The Salvation Army hopes Lexington's children will help raise more than $60,000 this summer — one glass of lemonade at a time — to help fund its emergency shelter for homeless kids and their parents.
The nonprofit agency kicks off its eighth annual LemonAid Days program Friday with LemonAid stands at the entrances of Wal-Mart stores in Lexington. Throughout July, Lexington kids will host their own stands, with proceeds going to the Salvation Army of Lexington's Hanger Lodge.
LemonAid Days raised more than $49,000 last year, when 1,600 kids registered their stands, said Salvation Army coordinator Debra Ashcroft. As of Tuesday, more than 320 kids had registered to host stands this summer.
With a new online giving system this year, Ashcroft hopes the program will raise more than $60,000 and increase awareness of homeless families in Central Kentucky. The new feature was added so people from outside Lexington could donate to LemonAid or support a family member's stand. Columbia Gas of Kentucky also plans to match up to $5,000 in online donations.
"We tell the (kids in the shelter) that there are people in the community and children in the community who love and care about them enough to have a lemonade stand, so that when they go to school they'll have new clothes and can go swimming in the summer with the Boys & Girls Club," Ashcroft said.
According to the Salvation Army, 1,123 adults and 436 children were housed in its emergency shelter last year. Thousands of kids also were provided meals and educational programs through its Early Learning Center and the Boys & Girls Club.
The Salvation Army spent more than $3.2 million last year on emergency services and its shelter, Ashcroft said.
Among those getting help last year was the Wilson family — Dale and Reba, and their three elementary-age children, Jonathon, Destiny and Kathleen.
After Dale Wilson lost his job, his children came home from school to Hanger Lodge on West Main Street from July to February.
Earlier this year, Wilson found a job and used the Kentucky Housing Corp.'s rapid rehousing program to find a home for his family. Reba Wilson said being homeless and living in the Salvation Army shelter had a huge effect on her kids.
"It made them appreciate the stuff we have once we got our house back," she said.
Poverty is the primary reason families come to the Salvation Army shelter, Ashcroft said. In 2013, 88 percent of families seeking shelter consisted of single women with children.
Ashcroft said homeless children tended to be behind in their educations and needed additional after-school academic programs. The agency's early learning center served 114 young children last year, while its Boys & Girls Club provided 1,787 hours of tutoring, Ashcroft said.
Charlie Lanter, Lexington's first coordinator of homeless services, said there are many families in Lexington who bounce from home to home, which makes defining homelessness and fixing educational delays difficult.
He said it was critical that community partners in Lexington, such as the Salvation Army and Arbor Youth Services, help keep kids educated and in stable environments. "They will need a good education to break the cycle of poverty they might be trapped in," Lanter said.