Brightening a dark year by giving

Saukville neighborhood finds inspiration in ‘crazy pandemic time’ by buying gifts for women and their children at shelter for whom Christmas might not be so merry

MEMBERS OF THE CEDAR SAUK neighborhood in Saukville banded together this holiday season to help supply much-needed Christmas gifts to three women and their eight children who are clients of Advocates of Ozaukee, which shelters and supports victims of domestic and sexual violence. Pictured with some of the gifts are Addi Haessly, Michelle Oberheu and Tonie Haessly. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

For many people, Christmas is more melancholy than merry, more forlorn than falalala and tidings are sad rather than glad.

That’s the case with women and their children, victims of domestic or sexual abuse, who seek shelter with Advocates of Ozaukee.

Residents of the Cedar Sauk neighborhood on Saukville’s west side are doing what they can to brighten their holiday by buying gifts for three women and their eight children.

“We were trying to find a way for our neighborhood to get together in this crazy pandemic time and help the community and a friend told me about Advocates,” Michelle Oberheu, one of the organizers, said. “She told me we could sponsor families and buy presents for moms and children.”

Oberheu arranged to support a family with four children and sought input by posting the idea on the neighborhood’s private social media page.

“I was surprised by the overwhelming response,” she said. “Within 15 minutes, everything the family wanted was earmarked by people in the neighborhood. Others wanted to help.”

The next day, she asked Advocates for another family to support and by the end of the week they were supporting a third.

“The neighborhood had already grabbed everything for them,” she said.

Types of gifts included coloring books and dolls for the girls and a hoverboard and games for the boys. Moms wanted clothes, scarves, personal care items and cooking utensils.

“My understanding is that these families leave with very little of anything,” she said. “Moms don’t usually ask for anything for themselves.”

In the end about half of the neighborhood’s 50 households participated in the effort by this week, 

filling a bin on Oberheu’s front porch, she said.

“It spread by word of mouth. Some aren’t on Facebook,” she said. “It just felt like something we could accomplish in this socially distant world. It’s something we’ll do again, I think.”

Ozaukee Advocates provides shelter and support for victims of domestic and sexual violence. 

The non-profit group currently has 637 active clients, according to its website.

Advocates Volunteer Manager Alyssa Ellis said the donations are much needed, and that because of the generosity of the neighborhood and others like them, family needs have been largely met.

“Those most in need now are single women,” she said, saying they need donations of personal-care items like lotions, hair products, perfumes, socks, robes and sleepwear. 

Gift cards also are especially welcome, she said.

Advocates is holding a drive-through donation event on Thursday, Dec. 10. To arrange to drop off items or for other information, call Advocates at 284-3577, email Ellis at or visit





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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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