Step Up Parents: A TRUE Case of Christian Charity from the Heart - Granite Grok

Step Up Parents: A TRUE Case of Christian Charity from the Heart

Denyse Richter Step Up Parents Pic by Rich Beauchesne Seacoastonline

I have railed for years that most “charities” aren’t anymore – they no longer canvas their friends or the public for funds in which to turn around and help others in need but Step Up Parents is not one of those.

Most charities simply suck off the teat of Government taxes – they single, double, triple, or quadruple dip the various levels of Government for their funding. And yes, one person who wanted some of our property taxes in Gilford came out and described that they were “part of Government.” As if that was a sufficient reason for our BudComm to approve her request. She hightailed it out of there when I said, “Good, let me see your books and we’ll start examining your budget just like we do the town and school departments.” We never saw her again.

Step Up Parents is Different

I met Denyse Richter as she and I are on the Senate GrandFamilies Study Commission. While many of the other organizations are always looking for funding, especially from Government, her program seems to be the quintessential old-style charity – seeing a need here in NH, not bothering to just say “someone ought to do something about it”, rolling up her sleeves, asking for donations, in order to help Grandparents who have been thrust, 20, 30, 40 years (or way more) down their life’s line and have to raise one or more of their grandchildren.

Like TMEW and I – but we are the lucky ones as we’re doing ok on our own.  A lot of Grandparents aren’t – and the Study Commission is trying to put its’ arms’ around this burgeoning problem in getting a report together for NH Legislators by the end of the year. There are a lot of Grandparents that are having to fill in because of drug problems with their sons and daughters – and they are ill-prepared to deal with the legal, housing, healthcare, financial problems that arise when you planned your future for yourself (and spouse) and suddenly find themselves having an instant family with sometimes very young children at an advanced age.

Fosters Daily did a write up on her and her mission – I believe that I should put that in front of you GraniteGrok readers (reformatted a bit, emphasis mine):

Step Up Parents helps when grandparents raise kids

PORTSMOUTH – More than 10,000 New Hampshire children are being raised by their grandparents and last year Denyse Richter helped 32 of those families by raising money from her kitchen table in Portsmouth. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services reports those 10,000 children in “relative care” have parents unable or unwilling to care for them, for a host of reasons, many related to the opioid crisis. Two of those grandparents, Richter said, are her “dear friend” and husband who are raising their granddaughter, because their daughter is in recovery.

There are an estimated 12,000 Grandfamilies here in NH where GrandParents are raising their grandkids. Anecdotally, I see more and more folks my age in the stores with little ones – we glance at each other and often there is a nod – “yes, me too”.

While they’re pouring their own resources into rehabilitation efforts for their daughter, Richter said, they’re also raising their grandchild. “I was so touched by their struggle,” said Richter, who recently moved to Portsmouth from Hampton. She said she began researching the impact the opioid epidemic was having on grandparents and discovered a common challenge is financial impact. With no experience in the nonprofit world, Richter and her friend Kathy Terry launched Step Up Parents (SUP) in 2018 to raise money and get it to relative caregivers.

“We thought if we raised $10,000 and helped two families, it would be a success,” Richter said last week. Terry recently stepped down and last year, Richter said, SUP raised almost $50,000 and helped 32 families. She said the money was provided directly to the families and helped fund grandparent support groups. This year, she said, she’s already helped 14 families, just two months into the year.

De Tocqueville all over again – this French politician philosopher was amazed that Americans would voluntary gather together to help others in need, fix the problem, and then disband and go on to the next thing WITHOUT being directed to by Government – or having an attitude of “it’s Government’s problem”. I am happy to say that the Denyse described in the above words is exactly who she is in real life – this is a “heart mission” for her. She’s not waiting on Government to do something – she’s doing it now.

Last week she received three applications from grandparents in a single day, she said. “So we’re on pace to help 100 families” this year, she said. “We call them everyday heroes; they’re signing up for the long haul. I’ve been so inspired on a daily basis.” One of those inspirations, Richter said, is an 80-year-old New Hampshire grandmother raising her 3-year-old great-granddaughter. Another SUP beneficiary, she said, is a 21-year-old man raising his 13-year-old brother, who wanted a cell phone to stay in touch with his little brother.

Richter said she works as a bookkeeper for her husband’s business and was a stay-at-home mother before launching the nonprofit to help “kinship families.” SUP absorbed all operating expenses for the first year. She reported working at least 40 hours a week, fielding applications for help, then finding resources to provide it. Richter said she speaks to Rotary groups, completes grant applications and chases leads that come word-of-mouth.

Some applications for help come through social service agencies and Richter said her goal is to respond within 24 hours. She said she provided gift cards for the older brother’s cell phone, for a grandchild who needed sneakers, for heating oil, automotive repairs and summer camp tuition.

No one plans to do this a second time,” she said about the grandparent caregivers.

No, we never expected that we would, either. But from our stand point, it wasn’t a “super hero” moment – it was simply that our Grandson needed a home and we weren’t going to allow him to just be put into the foster care system in which we might never see him again and never know how things turned out. I would find it very hard to believe that most all the other GrandParents out there didn’t feel the same way; it wasn’t a choice – it was just the Right Thing To Do. But on the part of many, it is a huge sacrifice and not just in time. Love goes a long way but sometimes it isn’t enough. What is needed, from time to time, is a helping hand up. Stand Up Parents is doing that in big way but in a lot of small “helps”:

The average amount of assistance through SUP, she said, is $350 and for anything over $500, SUP seeks help from other nonprofits to make the full request. Six years ago, she said, the average age of grandparents raising grandchildren because of the opioid epidemic was 60. Now, she said, it’s between 60 and 80.

…Richter said her nonprofit group’s tagline is “Even heroes need a hand.”  “These are people doing outstanding, selfless acts of kindness,” she said. “If we can support them, we should. My angle, my endgame is we don’t exist anymore; that the need is gone.”

As I started with De Tocquville’s astonishing observation, I end with it as well – “that the need is gone“.  No, it won’t be gone anytime soon; I’ll be 70 when the Grandson turns 10 (if I make it that long). But I think of those that are in their 80s doing this because FAMILY; they truly are the First Responders for these little ones.

So while TMEW and I are doing alright, many are not and sometimes, it is the little items that mean the most.  I humbly ask that IF you can, help Denyse help others:

For information about getting help, or supporting the program with a financial donation, visit stepupparents.net, call 603-319-4746 or 603-319-4739, email info@stepupparents.net, or mail a check to Step Up Parents, PO Box 1603, Portsmouth, NH, 03801.