Update: This article has been updated to reflect recent donations.
You may know Erin Stack and Kristen Weeden as “The Summer Market” women. The two, who have been fast friends for years, are responsible for the annual lakefront hit that is The Summer Market.
The two women have creative minds, a love for everything vintage and a call to help others. In 2006, they put their heads together and created a festival that would raise funds to benefit a local organization.
Proceeds from The Summer Market—a unique weekend festival of arts and the eclectic—have always been put to good use and as the Market has expanded, so have the causes they held.
In 2012, the pair—each parents of four daughters-- created Girls Give Back with an idea to simply help those in need “through random acts of kindness.”
“Kristen and I work very hard at teaching our girls the importance of helping others,” Stack said. “To ‘give back’ is important to both of us.”
They eventually settled to give back with “the gift of home,” helping local families in need of a renovated home.
“We are both artistic and creative, we both have a similar style to our homes and love the same things, we both love to shop and repurpose tree lawn finds,” Weeden said. “Why not take what we are good at and share it with someone in need? Who wouldn't love to come home to a fresh, clean and updated home with some new furniture and home decor? Our hope is that the homeowners spirit is renewed when they come into their ‘new’ home.”
Not unlike the concept of Extreme Makeover, Girls Give Back sends a family away for a weekend who then returns home to a fresh, clean home with new household items and “an overall sense of comfort and coziness.”
“We then had the task of finding that special family that we would start with,” Erin said. “That was a hard task as no one was able to think of anyone. I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that just don't let anyone know what their needs really are.
“To admit you are struggling is hard.”
They finally found a local group that was able to give them the name of someone they thought would benefit from this project. This Friday, they will begin work on a home belonging to a single mother and her six children.
“She was not only raising her six children, but working and going to school full-time,” Weeden said. “This will be our first ‘Gift of Home’ family.
The first project
We weren't sure what we were going to need for our first project, we had never done it before,” Stack said. “After meeting with our first family and getting to tour their home, we realized that this family was going to need a lot. It takes a village to raise six children! We had about $4,500 remaining from the Summer Market and we knew we would need more help. We launched a list on Sign Up Genius to get several staple items. We were so surprised to see how quickly people began to sign up; folks were so into this project that we updated and added items to our list about three or four times.”
Help is coming from all over.
“We had several Avon Lake teachers sign-up to donate and a few are coming to paint with us, including Bob and Kathleen Scott, Avon Lake's Superintendent of Schools,,” Weeden said. “All four district nurses donated gift cards.
“Probably 75 percent of our donors do not even live in Avon Lake,” Stack said. “Someone drove from Chagrin Falls and an 80 year old grandmother from Elyria sent her granddaughter with her donations. One woman came by with two gift cards. We thanked her and asked her name. She told us that it was not important as she walked away.”
As Girls Give Back works, the family will spend the weekend at Kalahari.
“We just had our drop-off for donated items this past Saturday,” Erin said. “It has been very, very cool to see people step up and help with our donations”
A little more help is needed
“We are using the proceeds from the Summer Market, half of which we had given away already to school projects through Donors Choose, but with purchasing furniture, new appliances, home decor and sending them to Kalahari, our budget has quickly dwindled,” Weeden said.
“We put together a list through Sign Up Genius to allow people to get involved through donations,” Stack added. “We are almost there, but have a little ways to go.”
The pair are still looking for the following donations:
- 1 - $25 gift cards to Heinens
- 8 large plastic storage bins
- 4 - $25 gift cards to H & M (for the girls)
- 5 - $25 gift cards to American Eagle (for the girls)
- 1 - $25 gift cards to Dick's (for the boys)