Frank Lewis (left), organizer of the local non-profit the Senior Dream Center, helps people like local resident Joe, who was supplied with a motorized scooter to help him gain freedom of mobility. Courtesy Facebook
When Frank Lewis, owner of Jackson, Lytle & Lewis Celebration of Life Center, put out a request for stuffed animals, he quickly ended up with 600. Courtesy Facebook
Frank Lewis, owner of Jackson, Lytle & Lewis Life Celebration Center in Springfield, was looking to clear additional storage space in the basement of their facility on North Limestone Street.
He came across a large box that was topped off with stuffed animals. On a whim, Lewis sent an email to local agencies asking if any of them were in need of stuffed animals. The response was overwhelming.
At that time, Lewis, founder of the Senior Dream Center – a 501c3 non-profit organization established not long after he joined the business in 2007 – realized the box did not contain enough stuffed animals to meet the needs of the local agencies that had responded.
“I sent an email to a larger list of people and explained what had happened,” Lewis. says. “I explained the need for more stuffed animals and ended with 600 stuffed animals that were distributed last week.”
On the receiving end of Lewis’s generosity was Project Woman of Ohio. Project Woman received 40 stuffed animals for children who enter their services.
“When a family comes into services ... via any access point, we give a Hope Bag to each person,” says Laura Baxter, executive director of Project Woman. “For children, they include a stuffed animal, a journal, books, and other age-appropriate comfort items that are theirs to take with them. Most children have had to leave a lot of things behind.”
Founded in 1974 by a group of volunteers who worked to address the status of women in the community, Project Woman opened its first domestic violence shelter in 1975. Since then, Project Woman has assisted countless survivors of domestic violence – women, children and men.
Project Woman is currently at 184-percent capacity – a new record, says Baxter – with domestic violence survivors sheltered in many locations.
“It was fantastically helpful to have those new items to give to kids,” says Baxter. “(The Senior Dream Center) is a quiet gem.”
The Senior Dream Center grants 25 to 30 dreams each year, says Lewis, who was first inspired to establish the non-profit after reading a newspaper article.
“I had read an article in the local paper about a woman with terminal cancer. Her dream was to ride a Harley, and her granddaughter made that happen,” he says. “A month or two later I read an article about the Twilight Foundation that grants wishes for seniors. I thought, ‘Wow, two things in a short period of time; this is talking to me!’ Then I was at a football game and a gentleman had his wish fulfilled at half time by a group called ‘It’s Never Too Late.’”
It was then that Lewis contacted a local attorney and accountant and set up a 501c3.
While the Senior Dream Center doesn’t solicit donations, Lewis says people often donate items, and he does most of the legwork himself.
“We get to fulfill dreams without a lot of strings attached,” he says. “It’s geared toward seniors, but we have situations where people have terminal illnesses who are not seniors, and we fulfill their dreams anyways.”
For example, Lewis says he was contacted via third-party about a family whose daughter needed therapy to walk, and the carpet in their home made it difficult. The Senior Dream Center provided the funding to have hardwood floors installed in their home.
“Someone reached out to us, and we fulfilled it. We’re not restricted if we see a need and we can help,” Lewis says. “It’s the way I’m wired. We want to improve the community we live in. I’ve been blessed in a lot of ways, and this is the way for us to share that and pay it forward.”