Doing for others becomes group effort

New website helps fledgling nonprofit off to good start

Oct. 16, 2012

When Maria Nicholas-Groves first walked the streets of Nairobi, she was only 20. She didn't understand why the children were sniffing glue, and when her Kenyan guide explained it to her, she was shocked.

The children were hungry, and the fumes kill the pain the hunger causes.

"I grew up in Brookfield, and you definitely get stuck in your own bubble here. Traveling really opens your eyes to the needs of the rest of the world out there," Nicholas-Groves said.

Since then, she's traveled to other parts of the world, determined to make a difference.

In 2011, she took a small group of volunteers to Guatemala with donated supplies: basic medications, vitamins, shoes and clothing. But she also helped Casa Guatemala, an orphanage for more than 250 children, build a slaughterhouse. Waste from the slaughterhouse will be used to produce methane gas, which will become the orphanage's source of energy. Leftover food will be turned into compost for other crops or returned to the pig pen, completing the cycle of sustainability.

She planned to return to Africa and do something similar - but people started to talk.

"We had planned on going back and doing this ourselves, but a bunch of people heard about it and said, 'Hey! I want to help! I want to get involved!' " Nicholas-Groves said.

So, Nicholas-Groves and her husband, Grant Groves - the two now live in Pewaukee - started Feeding Mouths Filling Minds. The new nonprofit aims to end childhood hunger by building a self-sustaining food supply for schools, orphanages and communities around the world.

It's en route to become a 501(c)3 organization and has already gotten a lot of support. Amerisign Graphics, Harken Inc. and Nalani Services are just a few of their community partners. Savvy Panda in Elm Grove stepped in to launch the FMFM website pro bono, a key to the young organization's work.

"Savvy Panda was so kind and cared about our cause. They gave us this great website that takes our engagement to a whole new level. Now, people can fill out a form - whether it's an orphanage that wants to be considered for future projects or somebody here who wants to leverage their skills and help somebody else," Nicholas-Groves said.

On Nov. 11, FMFM will send eight people to Kenya to help an orphanage build and fill a chicken coop. It's a small gesture, but it means a lot. The orphanage, Huruma Children's Home, serves more than 150 children; about one in 25 of those children are HIV positive. It's especially important for these kids to consume nutrients to prevent their bodies from deteriorating. So, in addition to building a self-sustaining food forest, a compost and a chicken coop, the group will be providing the only source of protein for these kids.

To get involved, visit FeedingMouthsFillingMinds.org to sponsor, donate, volunteer or become an advocate for ending childhood hunger. Nicholas-Groves will host a fundraiser in her home Saturday. It's an awareness-building or introductory night, and all funds raised will go directly to the chicken coop in Kenya. For more information, send an email to info@feedingmouthsfillingminds.org.

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