380 Milwaukee Students will Receive Christmas Gifts from Lil’ Jeannetta Gift of Love Program

Over 1,000 Students Gifted

2023 marks three years of the annual Christmas gift-giving to Milwaukee students through the Lil’ Jeannetta Gift of Love program. Since its inception, more than 1,000 students have received gifts and books. Each year a new school is selected and this year’s choice is Lincoln Elementary.

Lil’ Jeannetta Gift of Love program is an initiative through SOULSTIR, a brand focused on giving people experiences with social impact tied to it. According to SOULSTIR Founder Mike Brown, 98% of the 380 students at Lincoln Elementary are economically disadvantaged and only 12% scored at or above the proficient level for reading.

The 2022 Lil' Jeannetta Gift of Love program.
The 2022 Lil’ Jeannetta Gift of Love program. (Picture provided by Mike Brown)

Along with Christmas gifts, Lincoln Elementary students will receive Brown’s children’s book, “Little Netta’s Gift” which honors his late cousin and grandmother. Brown’s late cousin Jeannetta Lacole Robinson, whose nicknames were Little Netta and Lil’ Jeanetta, was the granddaughter of the late Commissioner Jeanetta Simpson-Robinson and the great-granddaughter of the late Claretta “Mother Freedom” Simpson. Both women are historical leaders and activists in the Milwaukee community.

Little Netta’s birthday is two days after Christmas and at her sixth birthday party, she gave her gifts to the children attending her party after learning they didn’t receive Christmas gifts. Unfortunately, Little Netta and her mother were murdered.

Little Netta’s Grandmother Commissioner Simpson-Robinson created a holiday giving event to honor Little Netta through her social impact non-profit agency, Career Youth Development, Inc (C.Y.D.), named “Lil’ Jeannetta Robinson Toys for the Children Santa Forgot but God Remembered through your Gifts of Love.” The event was held on Little Netta’s birthday, December 27 from 1985 through 2013. In the first year, 200 children received gifts which eventually grew to serve around 2,000 Milwaukee children each year.  

After the publishing of Brown’s children’s book, he and his family decided to resurrect the program and honor the legacy of Little Netta and Commissioner Simpson-Robinson through the now-program called, Lil’ Jeannetta Robinson Gifts of Love.

Brown is inspired by Commissioner Simpson-Robinson’s perseverance to give back even after losing so much.

“I want to be remembered as someone who used all of my talents…as someone who doesn’t let his talents go to waste,” said Brown.

The Importance of Partnerships

United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County has been a sponsor of Brown’s company SOULSTIR since the start of the program three years ago. When Brown was looking for partners he did research on companies that aligned with his vision to give gifts to children five to 10 years old. After having a meeting with leadership, Brown knew United Way would be the partner to get the Lil’ Jeannetta Gift of Love program off the ground.

While SOULSITER focuses on fundraising and handing the children their gifts, United Way handles the administrative work like connecting with local schools.

Brown said partnerships are the key to really scaling impact.

“You can expeditiously have impact through partnerships,” said Brown.

Mike Brown.
Mike Brown. (Picture by Michelle Szajko)

Brown said the best partnerships are when everyone benefits. On one hand, SOULSTIR is able to increase its awareness, United Way is able to use its brand to give back, and local schools are able to give its students a special experience.

“It’s been a win, win, win,” he said.

Ways to Give Back

To donate to the Lil’ Jeannetta Gift of Love program, click here. To donate the book Little Netta’s Gift to someone, click here.

Nyesha Stone founded Carvd N Stone in 2017 to cover positive news while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Stone has a B.A. in Journalism. She has raised over $30,000 to award grants and scholarships. She has also been featured in ESSENCE and worked with the American Black Film Festival.

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