Project Lemonade – Week 34

Where I Went:
Project Lemonade is a temporary store front designed for foster kids to “shop” for a new back to school wardrobe. The website description states:

There are more than 13,000 foster children in the state of Oregon. Due to unfortunate budget cuts, the Department of Human Services (DHS) no longer has clothing to provide to our foster children. Foster families must make do with what they currently have.

Project Lemonade intends to help these families out, and aims to do it in style. For three weeks this summer, August 20 through September 7, 2012, foster kids have the opportunity to shop for back to school outfits–shirts, shoes, jeans, bags and accessories at absolutely no cost. Project Lemonade will serve over 2,000 school-aged foster children (ages 5 – 20) from Portland and greater Multnomah County.

The non-profit is gaining media attention. Read the following articles on Oregon LIve and KGW News for a brief report about Project Lemonade’s inception.
First Impressions:
My friend, Kimberly, volunteered with the county foster system in the past. When she got the email from one of her foster parent friends about Project Lemonade, she immediately asked if I’d like to take a shift with her. (I love that people are contacting me now with volunteer opportunities. I can’t believe I once thought finding ways to help would be difficult.)
Volunteering with foster children especially touches my heart. When I was in middle school, my parents trained with San Diego County and we became a foster family welcoming newborns – age 2 into our home. Fostering was a huge part of our lives for many years. 
In fact, prior to our Seattle to Portland move, my husband and I discussed foster parenting. But then the job transfer happened and in getting re-settled, the discussion fell by the wayside.
I looked forward to working with Project Lemonade and meeting the kids they serve.
The Job:
Kimberly and I arrived for our 4 hour evening shift, pleasantly shocked when we entered the donated storefront space. This was no typical warehouse. The place transformed fitting right in with it’s Pearl District retail neighbors. Mirrors and florescent lights ran through the center of the room, boys clothes to the left and girls clothes on the right. Big Band and Frank Sinatra played on the overhead speakers. 

We found the the shift supervisor, B., and introduced ourselves. B. gave us a rundown of the shopping process beginning with the check in procedure. Each foster parent registers school age children and is given a shopping pass detailing allowed items.  
B. continued to explain. “After the families check in, they can look around with the help of a personal shopper and -”
“Kimberly will do that!” I rudely cut B. off mid sentence. 
(A note about Kimberly: She thinks she’s a lawyer because she has years of law school behind her and she does legal work. But her TRUE calling is to be a personal shopper. I’m sure if the profession paid a salary equal to a litigator, you’d request her for your go-to girl at Nordstrom.)
Meet Kimberly.
She will go shopping with you anytime.
Once I took the liberty of assigning Kim’s job to her, B. gave me the check-out position. My duties included inspecting customer items and ensuring their clothing counts matched the allowed amounts. I bagged their clothes and included new underwear and socks for each child. 
The check-out job was perfect for me. I loved chatting with each child, seeing what they picked out and hearing their excitement (or lack of) about the new school year. 
B. asked if I’d take on another task in between helping customers. She brought me a box of a mismatched, tangled web of hangers, requesting them sorted by size and type. No problem. I was happy to have something else to do.
Through the evening, I intermittently separated hangers and bagged items for foster families. When I finished sorting the box she had given me, I asked if there were any more to sort. B. brought me another box of hangers. And another. And another. 
Soon I felt like Mommy Dearest. “No. More. Wire. HANGERS!”
So. Many. Hangers.
Ok, maybe I was a little punchy. Our 8:30 end time ran a tad over because of some detailed shoppers. We didn’t mind though. It was worth it for everyone to be happy and excited for new clothes. As I helped the last family check out, they mentioned they had over an hour drive home. People really were coming from all over to benefit from the kindness of Project Lemonade.
Working with Project Lemonade, I am reminded of the 8700 Oregon children in foster care. Opening a home to a child that can’t live with his/her own parents is a huge sacrifice, but also a huge blessing. Thursday night, I met the adults caring for these kids. Adults that are proving they have the “nature of a servant.”
How to Help:
Project Lemonade is in need of volunteers to help until September 6. (Sept. 4-6 volunteers will help with final store cleanup.) Click on this link, then sign up for a date and time to help. 
No time to work in the store? Volunteer by donating items. Clothing, shoes, and accessories can be dropped off here. The exception is young boys clothing and shoes and coats for boys and girls. These items can be taken directly to the Pearl District location at 1015 NW Lovejoy. Even if you don’t have gently used items at home, consider hitting a back to school sale and purchase clothing that grateful foster children would love to wear.
No time to work and no time to buy anything? Find the link on the Homepage to make a monetary donation via Paypal. Volunteer shoppers will use your gift to search for discounts and buy necessary items.
Even if you can’t help Project Lemonade at this time, please keep them and foster parents in your prayers. There is a whole world out there that most of us don’t know about. Take the time to know a foster family and find out if you can make a difference in their lives.
Sad stats. Let’s make a difference.


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