PUBLISHED: 1:38 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Grandmas join together to do good works for others

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Maureen Brown, left, and Colleen Williams of Grandmothers Incorporated prepare food for the Veterans Day ceremony Friday, Nov. 11 at the ANB Hall.
This Thanksgiving a number of Juneau families will gather 'round the table, enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal and give thanks for all of the people who love and support them.

Their appreciation will surely include a special thanks to grandma, or in at least one case, the ladies of Juneau's Grandmas Incorporated.

Grandmas Inc., a nonprofit organization that got its start in 2004, is known for its good works about town, including the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the ANB Hall, which last year attracted more than 70 families.

Grandmas also sponsors swimming activities for children and a cultural education program for young women, as well as a May Day picnic and a Grandmas Retreat and provides Christmas gifts for children.

"What we've found is that we can help more people when we all work together than when we work alone," said Maureen Brown, president of Grandmas Inc. "All of our grandmothers have expertise in different areas, which gives us a lot of resources to draw from. We listen to what people need, and then we refer them to someone who can help."

The organization provides assistance in a wide range of areas, from helping families make burial and transportation arrangements after losing a family member to raising money for families in crisis.

"I think the reason our organization works is because we don't require people to fill out a big, long application for help-all they have to do is ask us," Brown said. "We're successful because we give of ourselves so freely and don't expect anything back."

Depending on the project, the group can range from around 60 people to more than 100. Though grandmothers are the majority of its participants, children, grandchildren, husbands and other community groups also are involved.

"Everybody offers donations or volunteers time," Brown said. "We don't have any money to speak of, but we have lots of energy to give."

The group usually has a project lined up at all times.

"We do stay busy-sometimes more busy than I'd like to be," laughed Myrna Brown, who handles public relations for Grandmas Inc. "But when whatever event we're doing is over and people come up and hug you and thank you, it's all worth it. And the fact that our grandkids now know us as Grandmas Inc.-that's pretty neat."

In addition to providing fun and supportive events for families to attend, the members of Grandmas Inc. also try to mentor the younger generation.

"We offer them structure and the opportunity for all of us to learn from each other," Myrna Brown said. "Our goal is to provide better futures for our children and grandchildren."

To this end, Grandmas Inc. offers families advice on parenting skills, budgeting, health issues and the importance of education. Assistance can range from teaching a toddler potty training to helping an adolescent adjust to his or her changing body. Grandmas Inc. recently started a new group called the White Bison program for girls ages 8 to 13.

"The main goal of this program is to open the communication lines between mothers and daughters," Maureen Brown said of the program designed to help girls as they reach adolescence.

Grandmas Inc. credits its ability to help different groups not only to the dedication of its members, but also to the community organizations that have provided them with training.

"We acquired good interpersonal and mentoring skills though the many activities, workshops and classes sponsored by different programs that the grandmothers were able to attend," Myrna Brown said. "For this we are extremely thankful, because those gatherings provided us with the understanding and knowledge to plan, organize and coordinate our own functions."

In addition to holding its own events, the group also plans and coordinates functions for other groups and caters for different organizations as a way to raise money. In the past month alone, the group has catered an event for 250 members of the Southeast Conference and cooked for the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans on Veterans Day.

"Any money we raise we use toward our other activities, like our Thanksgiving celebration and gifts at Christmas," Myrna Brown said.

And while the people who benefit from the group's generosity certainly appreciate all of the help that they've been given, the grandmas who participate take home a little something as well.

"I am really proud of our entire group, and it's been wonderful watching them all get recognition for the good works they do," Myrna Brown said. "I like being involved because these are my friends, and working together, we can do a lot more for our families and for the children."

"I love helping people because it makes me feel good inside," Maureen Brown said. "It's wonderful to feel that you're doing something good-something that comes from your heart."

For more information about Grandmas Incorporated, call (907)523-0796.