Courage MKE became an idea of Co-Founders, Brad and Nick Schlaikowski while they were foster parents. Together they welcomed multiple homeless LGBTQ+ youth into their home after learning about their stories of rejection, fear and survival. Their first foster daughter told stories of being kicked out of her home because she came out as Lesbian and then rejected further from women’s shelters because of who he is. Another one of their foster daughters fought to survive and was manipulated into sex trafficking.
In late summer of 2015, Brad and Nick knew it was time to take action and bring homelessness amongst our LGBTQ+ youth to the front of the conversation. That year they, along with a group of amazing friends put together a community event called “Courage; an event for homeless lgbtq+ youth” to help raise awareness to the cause as well as over $15,000.00 for another local nonprofit. The event came and gone and though proud, Brad and Nick still wanted to do more. They brought their friends together and proposed the idea of continuing to raise awareness and eventually open a facility that any child that identified as LGBTQ+ would be accepted for who they are, taught what it means to be part of a family and most importantly a place they would be proud to call him, it was that moment that Courage MKE began.
Brad and Nick quickly created a Board of Directors and by January 2016, because of the high needs of this community and the generous support the event received and continues to receive, Courage MKE was established as a nonprofit organization!
The Courage Board of Directors quickly decided to focus on four main areas:
By working with our community donors, public and private funding we will open and sustain “The Courage House”, a safe haven, a home where LGBTQ+ young people can feel treasured and respected for who they are. Courage House will provide counselling programs, mental and physical healthcare, identity appreciation programs, and assistance with job hunting and resume building. But, Courage House will be more than that, it will be home cooked meals prepared with love. It will be a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, gifts at holiday time, comfort through difficult times, and the stability these young people so desperately deserve.
SUPPORT & AWARENESS:
Community outreach through local high school Gay Straight Alliances (GSA). Funding within our schools across the state of Wisconsin has been slashed for years. GSAs are one of the first to lose their funding from their school districts. We believe that GSAs in schools are one of the most important organizations as in many situations, the only resource a child has to talk with peers and be themselves without fear. On a monthly basis Courage MKE provides up to two grants to a high school GSA to ensure they are able to continue to make a difference in their school communities.
Courage MKE believes that everyone should have access to any post high school education whether its as trade school, certificate program of four year university, Courage MKE is encouraging and supporting post high school education through our established Jackie Roberts Memorial Scholarship Fund. Each year through a written essay application, we will award high school Seniors that are active members in their school’s GSA with scholarships to help with their post high school education.
Sometimes, it’s the things that we all take for granted that remind us we are cared about. Courage MKE’s Courage Kit program provides basic day to day necessities such as soaps, toothbrushes, tooth paste, deodorant, tampons, hand warmers, new socks, hats mittens and more. Through the generosity of our communities, organizations across Wisconsin such as Veolia North America, Northwestern Mutual, Harley Davidson and others have hold countless drives to ensure we are able to continuously deliver Courage Kits to organizations like Milwaukee Public Schools, and countless other shelters that support youth in our communities to allow them the simplest of things that make them feel human.