Rhonda Meadows is beaming as she welcomes six Multnomah students to her cheery storefront inside the Lloyd Center Mall. Once the group gathers in a semi-circle, the HR Management class from MU’s business program presents her with two handbooks. Meadows thumbs through the pages as the students explain their work. She likes what she sees. “I just want to applaud you,” she says, looking around at each business major. “You guys did such an amazing job. This really helps us.”
Meadows is the founder of Project Lemonade, a nonprofit providing free back-to-school clothes and shoes for local foster kids. “It really has to do with the saying, ‘If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’” she says. “That’s what we do in this store every day.” Since 2012, the organization has served over 6,300 foster youth from 16 counties.
Louis Idlett, Lindsey Weaver, Sadie Jenks, Preston Brooks, Michael Kamlade and Tyler Bickley are the interns supporting this mission. Over the past semester, they have collaborated with Project Lemonade to create volunteer and intern handbooks for the 300 people who keep the nonprofit running. The students’ diligence, flexibility and continual communication made them successful in compiling information about dress codes, store policies and conduct for future interns and volunteers.
What with the staff’s crammed schedules and limited resources, the students’ involvement offered Project Lemonade some much-needed relief. “We’ve tried to partner with other schools before, and it hasn’t been as beneficial,” says Meadows. “We didn’t put forth as much time with this group – they did a lot on their own. They really stretched our vision.”
The pairing proved to be a winning combo. The business majors were able to help the busy nonprofit all while gaining priceless experience for their future careers. Brooks attributed much of the project’s success to the training his group received in previous classes. “The business program prepared (us) by giving us a lot of team projects in the past,” says the senior. “We were able to really work well as a team on this project.”
In the midst of it all, Professor Ted Takamura encourages his students to represent Christ in every interaction. Servant leadership is a constant theme he emphasizes. “Compassion comes from Christ,” he says. “We want (our students) to be different. I ask them to be points of light.”
The opportunity for goodwill was particularly exciting to Brooks. “Being able to meet the people we were working with, see the store and make this project something that would really help them and help these foster kids was a highlight,” he says. “It had a lasting effect.”