Lemon Aide Society
By Deb Silverthorn
The newly formed Lemon Aide Society has provided a sweet spot for girls in Dallas and Miami to learn leadership skills, build community and strengthen themselves.
Led by Debbie Weinstein, who founded the organization after running a virtual summer program, the society seeks to empower the next generation.
“Teaching young ladies about empowerment has empowered me along the way,” said Weinstein. With 29 years of experience leading gymnastics programs and supporting athletes, she knew she wasn’t done with the next generation. “I’ve always taught my girls to have self-esteem, confidence and how to speak up for themselves and for others. Those lessons are important for all of their lives.”
The group grew out of an online summer program created by Weinstein and Co-director Julie Cruz that was filled with games, art, cooking, STEM activities and more. With the intention of giving girls a camp experience while also raising funds for COVID relief and tolerance education, the staff donated their time so that all proceeds, $11,000 in all, could be distributed directly to the community.
In August the group, which consists of girls in third through seventh grades, celebrated getting to know one another. In September they made and donated sandwiches and cookies to Family Gateway; in October they welcomed former State Senator Florence Shapiro and Katie Payne, an aide to U.S. Representative Colin Allred, who taught of the importance of using one’s voice and the need to vote. In November, they donated more than 10,000 items to North Dallas Shared Ministries. The Miami chapter, with girls in third and fourth grades, donated sandwiches and cookies to the Miami Rescue Mission and two truckloads of baby supplies to the Miami JCS Kosher Food Bank.
“The people at Family Gateway are amazing and the huge impact they make makes me want to do more,” said 12-year-old Jordyn Wilkovsky, a sixth-grade student at Ann and Nate Levine Academy, who with the Lemon Aide Society baked more than 40 dozen cookies and as many sandwiches for the agency. “I’ve made a lot of new friends and, even though we aren’t in person, it’s really special to ‘be’ together to do good.”
Family Gateway operates the only emergency shelter in Dallas that serves families with children who are experiencing homelessness.
“We’re grateful for the support as more than ever before, our work wouldn’t be possible without the community’s generosity,” said Ellen Magnis, president and CEO of Family Gateway. “It’s refreshing to see the next generation give back and these young ladies are doing just that. COVID-19 has brought many challenges but the Lemon Aide Society gives us hope and reminds us of the good in our world.”
Each group has an adult and a teen mentor and every month participants become project leaders planning programs, determining beneficiaries, activities, calls-to-action and follow-through. Meeting monthly on Sunday afternoons by Zoom, only at November’s drop at North Dallas Shared Ministries did most of them meet in person.
“Every meeting is about learning and growing and the adults really stay behind each girl,” said Weinstein. “We’re about the girls learning to make decisions, creating structure and feeling proud as individuals, and as a group, by building confidence and being impactful and inspiring.”
Alice Ovadia Sheimberg, the mother of 10-year-old participant Alexandra, expressed gratitude for the Lemon Aide Society leaders. “The amount of time that Debbie, Julie and the mentors give the girls is very appreciated and you feel their dedication,” said Sheimberg, whose daughter led November’s effort. “What they are learning about presentations and leadership is amazing.”
Joining Weinstein and Cruz’s Dallas team are Community Liaison Ruthie Shor, adult mentors Leslie Pervere, Rebecca Rice and Elizabeth Weinstein and teen mentors Lindsay Shiller, Isabel Strobel, Rachel Rosenfeld, Davi Hopkovitz and Isabelle Kronick. The Miami chapter is led by Rachel Berkowitz, a Dallas native and Emory University sophomore, and teen mentor Pola Levy.
“What Debbie created with Lemon Aide Society is what she’s always done. She’s always been an inspiring second mom and role model. If she says ‘jump,’ I’ll jump high,” said Berkowitz, a gymnast under Weinstein’s coaching at the Aaron Family JCC since she was 6. “She is an integral part of my life and these girls are all blessed to be a part of whatever she is leading. That I get to be a part of watching the girls grow, and become passionate leaders, is an honor.”
For information on participating in, or donating to, the Lemon Aide Society, email firstname.lastname@example.org.