by Jordyn Taylor
There’s nothing quite like a tall, cool glass of lemonade to beat the summer heat. And nothing brings quite as much joy as mixing up a pitcher of the sweet, tart refresher to share with others.
For Foster Village Inc. sharing a glass of lemonade with friends and neighbors has become its signature way to support a growing network of programs. In 2021, the group began using roadside lemonade stands to raise funds which support local foster families while raising awareness about foster care.
In 2016, former foster parent and current CEO Chrystal Smith founded Foster Village in Austin, Texas, after noticing significant gaps in service offered to resource families. From there, the organization has grown to include 11 separate chapters, each with the goal of supporting children and families impacted by the foster care system.
Credit for the lemonade stand fundraiser goes to Foster Village Charlotte in North Carolina, when one of their community members came up with an idea for an annual fundraiser. Part of the larger national nonprofit, Foster Village Charlotte has provided local foster families with care packages, training and a supportive community.
With a table and some colorful decorations provided by the families, lemonade stands can be up and running in no time. Participants receive everything needed to be successful, including a business plan, T-shirts, signs for their tables, cups, napkins and pitchers, as well as containers of Country Time lemonade mix. Foster Village Charlotte and Foster Village Austin (Texas) have since sold hundreds of kits to local families, businesses and organizations, raising funds for their respective programs. As word of the fundraiser and its purpose spread, supporters hosted their own fundraisers.
Founder, Crystal Smith said that in some cities, customer demand meant Country Time lemonade shortages at local Wal-Mart and Target stores.
During the year, lemonade stands are set up in neighborhoods and businesses throughout each participating host city, typically starting in June; however, some fundraisers continue to operate year-round. Included with the supplies are talking points for the entrepreneurial young children operating the lemonade stand to share with their customers about foster care and how they can support local foster families. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, by enlisting the communities’ help, it’s an extended invitation for potential resource families to learn more about foster care, kinship care and adoption.
The Luther Family of Charlotte, North Carolina, who has operated a lemonade stand for two years and recently shared on Foster Village’s Instagram account that it’s become their favorite family activity.
“Our children enjoy planning our stand, deciding how to decorate and then telling friends and family to come and sip lemonade with us. We love the opportunity to share about Foster Village and also love the opportunity to share with friends and family about ways that our children even at young ages can serve others,” the social media post stated.
Co-founder and former foster parent Traci Prillaman directs operations for Foster Village Charlotte. She describes the evolution of the organization from a Facebook group to a nationwide campaign, teaming up with other community organizations along the way.
“We did not start off wanting to run a nonprofit,” Prillaman said. “It was a lot of foster families that started to meet up organically and started to build a community. Part of that conversation was that there was no support when you get the children into your home.”
Each Foster Village co-founder is either a former or current foster parent, and have first-hand knowledge of the disparities and lack of resources available to adoptive and foster families. Foster Village Inc.’s mission is to equip foster, adoptive and kinship families with supplies like clothes and food, connecting families to additional support resources, and advocating for programs that will make accepting children into new homes easier for foster and adoptive families. The nationwide network they’ve built supports one another by sharing fundraising ideas which address those disparities. However, the groups have also faced challenges that arise with doing larger scale projects, like controlling the flow of money, keeping up with supplies, and coordinating times and spaces for families to sell their lemonade.
Prillaman said her chapter uses the money raised to provide welcome packs to families when children first enter care, complete with clothing, hygiene, toys, blankets, wipes and diapers.
“We provide car seats and bedding if the families need that…we’ve literally had families waiting on us for pajamas, so that they can get that child to bed because they came with nothing,” Prillaman said. “Most of that fundraiser money goes directly to programming like this.”
The Idaho Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (IDFAPA) adopted similar fundraising ideas after collaborating with Foster Village Charlotte. As another young organization, the IDFAPA has set up lemonade stands throughout Idaho, selling more than 50 kits and raising more than $5,000 in their first year.
One major challenge the group faced was figuring out how to direct the flow of the funds, said Kaylene Howell, IDFAPA grants administrator, something she experienced first-hand running a lemonade stand of her own. She said smaller groups like hers aren’t yet adequately prepared to handle cash transactions in an app-based world.
“People want to do Venmo because they are not carrying cash or use Paypal instead of Venmo, which worked pretty well but it was hard to track the money from each stand as there weren’t any notes on them.” Despite the money problems, Howell said it was still a great start for the group’s first year.
“We’re not in charge of the foster care program. But, we are a support to it so that these families feel like they have someone else to reach out to in the community when they need help,” Howell said.
The lemonade stand fundraising efforts have been a much-needed success for Foster Village, which doesn’t receive federal funding. Since early 2022, Foster Village Austin and Foster Village Charlotte have each sold more than 100 kits and have raised more than $100,000 and $35,000 respectively. Each organization has recognized the great successes they have achieved with the lemonade stand kits and have made plans to continue the program next summer. •
Jordyn Taylor is a third-year student at Howard University, studying Journalism and Political Science. She aspires to be a multimedia journalist and activist for environmental justice in the future.