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Birthed through prayer

The LemonAiD fundraising program started by the Lexington, Ky., Salvation Army 15 years ago survived last year as a virtual event, but returned in 2021 with in-person lemonade stands.

The virtual option was still available, but most people chose to have a real stand this summer to raise money for The Salvation Army’s emergency women’s and children’s shelter in Lexington.

“I think people were really excited to get back to it and some sort of normalcy this year,” said Krista Whitaker, community relations and development coordinator for The Salvation Army’s Central Kentucky Area Services. “A lot of Salvation Army locations try to do Christmas in July in the summer. This is just kind of a fun summertime thing for us.”

Whitaker said she expected to meet the 2021 fundraising goal of $20,000, which was down considerably from pre-pandemic years. She said the “volunteer power” was diminished due to COVID-19, but LemonAiD and its theme of “Kids Helping Kids” persevered.

“Even though times are tough, it’s still something the community gets behind,” Whitaker said. “Everything is different since COVID. This year, while it’s not at the capacity it used to be, we’re grateful to be out and about and spreading the word in person.

“It may be smaller, but that certainly hasn’t diminished the impact for the people who are a part of it or the people who will benefit from the funds.”


Horse of a different kind

This year’s LemonAiD program kicked off on June 28 at Lexington’s Fayette Mall, where shoppers met costumed superheroes and princesses and picked up information packets to run their own lemonade stands. LemonAiD ran through July 29.

Halfway through the campaign, The Salvation Army sponsored another event featuring Hank the Horse, a retired thoroughbred who rings bells at Christmas and helps the Army raise money in Kentucky. He was joined by local artist Enrique Gonzalez, who created a painting on site, as musicians played live music that was heard throughout the mall.

The annual LemonAiD campaign has been going since 2007 and normally raises about $40,000 a year. Those funds help provide shelter, food, educational childcare, bedroom furnishings, and new school supplies.

Last year in Lexington, The Salvation Army was a haven for more than 1,200 homeless people, including 262 children. The shelter is the largest of its kind in Central Kentucky.

“I think it’s an opportunity for us all to be reminded that there are other people who might not be having the same recovery,” said Major William Garrett, area coordinator for the Salvation Army’s Central Kentucky Area Services. “There’s always new challenges and this helps people come together and really think about those things and raise the next generation to be just as active in helping neighbors.”


God jogs a memory

LemonAiD was birthed in prayer and the theme, “a picture, a memory” from Major Debra Ashcraft, who was stationed in Lexington at the time. Ashcraft said the shelter in Lexington was in desperate need of funding and she began to pray.

“The shelter program was strong, but we had little funding to provide for the needs of the children such as school clothes and shoes, backpacks, and pre-school, and after-school education services while their parents sought employment, attended job training classes or went to work,” Ashcraft said. “I take everything to God in prayer, including fundraising.”

On three separate occasions while asking God to provide resources for the shelter, Ashcraft said God answered her with a memory of children donating money from their lemonade stands after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. During a fundraiser at the Fayette Mall, the children, brought money in paper bags and mason jars and put it in the Salvation Army’s giant red kettle. Some children included writing on the side of the bags and jars that read, “For the homeless kids of Katrina.”

“As I was praying and that memory came, I really felt that God was leading us to start the LemonAiD program and to give children an opportunity to help homeless kids in their community,” Ashcraft recalls.

Ashcraft said the advisory board in Lexington liked her idea and she took it to a local television station—LEX 18, a local NBC affiliate—which agreed to promote the campaign. The station’s meteorologist, Bill Meck, is a Salvation Army advisory board member in Lexington and chairs the LemonAiD effort.


Taking off

In the first year, 1,200 people took part and raised $40,000, which Ashcraft said was “more than I would have ever dreamed” possible through selling lemonade.

“We weren’t sure what God would do with the program,” she said. “We just felt led to do it. God rightfully deserves all of the glory.”

LemonAiD continued to grow while Ashcraft and her husband, Major Steven Ashcraft, were in Lexington. The program at one time had some 2,000 participants and raised more than $50,000. The Ashcrafts took the program with them to Columbus, Ohio, where it raised more than $72,000 one year.

Ashcraft said besides producing much-needed funding, the LemonAiD program provides life lessons in philanthropy for kids and empowers them to make a difference.

“There is poverty, but they can actually do something positive to help,” she said. “The concept is still ‘Kids Helping Kids’ and the funds are used to help children in poverty.”

Now as the divisional commander in The Salvation Army’s Southern New England Division, Ashcraft hopes to launch LemonAiD in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

“It makes money for children in poverty, it empowers children to make a difference, and it makes friends for The Salvation Army with a younger generation,” Ashcraft said.

by Robert Mitchell

Click here for more information on the LemonAiD program or to donate.