“During the strategic planning process for YOTO, I had two focus groups with homeless youth at their schools. When I asked about services the youth wished YOTO could provide, one young man said he wished they could carry milk in the Mini-Mall. He shared that he lives in a group foster home and there is not enough milk for all the kids. Daniela, YOTO’s Program Manager, told me that YOTO doesn’t have room or equipment for refrigeration in the Mini-Mall, and thus cannot carry milk. At the end of the focus group, I asked if there was anything else the youth need that I could communicate back to the organization, and the young man again said, “Nope. Just milk.”

Having lived in Italy for short periods with my husband and daughter, I remembered that milk in Italian grocery stores is not refrigerated. It’s packaged like soy or almond milk is here in the U.S. So I researched online to see if I could find a source of milk that doesn’t require refrigeration until opened. I discovered that I could buy a case of six cartons for $28.71 on Amazon. I bought one, delivered it to the staff, and told them to let me know when it was gone, as no one could predict how much might be needed. The first case was gone in about two weeks, so I ordered another. It was gone within a day or two.

I discovered that I could order a case of milk through Amazon’s “Subscribe and Save” program and save 5% on the purchase price… plus I could have it delivered straight to YOTO. I set it up to automatically charge my credit card and deliver the milk each month.

I decided I could only commit to buying one case of milk per month, so I would find other folks to do the same. I put a message out to my Facebook friends, and two responded so far. My hope is to get enough people to keep milk in stock without overwhelming the staff and volunteers! If too much milk starts to come in, we can get some folks to change their delivery from milk to another product the youth desperately need in the Mini-Mall. The point is to make sure the youth have exactly what they need, when they need it.

What I really appreciate about this experience is YOTO’s willingness to invest in really listening to the young people they serve, and responding to needs, ideas, and concerns. To me, that’s the sign of a high-performing organization that walks its talk.”

Former Homeless Teen Studies Abroad on Scholarship
YOTO’s Team is Growing!