.  It's important to build relationships and get to know people who don't look like you or live near you, especially if we're going to try to solve some of the really tough problems we face in our city.  

So, more than just the idea of helping others... more than just that good feeling we get... I am glad that my kids are getting a glimpse into the lives of others who may look different than they do or live in different neighborhoods, and a glimpse into some of the difficulties that others face, and my hope is that through continued conversations that are often a little uncomfortable, my kids will become leaders in building relationships and making positive change.

-Sarah Richards

First Friends Across Nations Playgroup


Our first ever Friends Across Nations (FAN) Playgroup kicked off on September 18th.  The kids got to enjoy a Teddy Bear Picnic, and thanks to generous donations from members of Love and Lift, Inc., each child was able to take home their very own teddy bear.  It warmed my heart to see the kids faces light up as they played with their teddy bears during our "picnic" and then have a dance party with their bears.  It was wonderful to see moms from different backgrounds jump right into conversations, and be able to connect while sharing in the joy of seeing our kids have fun together.  It was a beautiful day, and I look forward to the friendships that will begin to blossom as our first session continues into the coming months.

-Hilary (FAN Playgroup Leader)