Milwaukee LGBTQ youth 'giving back' to 26 families this Christmas

On Milwaukee's south side, 'tis the season for giving at one group home, where a few teens are lifting the spirits of those around them. What started as a simple idea, has quickly grown into hundreds of gifts for local families. 

"This house is based on giving back," said Jenna Sterr, Courage MKE house supervisor.

Near 6th and Lapham, on a dreary day, the spirit of the holiday season shines bright.

"This started as a really small, little idea, and it turned into something that is a lot bigger than we ever anticipated," said Sterr.

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Inside Courage MKE -- a group home for LGBTQ youth -- live three 'elves' who have set out to bring cheer to their neighborhood. 

Jenna Sterr

"We had the kids help make a flyer that on one side is in English and on the other side, in Spanish," said Sterr.

It asked families what their children need and want this Christmas. The result, Sterr said, was wish lists from 26 families, totaling to about 120 kids. 

"Some of the responses were heartbreaking to me and heartwarming at the same time," said Sterr.

She said a young teen returned a flyer requesting clothing and toys for five children under the age of 5.

"She didn’t ask for anything for herself," said Sterr. "It was all just wishes for the kids."

A spreadsheet online detailing those wishes has received so much support, Sterr is adding one more request for each family -- a $50 gift card toward a Christmas meal.

"I want to give back to the community because, you know, I’m blessed," said Makayla Taylor, 16, Courage MKE resident. "I have everything I want and need."

The project has brought a sparkle to Taylor's eyes, and to those around her. 

"It's sad because I’m not around my family, but I get to call them," said Taylor. "Other people don’t have nobody to call, so like I said, I’m blessed. I’m mostly excited for the smiles on the little kids' faces." 

If Courage MKE's holiday spreadsheet fills up, the nonprofit will gladly take additional donations for those families. Donations are due by Saturday, Dec. 12 -- in order to give the teens enough time to wrap the gifts and distribute them by Tuesday, Dec. 15.