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Teen’s nonprofit helps would-be musicians

A Community Foundation grant helped the Kurt Stein School of Music in Neenah get started in a partnership with YouthGo to give disadvantaged youth the chance to learn a musical instrument, but more instruments were needed.

That was until a nonprofit run by a 19-year-old came to play.

The nonprofit music school offered to give lessons in guitar, bass, drums and keyboards for participants at YouthGo, a drop-in center offering activities for youth. Leah Witthuhn runs Music Mission, a charity that collects and refurbishes musical instruments for students who can’t afford them. It’s a charity she started in high school at age 15. Her philanthropy won her the 2016 Youth Scholarship Award sponsored by Community First Credit Union at the Celebrating Volunteers community gala, co-sponsored by the Community Foundation and The Post-Crescent.

Leah found out Kurt Stein needed more instruments.

“He had the kids and we had the instruments,” Leah said. She has supplied three minivan-loads already.

“But we’re not finished yet,” she promised.

Her support comes on top of a $4,149 grant from the Community Foundation’s Bright Idea Fund.

Now a student at Carroll University in Waukesha, Leah takes in donated instruments from individuals and organizations and works with area music stores to get them repaired. She also receives donations and brings in money performing at the Appleton Farmers’ Market to buy new instruments when used ones can’t be found.

In addition to helping Fox Valley young people, Music Mission has supplied instruments to students in Haiti and Cambodia and a family in Guatamala.

“It started me teaching two kids in our basement,” Leah said. “It kind of blew up.”

You can make the Bright Ideas burn even brighter by adding your support. See a list of all grants awarded from the Bright Idea Fund.

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