Ladas Hoopes McNeill

Ladas Hoopes McNeill
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon - Where Friends Help Friends

I try to keep it well hidden, because let's face it, the whole world knows that I am a big tough guy who doesn't fear much and kind of refuses to grow up, but...if you can keep a secret, I'll let you in on a little part of me not many get to see.

Believe it or not, I have a very soft spot for those among us who are very fragile.






I can't explain where it comes from, but instinctively, I can usually pick out those who don't share the jaded view on life so many do and through the different slip and falls of my own life, I identify with them pretty easily.  You have hopefully by now heard my story enough to know that there were a few dark days in the past and that life today wouldn't be the amazing endeavor it is had they not happened.  Part of making sure you don't return to those days....is the willingness to give back freely what you have been given and I try to do just that, but in all of my efforts...none can come close to what Judie Pratt has done in 18 and a half years at The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon.

Some of the people at The Lemonade Stand
People struggle.  People have a hard time mentally and some fight things like bi polar disorder, depression, loneliness, schizophrenia,  PTSD and worse.  Some seem trapped in their own minds while others might have not gotten the ability to interact on a day to day level.  No matter the cause...sometimes life is too much to handle and there is nowhere to turn.  Nowhere except The Lemonade Stand.

Free of judgement, free of people talking behind your back, The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon is a 100% volunteer group of people who take care of each other and allow each other to heal naturally with assistance from the group.  The chores to run the home are divided up, the conversation is real and the feelings shared are sacred.  Today, there was a young woman who had just lost her brother to suicide who was sitting down to have lunch.  She began to tremble, and cry and in a matter of minutes, she was cared for, listened to and brought back to earth all by people around her.  She later shared in the group that she comes to The Lemonade Stand so she can feel like she has a family.  Some others shared that they come so they can have structure in their day,  others like the fellowship and others..they just like to have friends.   Talking with the people in the group, they were all gentle, welcoming and peaceful.  One guy was even a little surprised that "You are the guy on TV with Lauren Stanton once in a while aren't you" to which I said "Yep...I sure am".  It sure seemed like a big deal to him!

Judie wanted me to come see how everything worked before we sat down to talk, and even invited me to lunch.  Wednesday is the day for the "big lunch", with Sunday being the big traditional family dinner you'd expect put on by Curtis who takes great pride in the spread..  It was a ham dinner with all the fixins this Wednesday and after the short meeting, we headed upstairs to chat about her work and these remarkable people.  Take a listen to our chat below.



This fills my heart.  I absolutely love the work that's going on at The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon and I also believe that what we need to heal lies within all of us.  We need to take better care of people in our society who are fragile souls and we also need to learn from them.  I got about an hour and a half today and left feeling better than I had felt in months, all because I knew that the safety net of humanity is still there.  We define ourselves by how we take care of each other...and to know that Judie has dedicated her life to making sure that those who struggle have a safe place to feel at home and cared for, this is truly what Positively Muskegon was started for.  She isn't here for the accolades but every award I've been given should probably have her name on it instead....there are truly angels among us...and you met one today.  My thanks to Judie who also wanted special mention made about Rodney and the rest of the gang who handle most of the day to day operations,  and the good people of The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon.  To follow them on Facebook, click on their logo below!




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