What happens when very motivated adolescents decide they want to help better their community, but they’re not satisfied with how kids fit into the current non-profit scene? In the case of two Northshore teenagers, they simply started their own.
15-year-old Beverly Brown co-founded Kids Wanna Help, a group designed to encourage Northshore youth to become involved with non-profits and charitable giving. Their mission began with a fashion show.
“My sister [Mary-Brent] and I decided that we didn’t have any say when we wanted to volunteer and so we were kind of thinking that for a while,” Brown says. “My sister had read a book about a girl who had a fashion show for Arbor Day, so we decided that we wanted to have our own fashion show so that we could raise money for Arbor Day. But Arbor Day had already passed, so we decided that we would like to raise money for pediatric leukemia patients, and that’s how we decided that we would have the fashion show,” she says.
Any girl in the third through eighth grades is welcome to participate in the show, but there’s a lot of work involved in this effort.
“So, we have a pre-fashion show workshop that all the girls come to — they learn how to model, but also different skills,” she says. “To be beautiful you have to be yourself, because that is the theme of the fashion show. So they learn modesty, why it’s important to give back to charity, and everything like that. Then about a week later we have the actual fashion show where everyone’s parents come and they buy tickets to come in, so that’s one way we raise money. There’s also a silent auction, so that everyone can bid and we get a lot of money from that also. And so everyone goes to dinner, we have the fashion show, and we find out how much money we raised.”
Eventually, Brown realized there were other kids like her who wanted to start their own non-profits, but didn’t exactly know where to begin. What resulted would revolutionize that mainstay of suburbia: the iconic lemonade stand.
“So we have the kids all come to a workshop where we teach them everything they need to know about running a successful lemonade stand. We give them all the supplies, uniforms, banners, tablecloths — so it looks very professional. And then they decide which charity they would like to raise money for, and then they go out all summer and they can have lemonade stands wherever and whenever. And so all the money they raise goes to the charity that they choose,” Brown says.
“We teach them all the skills they need to run a business, but their business happens to be a non-profit.”
In fact, she says there’s only one thing they don’t provide to the stand operators.
“We do not provide them with a recipe. They decide how they want to make the lemonade.”
Of course, what would a successful philanthropic fashion show and a fundraising incubator be without a non-profit think-tank? Remember, we’re still talking about the work of teenagers here.
“The Louisiana Youth Leadership Initiative, or The Initiative, is a resource and a think-tank for high school students who have started or plan to start different organizations, such as fundraisers or non-profits,” Brown says. “So, we meet monthly and we talk about problems that anyone’s having, or if someone needs someone to donate their money to and someone else needs money, then we talk about that.”
The Initiative is collection of nearly 20 kids who explore ideas and find solutions to problems with their non-profits, but they help each other with personal challenges as well.
“Every meeting we have a guest speaker that talks about something that would benefit the teens in some aspect of their initiative,” she says. “Last week we had ‘How to get into your number-one college,’ which was great for everyone because high school students are approaching their college life.”
Brown is already thinking about who will take the reins when she goes to college in a few years.
“Eventually, I will have to pass it on to someone, but I’m not sure how that will work, or if I will pass on the Lemonade Brigade to someone, the Fashion Show to someone, and they will all work together. So I think that’s kind of what we’re going to do, but I’m not really sure who it would be or anything like that. But I am starting to think about it as I get closer to going off to college,” she says.
Ask Beverly what she wants to do when she grows up and you’ll get a predictable response.
“I want to do everything. And that’s the problem.”
Northshore Focus is made possible with the support of the Northshore Community Foundation.