Today we’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Watkins.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I have been a Frisco resident for the past 15 years and I love the great state of Texas. When I last spoke with Voyage Dallas, it was November 2019, and I had just started the nonprofit Refresh Frisco. At that time, we were providing hygiene products to approximately 200 students in Frisco each quarter. Our nonprofit has seen tremendous growth in 3 short years. Refresh has expanded into the Little Elm Community operating as Refresh Little Elm. We are currently providing customized packs filled with full-size hygiene products to 1500 students each quarter.
I have the unique privilege as a nonprofit leader to make a difference in the lives of children in our community. This work is so important to me. I am grateful on a daily basis that I have the opportunity to work with a group of like-minded women who sincerely care about others. I spent years working up the courage to start my own nonprofit. I want to encourage and inspire others to follow their passion and take a risk. In the words of J.K. Rowling: “Anything is possible if you have enough nerve.”
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been an exciting and challenging 3 years! We have grown very rapidly, from 200 children in 2019 to 1500 students enrolled today. We are offering a service not available anywhere else in our community and families have responded in a very positive way to our organization.
Soon after our 1st distribution, COVID hit and rocked our brand-new nonprofit. Demand grew rapidly and donations nearly stopped as the lockdowns dragged on and in-person gatherings ceased. The bulk distributers used by Refresh Frisco halted their online ordering and we were unable to secure the hygiene products needed to fill our packs. Items such as shampoo and toothpaste were absent from local store shelves.
Refresh’s rapid growth continues today as many economic challenges still persist. The supply chain issues that impacted 2021 and continue into 2023 have severely limited our nonprofit’s ability to purchase items in large quantities. In addition, rising costs have made it more expensive to fill our packs with needed items. In response, we created an Inventory Management position on our board. It is the sole responsibility of this individual to find the best deals on needed hygiene items and ensure these products arrive in time for our quarterly distributions. We remain focused on our mission, knowing that local children are counting on us to get them the hygiene products they so desperately need.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Refresh Frisco and Refresh Little Elm work to ensure all children have access to basic hygiene items. Proper hygiene keeps our kids heathy by stopping illness and infection from spreading. Equally important is the fact that when children feel clean on the outside it helps them to feel more confident on the inside. Lack of self-esteem, especially during the teenage years, can negatively impact a student’s performance in school as well as their ability to form meaningful relationships and friendships.
Refresh works directly with local school districts to connect with children in need of our services. Each quarter, students enrolled in our program receive Refresh Packs filled with full-size hygiene items. Our packs are customized based upon the child’s age, gender preference and ethnicity. Our packs include full-size, essential products such as shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, floss, lotion, lip balm, sunscreen. a hairbrush, deodorant, shaving cream, hand sanitizer, and feminine hygiene products for our female students. Each pack also includes a Refresh card, which is a handwritten note of encouragement.
Our nonprofit has no paid employees and is led entirely by volunteers. We rely on the generosity of our community to help us fill our packs. If you are interested in getting involved by volunteering or donating, or if you are in need of our services, please visit our websites at www.refreshfrisco.org and refreshlittleelm.org. You can also find us on Facebook at Refresh Frisco and Refresh Little Elm.
What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
I’ve learned that for a business to survive in today’s environment, flexibility is key. When we set out on this path to start Refresh Frisco, our board had a solid plan in place. As we have all experienced first-hand over the past two years, circumstances out of our control often dictate change. Our business model looks different now than it did before COVID. It was our ability to adapt and evolve that has allowed us to survive and grow. We remain focused on our mission and open to learning and improving as a nonprofit. We are grateful for our community that continues to support our efforts to keep local children feeling clean and confident.
- Estimated cost of a Refresh Pack for an Elementary age child (enough hygiene products to last for 3 months) $27/quarter or $108/year
- Estimated cost of a Refresh Pack for a middle or high school-age boy (enough hygiene products to last for 3 months) $33/quarter or $132/year
- Estimated cost of a Refresh Pack for a middle or high school-age girl (enough hygiene products to last for 3 months) $51/quarter or $204/year
- Website: www.RefreshFrisco.org and www.RefreshLittleElm.org
- Instagram: @refreshfrisco
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/refreshfrisco and https://www.facebook.com/refreshlittleelm
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5CcrRgQ7m8&feature=youtu.be