Denise Nalepa-Hucke and Rhae Ortega, of Green Bay, aren’t looking to make a living from their business. Their goal is to make life better for others.
A few Thanksgivings ago, Nalepa-Hucke and her husband were looking for a place to donate their time when they came across a group that was dedicated to making holidays and birthdays better for the elderly and disabled, most of whom were shut-ins.
“That’s how I met Rhae,” Nalepa-Hucke said. “That was about two years ago and I loved the group and got involved doing various business tasks and then served on the board.”
Saying that she got involved is an understatement. The retired executive and businesswoman, who volunteers as many as 40 hours a week, dove right in.
“I told Rhae that we should be a nonprofit because we are doing charity work and should be able to take donations and further the organization,” she said.
Working with a local attorney who volunteered his services, Nalepa-Hucke waded through the complicated 501(c)(3) application form, and in just six months, was granted nonprofit status. From its humble beginnings, Ortega’s mission and vision grew.
Ortega said, “The original idea came from a person who was looking for help for their adult mother for her birthday, and it has been growing from there.”
Lifting Up the Elderly and Disabled strives to lift up those who might be missed by other nonprofits and make a positive impact on their lives. Services include providing dinners and a gift for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays for the elderly and disabled.
Ortega, who has experience working with the disabled and has two children with autism, said there is no shortage of requests. The need is great.
Clients must apply for help, and out of respect for the community, the Facebook page is a closed group and interested people must get permission to join. Guidelines ensure that those needing help qualify and there are regulations that prohibit cross posting. As more people hear about the group and seek help, Nalepa-Hucke and Ortega have focused on adding volunteers and fundraising.
So far, they have held brat fries, had a fireworks stand and are committed to working a booth at the Green Bay Packers’ game in conjunction with House of Hope.
“Much of what we do is word of mouth,” Nalepa-Hucke said. “When we have our brat fries and fundraisers, we hand out pamphlets and talk about what we do.”
Print materials were donated by a local printer and a website designer contributed the website (www.lued.org). The Packers games will provide a good opportunity to raise funds, but volunteers are needed to help staff the booth.
With the addition of help, the women predict that the organization will continue to grow and help more families. Although a relatively new nonprofit, about 150 families were served last Christmas, and they have averaged about six birthdays a month. They encourage volunteers to sponsor a birthday in part or whole by making a meal, bringing a dessert or buying a gift.
While these actions help with basic needs, Nalepa-Hucke is trying to increase the budget by applying for grants. She also speaks to groups and encourages their participation.
“We believe in the support of the elderly and disabled,” the group’s mission statement says. “And, respect for each and everyone who comes through our community.”
From her initial experience with the group, Nalepa-Hucke has been sold on that mission. As she volunteers, she said that she gets more out of helping that she gives.
“We work with so many of the disabled children’s parents and see how happy they are to have our help. Last week, I took over for a 4-year-old’s birthday and she kept giving me hugs — she was so happy. That’s what we do,” she said.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.