History of HOPE

An affirmation of life

In 1978, Gail Grenier Sweet tragically lost her parents and young brother in a car accident. Despite the understandable grief, she responded with resilience and compassion. Utilizing funds from the newly established Ted, Audrey, and George Grenier Foundation, she founded Hope Network as a celebration of life and an embodiment of hope.

Evolution of a mission

In its initial form, HOPE House (formerly known as Hope Network) served as a residence for single mothers. Soon, it became apparent that a network could efficiently support a larger number of women than a single household. Thus, Hope Network was established. The ensuing years marked a journey of continuous evolution and growth.

HOPE Network's original logo
The original logo for the HOPE Network for Single Mothers

Safe sleep – then and now

At the outset, HOPE Network directed its efforts toward supporting pregnancy and the initial year of a child’s life. Starting in 1984, HOPE Network started receiving and distributing previously owned cribs to low-income single mothers. However, as apprehensions regarding product recalls and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) grew, the program underwent adaptation.
Presently, single mothers are provided with safe sleep education alongside a new Pack-N-Play and fitted crib sheet, ensuring they possess both the knowledge and resources to establish a secure home environment. Community partners are frequently enlisted to facilitate the dissemination of our resources to single mothers across Metro-Milwaukee. Over the years, HOPE Network has furnished more than 3,000 infants with a safe sleeping space.

Ongoing support

The newborn stage is merely the initial step in the parenting journey. Consequently, HOPE Network’s programs extend to accompany mothers throughout their child-rearing years, offering comprehensive support including health and wellness education and resources.

Connecting members

In the 1980s and ‘90s, “The Forum” brought together single mothers monthly for discussion, networking and speakers. This group aimed to build community among local single mothers. Mothers also had the opportunity to come together at other events – annual potluck dinners, and holiday parties. As HOPE’s geographic reach increased, however, so did the challenge of serving the entire metro area. With HOPE Network’s $5 membership, single mothers can enjoy family experiences that might otherwise be out of reach – Brewers and Bucks games, museum passes, festival tickets, and more. Members continue to connect with one another through these events and through social media.

Sharing resources

The Sharing HOPE newsletter by HOPE Network serves as a platform to inform and disseminate relevant resources to our members and beyond. Our aim is to deliver wellness information while also highlighting partner organizations and educational prospects.

Fostering Future Growth

In 1988, HOPE Network introduced another impactful initiative to support single mothers: scholarships. Addressing the specific obstacle of affordable childcare, HOPE Network’s scholarships can be utilized for either tuition fees or childcare expenses while the mother pursues her education.
This initiative has also expanded progressively over the years. Initially, the first two scholarship recipients were each granted $1000. Through the steadfast support of our dedicated backers, the program has expanded to encompass a greater number of recipients, repeat awardees, and increased funding amounts. This indicates that an increasing number of women are effectively realizing their educational goals establishing rewarding careers that contribute to the health and well-being of their families.

Steadfast Principles

The world has evolved since 1982, yet regrettably, the need persists. Single mothers continue to be among the most marginalized and under supported segments of our community. They still face the distinct challenges of single parenthood. However, they can discover assistance and support at HOPE Network. We invite you to become a member of our community. 

Building self-reliance

Resources, of course, remain a struggle for single mothers long after infancy. It’s no secret that kids grow fast. Chubby baby arms and legs transform overnight into lanky teenage limbs. Kids are hard on their clothes, too. Grass stains, snags, and tears are childhood hallmarks –  if kids don’t outgrow new clothes before they have a chance to wear them. Infant supplies, too, are short-lived…lifesavers in one phase, dust gatherers the next.

Single mothers, more than anyone, feel those growing pains. HOPE Network long ago recognized the opportunity for members to swap kids’ clothes, sponsoring semi-annual clothing swaps among members.

Clothing exchange from early 1990s

Over time, community members began to donate their gently used items to single mothers as well. Hundreds of children’s clothes, toys, and baby items come through our doors every month to be sorted and distributed at our Single Mothers Trading Post. Cosponsored by Ascension Lutheran Church, our volunteer-run Trading Post welcomes approximately 60 families each month. Visitors can pass along an outgrown item (or a canned good to the adjacent food pantry) and select a bag of donated items for their own families. As donations allow, the Trading Post also hosts the occasional special event – distributing school supplies or Mother’s Day gifts to families who attend.

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