Lee Family Thankful to Grow Up Giving

By Trent Freeman, Treehouse Marketing and Communications

All three children of Ray and Janie Lee started volunteering at Treehouse in the sixth grade, organizing donation drives and working in The Wearhouse, our free store for youth in foster care.

Their oldest son, Matthew, and daughter, London, continued volunteering through high school graduation. The youngest, Alex, is well on his way as a junior at Bellevue High School. Matthew has gone on to graduate from The Wharton School, working in the field of investment banking in New York City. London, who graduated from UC Berkeley, works for the social impact group at Twitter in San Francisco.

“Treehouse has played a tremendously positive role in the growth and development of our children,” Ray said. “A lot of their success has come from the lessons they learned volunteering. Hopefully, we’ve made a positive contribution as well.”

The Lees were introduced to Treehouse in 2003 through Boy Scouts. On a tour of The Wearhouse, Matthew noticed a lone bicycle in the corner of the store. Bicycle donations were scarce for the organization back then. Driving home that night, it began to snow, so traffic moved slowly and there was plenty of time to talk.

“How can a kid grow up without a bicycle?” Matthew asked. “I’ve had several bicycles already, and I’m just 11. Maybe my friends and I can get our bikes together and give them to Treehouse!”

During the next five-plus years, Matthew and his friends collected more than 500 bicycles through a group he founded called First Gear. They collected, cleaned, repaired and then donated them to Treehouse for distribution through The Wearhouse. He was presented with the Wendy Walters Truitt Award for outstanding volunteerism during Treehouse’s 2010 Champions for Foster Kids Luncheon.

London also volunteered for many years and completed several drives for Treehouse. She participated in the Little Wishes program and numerous events including a talent show and a prom dress event she coordinated in conjunction with Ruby Room in 2011. Hundreds of donated prom dresses, shoes and accessories helped teenage girls in foster care attend their high school prom in style.

She wrote an essay as part of her college application describing the experience of “giving and receiving” through Treehouse.

“The happiest day of my life came early one drizzly morning as I darted about a cramped, dimly lit room, watching over 40 girls trying on dress after dress,” London wrote. “The general message I learned wasn’t the glamour of being a princess for just one night, but the importance of finding the hope, courage and willingness to take a chance on something bigger than myself.”

Alex recently completed his Eagle Scout Service Project for Treehouse—collecting, sorting, cleaning, polishing, refurbishing and packaging more than 300 pairs of lightly used shoes with the help of his troop (Boy Scout Troop 430) and numerous classmates.

His initial goal was to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes, and with two more years before graduation and several additional shoe drives planned, Alex is hopeful he will meet his goal.

“We’re very thankful for Treehouse. I think our children may have gotten more out of volunteering than they’ve actually contributed,” Ray said.

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About the Author

Trent Freeman is the Associate Director of Marketing & Communications at Treehouse.

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