One baby step at a time
LL resident leads new foundation intent on helping teen moms
By Craig Howard
Holly Haneke understands that a well-woven safety net can make all the difference during trying times.
When the Spokane native found herself in a freefall after the death of her husband in 2005, a move to Liberty Lake and reinforcement from family and friends cushioned the landing. Now Haneke is working to provide the same sort of support to teen moms trying to find solid ground of their own.
A resident of Liberty Lake for the past eight years, Haneke is the executive director of GraceSon Housing Foundation, a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to providing wraparound assistance to young mothers and their children. The group is planning construction of a site in north Spokane that will be central to providing what Haneke describes as "opportunities for success."
Haneke graduated from Mead High School in 1997 and went on to attend Gonzaga University, where she played basketball. A heart ailment sent Haneke to the sidelines for her senior year, relegating the former starter to the role of a supplemental coach. She graduated from GU in 2001 with a degree in speech/communications.
Holly and her husband, Andy Bruno - a fellow Gonzaga grad - moved to the Dominican Republic after college as part of a mission to the Dominican Republic through a nonprofit called Children of the Nations. The couple assisted Haitian migrant workers and helped in various orphanages before Holly's heart issues brought them back to the Inland Northwest.
After Andy joined the Marines, the couple was on the move again. In 2005, they found themselves in Meridian, Miss., where Andy was enrolled in jet training.
In February of that year, Andy was flying a biplane when an equipment malfunction occurred. He perished in a crash, leaving behind Holly and two young children. He was 27.
Holly would eventually remarry. She and Matt Haneke have a child together in addition to Holly's previous two.
GraceSon has its headquarters in Liberty Lake at the Meadowwood Technology Campus, collaborating with local groups like Life Services of Spokane. A kickoff fundraiser is scheduled on Feb. 22 at the Spokane Convention Center. While the home in Hillyard is being built, Haneke said the group will "continue to focus on providing a better life for these moms and their children through a holistic approach."
The Splash caught up with Haneke last month to talk about the path to GraceSon, the challenges of leading a new nonprofit and a project built on a foundation of hope.
Q. When you were at Gonzaga or even before, did you think you might want to go into the world of nonprofits?
A. I always knew I had a heart for nonprofits. I interned at the American Red Cross for a while in their PR department. I've just always had a heart for the underprivileged and those who may be struggling.
Q. You were at Union Gospel Mission in communications and the after-care department before accepting the job as GraceSon Housing Foundation's first executive director last year. What did you learn at UGM that might help in this new role?
A. As my kids have grown older, I knew I wanted to do something. I learned a ton at UGM and really grew there. I soaked in so much, not only how nonprofits work but also what they were doing to change people's lives. I was very thankful to be there, but still I knew I wanted to work with these young moms.
Q. How was that transition from UGM to a brand new nonprofit?
A. Shanna Miller of Young Lives talked to me about it. I wanted to make sure she knew I'd been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years and, yes, I'd been working at UGM for a year and a half, but still. I knew I needed some time to think about it and pray about it. Finally, I just said, "OK, I'm all in." When I gave my two weeks' notice at UGM, everyone was super excited and very supportive.
Q. You've experienced what it's like to be a young, single mom facing an uphill battle. How did you get through the loss of your husband and stay strong for your kids?
A. It was a pretty dark time in my life. I was in Mississippi, and there were people and family and you're going through all this stuff you have to go through, dealing with the military side of it. Then the family left, and here I am in Mississippi and that's when everything kind of hit. People would come over to help me, and I wouldn't answer the door. I just wanted to shut myself in. I think I went a week by myself and then I called my mom. I was just trying to re-establish my life. I knew I had to move forward. I was super grateful for my girls at the time. You can't stop living. I had babies that I needed to take care of. It kept me going. The other thing was my faith in God. I knew where Andy was, and I knew he was safe. Even during that time when it was difficult and I was grieving, I still felt a sense of hope. I knew it was going to be OK.
Q. What did you learn as a mentor with Young Lives that can translate into relating to some of the challenges these teen moms are facing?
A. We see all different sorts of scenarios. What we were seeing working with these girls - and I think on average, they're helping around 75 teen moms a year - was that they don't often have a place to live. You may have a mom who's kicked her out or someone else is facing domestic violence. There weren't enough places to live.
Q. How did GraceSon Housing Foundation get started and where are you at now?
A. A donor connected with Young Life stepped forward a year ago to buy a home for teen moms. A property was purchased in Hillyard and, initially, there was a thought of renovating it. We set up a separate nonprofit. It's just been a process of baby steps, just getting this on a good foundation. Our construction chairs are Tom and Kathy Hansen, who own Walker Construction. We worked with an architect all summer. We developed plans. I did research in Spokane of the different places, the maternity homes. I went over to Seattle and visited a home over there. We just started breaking down our needs. Now we're organizing a huge fundraiser. We have a budget for the facility, so we're working toward a campaign, so we can go out and start talking to people about what we're doing and what we're looking for.
Q. How do you work with young moms in a way that is nurturing but also provides the structure and accountability that they may not have had before?
A. They need to have boundaries, but there also needs to be a balance. They want to be independent, but they're not there yet. It's a matter of working to get them there. They want to be part of a community where they have the support of those who are going through the same thing. That's huge when there's some camaraderie there. That's a very positive thing for them. They are learning to be moms, learning new skills. Some of these girls will tell you, "My baby saved my life."
Q. How are things progressing with the home itself?
A. We would love to break ground by the spring. We want to be good stewards of money so we can actually help these girls. We just really believe this is something we can raise the funds for. We have girls right now who need housing. That's where we're at.
Q. So, you've got the home that will be built. What's going on with GraceSon in the meantime?
A. We work with Young Lives right now, helping with case management connecting the moms to resources. The other thing is we were asking, "How can we help these young moms now?" What we were seeing was these gaps in some areas. We've developed what we call the Hope program. When the home is built, we'll help young moms in the home and outside of the home with life coaching. Do you need legal services, do you need TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)? We want to help them access those resources in the community. We are here to help them, not do everything for them. We're trying to teach them how to be independent. We are also not trying to reinvent the wheel. We're just here to provide hope.