Pamela McNealy and “The Lemonade Stand”

Saturday, 09 July 2011 22:36 Written by  Courtney Clark

A day at The Lemonade Stand starts off as such: There’s a “have a good day” parting in the morning before the girls go off to school. Once school is over and the girls come back to The Lemonade Stand, “no televisions are on, no radios are on. Everyone has to complete homework, but if you don’t have homework, then this is the time for you to read,” says Pamela McNealy, executive director of The Lemonade Stand.

After 25 years in social work, Pamela saw an opportunity to do something different in the world of child welfare and social services. With the assistance of her husband, the two left their careers and devoted time and energy into creating The Lemonade Stand, a non-profit group home, located in the heart of Milwaukee, that serves adolescent girls between the ages of 12-17.

The name itself, The Lemonade Stand, stems from the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” says Pamela. However, she put her own spin on the euphemism.

“Our whole premise is when the young people come there, we talk to them about the things will happen in their lives, but it’s not about what happens to you—it’s about what you do with that,” she says. “There’s either two paths they can go down: They can either become bitter or [they can become] better from their experiences. So we try to give them the tools that help them make it more palpable”

On April 30, 2003, The Lemonade Stand officially opened its doors with a license to house eight girls within the four-bedroom home purchased by Pamela and her husband. With the help of Pamela’s relatives and friends, the house was up and running to facilitate girls in need.

Recently, one of the bedrooms has been converted into a single bedroom. “If we have a young lady with us who turns 18, and she’s able to stay with us longer, then we allow her to stay there,” says Pamela.

In addition to providing housing for girls, The Lemonade Stand also administers services for the girls and sometimes family members in individual and group therapy, parenting classes, independent living skills, anger management and on-site tutoring.

“There’s no way to help children, without helping the family. We try to partner with the family. They see us as partners or allies trying to make a change in their lives,” says Pamela.

When it comes to teaching anger management at The Lemonade Stand, Pamela shares that, “It’s all about knowing what’s going on inside of us before we react to it.” In specific cases, where girls frequently argue with other girls, she helps bring attention to how the girls can identify the problem at hand. “It all starts with a thought,” she says.

Group sessions and roleplaying are some methods used to show ho w to deal with situations before they occur.

“Every moment has to be a teaching moment,” she notes. “Sometimes we don’t say it, but we model it.”

With that said, Pamela would like for the young ladies to be assertive young women, not aggressive.

It’s her passion to work with young ladies, especially because they’ve been titled as the hard population to work with by some people, she says. She’s even been asked why she doesn’t work with boys. Pamela believes that it all starts with women, and in order to prevent a cycle from repeating itself, she has to start with the young ladies.

In the future, she sees The Lemonade Stand being a premiere group home with the potential to expand its program to help adult women who have aged out of the system.

“Some of our young people who are aging out of the system, they’re the new homeless people because there are not enough programs to capture them. So I need The Lemonade Stand to be a place, not just to understand these ladies, but a place to all the young ladies who are aging out of foster homes and group homes in Milwaukee—a place [where] we can continue to help them be successful,” she says.

Pamela advises people to get involved in helping youth and communities in which they live.

“Whether you volunteer to be a mentor, we need to get involved in our community,” she says. “We have to feel what our communities go through. We just want more people in the fight to help our families.”

Courtney Clark

Courtney Clark

Courtney Clark is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a B.A. in journalism and fiction writing. She has a passion for arts and culture, and is currently developing a multimedia magazine dedicated to sharing meaningful, unique and compelling stories from around the globe.

She can be contacted at