Village of Menomonee Falls - It started with an idea that came to Menomonee Falls award-winning poet Liz Rhodebeck in February at a fundraising event for House of Love, a non-profit organization in Milwaukee that provides out-of-home care for girls.
Two girls who live in the home read poems they had written about their lives.
“The emcee that night jokingly said they ought to publish a book,” Rhodebeck said. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. Duh, I could do that. I’ve done a couple of books. That’s where the idea was born.”
The book is called, “Hear My Voice: Poems of the Unheard Girls from the House of Love.” All of the proceeds raised from the book will go to House of Love.
Rhodebeck has volunteered every week for two years there. The organization provides care for girls ages 12-17 in a group home setting. House of Love also helps young women ages 18 and older with supportive housing and life skills mentoring. Rhodebeck emphasized the importance of care for women who are no longer juveniles.
“Those girls, when they’re out of high school, they are prime targets for human trafficking,” Rhodebeck. “I look at this as preventative and that’s why it’s important to nurture these girls. “
Rhodebeck used her experience as a writer to lead poetry workshops at House of Love.
“To me, they’re just girls that are trying to find their way,” Rhodebeck said. “This was one way for them to express their emotions. Sometimes, writing helps you figure things out. It helps you get through those emotions, and maybe it’s something you can’t express directly, but you can poetically. There’s a lot of therapeutic value to writing.”
The book features 42 poems from approximately 10 girls. The girls are anonymous in the book, only identified by their initials.
The entire publication process was done with ample help from generous community members, Rhodebeck said. Orange Hat Publishing of Waukesha provided free editing services, a local artist created the book’s cover art for free and a fundraiser at the start of the process resulted in more than $1,000 raised for publication costs.
“Our first run of printing will be 150-200 books, so all those sales will be profit because we already got the money to actually print the book,” Rhodebeck said.
A celebration and launch of the book will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, at Legacy Christian Church, N84W16871 Menomonee Ave., Menomonee Falls. The books will cost $10 and can be purchased at the launch, on Amazon or at House of Love.
“When you hear these girls tell their own story through poetry, that’s what moves you and makes it come alive,” Rhodebeck said. “That’s a perfect blending of using the arts to bring awareness.”