With protests and awareness of domestic violence on the rise across the country, a group of local businesses are taking it upon themselves to help out with the issue.
Nine businesses in the city of Brookfield and the village of Elm Grove are teaming up to help victims of domestic violence by collecting donations for babies and children staying at The Women's Center in Waukesha.
One leader in the mission is Charlie Bianco of Charlie's East Coast Hair Designs.
"I have a salon and I mostly do women, and you know what? We hear a lot of stories," Bianco said. "We know that the women's center has really put a big, big effort into supporting some of these women, and we want to give back."
Bianco and Todd Ruedt, owner of Grounds Maintenance Services, have been looking for a new cause to give back to since their food drive around Thanksgiving in late 2014.
"We've been talking about what would be the next thing that we want to do in the community," Ruedt said. "Because of what (Bianco) does for a living, he has a lot of interaction with women and female employees and a lot of connection to The Women's Center."
More specifically, Ruedt and Bianco want to make sure that the issue of domestic violence is not only addressed, but also helped on a local level.
"There's not a lot of local businesses that do local things. We've done things with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but for this localized women's center, there's not enough people that come forward to support them," Bianco said. "I don't think people are focusing on their own backyard. All these big foundations are getting tons and tons of money and you kind of forget about the people that are your neighbors."
For The Women's Center's executive director, the donation drive is a blessing.
"We feel fortunate that Waukesha and the surrounding area is very supportive of The Women's Center. We rely heavily on these kinds of donations," Angela Mancuso said. "The items from these drives really do help us manage our fiscal budget. We're so thankful."
The participating businesses and their addresses are:
· ActionCOACH of Elm Grove, 13150 Watertown Plank Road
· Brookfield Dance Academy, 2945 N. Brookfield Road
· Charlie's East Coast Hair Designs, 285 N. Janacek Road
· First Watch, 17550 W. Bluemound Road
· G2 Insurance Services, 14260 W. Greenfield Ave., Suite 100
· Grounds Maintenance Services, 14260 W. Greenfield Ave., Suite 203
· Highlander Elite, 13825 W. Burleigh Road
· Lyle Husar Designs, 17395 W. Bluemound Road
· The Oilerie Brookfield, 17125C W. Bluemound Road
Each of the nine businesses will have a barrel set up that will be accepting donations. Items will be collected beginning on April 1 and delivered before Mother's Day on May 10.
Many of the businesses also participated in the Thanksgiving food drive that Ruedt helped to lead last year, but there are also some newcomers.
"We reached back out to those same partners and some of them were interested and some weren't. So we reached out to some new partners who had expressed interest after hearing about the food drive," Ruedt said. "Charlie and I's goal is to get a group of local businesses together that are going to continue to support our community in more ways."
Needs for children and infants at The Women's Center include diapers, formula, new or gently-used clothing, age-appropriate books and toys, and gift cards.
Mancuso notes that there is a common misconception that in more affluent or privileged areas, domestic violence is not as big of a problem.
"Domestic violence knows no socioeconomic boundaries. It happens in every single community. We see clients from all over the greater-Milwaukee area," Mancuso said.
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