Harnessing the Sweet Sound of Hope

Donor Spotlight: Rita Lewenauer is a dedicated long-time supporter of HEAR Wisconsin. She served several terms on the HEAR Wisconsin Board of Directors and has given generously over the years. This is her story.

In the early 1950s, when technology was still in its infancy, resources for children struggling with hearing loss were not easy to find. With two small sons with hearing loss, Rita Lewenauer was determined to help her children succeed. The young mother started making calls.

“I finally reached someone in the audiology department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee,” Lewenauer said. “And they told me about the Milwaukee Hearing Society.”

The Milwaukee Hearing Society had been formed in 1926 as the Milwaukee League of Hearing. The programs and focus evolved, and two-plus decades later, it was still going strong.

Lewenauer went to investigate. The members occupied a rented office on the fourth floor of a building in downtown Milwaukee. Each participant had someone with hearing loss in their family. The executive director, June Carr, was also a teacher, who made an impact on Lewenauer. “She was a very good one,” Lewenauer said.

The Lewenaurs got involved. Auditory training provided the parents with new methods to work with their children and they quickly gained confidence from the emotional support.

It changed our lives forever,” Lewenauer said. “For example, we learned to turn our heads when talking, so the boys could see us and read our lips. We all became conditioned to the situation and it changed everything.”

The Milwaukee Hearing Society continued to grow and expand services. Years went by. Through several different names and four locations, the organization evolved into HEAR Wisconsin. Today, the organization owns the building at 10243 W. National Avenue. More than 27 full time employees, 28 freelance interpreters, 75 volunteers, 18-member board of directors, and a host of programs for infants to adults with mild to severe hearing loss, are making an impact in Wisconsin.

Supporting the Community
“A conscientious, fiscally-responsible board, devoted staff, and extensive programs with outreach to all, along with the children, parents and grandparents, make HEAR Wisconsin a vital part of our community,” Lewenauer said.

“Early detection and continuing education are the most important factors in enhancing those with hearing loss to live a fuller life,” she said. “Vocabulary building and speech - through auditory training, cochlear implant or sign language - all are available at HEAR Wisconsin.”

In addition to volunteering and previously serving on the board, Lewenauer remains one of HEAR Wisconsin’s most generous supporters. The outdoor play area she donated continues to delight and inspire the children and families who come seeking hope.

“My life, and that of our sons – now 64 and 68 – would never have been the same without the help we received from HEAR Wisconsin,” Lewenauer said.