Lions 4 Kids House
Bonney Lake, Washington
Carol Wells-Reed identifies with parents she meets at Lions 4 Kids House, a clothing bank whose mission is to "provide the tools children living in poverty need to be nicely attired, clean, and groomed, with the supplies necessary to be successful in school." As a single mom 26 years ago, Carol was living in Illinois and working--more than one job--but still finding it hard to make the rent. "Everything just caught up with me," she recalls. "It was nobody's fault. Life happens, and kids are innocent bystanders."
But things changed when she moved back home to Washington for a fresh start. Fast-forward two decades during which she became a banker and a community volunteer. When her local Lions Club found out about a need for supplies for kids, Carol enthusiastically collected a mountain of items. But when women working with the homeless came to collect them, their faces fell. "Tell me what you really need," Carol urged them. They replied that because they had nowhere to store such items, what they needed was a clothing bank--in just one school district in an outwardly affluent area, 300 children were homeless and 2,000 were on free and reduced-cost lunch programs.
In 2006 Carol founded Lions 4 Kids House, which today serves five school districts. It's located in a former drug house that has been transformed into a bright, clean facility. Since the program's inception, it has served 2,000 students and both the grades and school attendance of area at-risk children have improved. The program also brightens smiles. Once at Halloween time, Carol watched a little boy's eyes light up when he spotted a Spiderman costume. When it fit and she told him it was now his, Carol says, "He walked out the door six feet off the ground. Spiderman really does fly."