MILWAUKEE — As 2019 comes to an end, Courage MKE looks back at the year with grateful hearts.
Nearly a year ago, the Milwaukee non-profit opened Courage House, Wisconsin's first group home for displaced LGBT teens.
Paulina Ruiz-Maki found her calling at Courage House.
"This house is all about feeling safe and feeling accepted and feeling loved," said Ruiz-Maki.
Ruiz-maki works at the house as a resident care worker. She cooks, helps kids with homework, and monitors activities.
The kids that come to Courage House are caught up in foster care, child welfare, or the juvenile justice system.
"I think that's such a privilege to be someone in these kids' lives that they trust to take care of them and to be there for them," said Ruiz-Maki.
"Every child that comes through the door comes with new needs or new emotions and they're big emotions sometimes," said Brad Schlaikowski, executive director for Courage MKE.
On average there are 4 teens staying at the house. They have come from Milwaukee, Racine, Lafayette County, or the Wisconsin Dells area.
Since opening the home in early 2019, Schlaikowski calls it one of the greatest learning experiences.
For instance, the executive director said they originally thought they would have a family dinner every night where the kids helped out, but that's not always the reality. Sometimes they come home after a bad day at school and need to unwind.
"Every single day you see improvement. You know sometimes you take two steps back or sometimes you take two steps forward but growth is happening," said Schlaikowski.
The house staff is crucial to learning what the kids need and what works.
Schlaikowski says the one word that sums up 2019--fulfilled.
"When everyone works together this house is literally proof that we can all work together regardless of our differences," said Schlaikowski.
Courage MKE is looking to grow its mission in the new year. Their realtor is casually looking at additional properties.