Melissa Arias, right, founder and director of Lemonade Living, recently visited the Rotary Club of Los Alamos with her mother, Martha Lyles, a Lemonade Living board member. Photo by Linda Hull
BY LINDA HULL
Rotary Club of Los Alamos
“Making life sweet,” Melissa Arias explained, is how Lemonade Living got its name. Arias, who
founded the non-profit in 2016 and serves as its president, is dedicated to helping people with
developmental disabilities and special needs to lead more fulfilling lives.
Arias was inspired to establish Lemonade Living, first named Lemonade Therapy Co-op of Los
Alamos, because her daughter has autism and had aged out of school services. “I was set on
building something here so we didn’t have to move.”
Carrying on the goal of a cooperative of organizations and serving the community in a fuller
capacity, in 2019 Arias created the Developmental Disabilities and Special Needs Roundtable
“to coordinate services between local organizations and to fill service gaps for our families
with developmental disability and special needs.” Among those organizations who participate
in the Roundtable are Lemonade Living, Los Alamos Makers, All Individuals First, The Gifted
Horse, Family Strengths Network, Global Hydranencephaly Foundation, Los Alamos Public
Schools, JJAB, The Family YMCA, Rose Chocolatier, and Las Cumbres Community Services.
The beginning of a kitchen program began in 2018 when Carie Fanning, director of Family
Strengths Network, connected Rose Chocolatier owner Marguerite McClay with Arias. A
friendship was forged over their common interest in people with disabilities. When McClay
was ready to retire, she spoke with Arias about her long-held desire to make Rose Chocolatier
a nonprofit to assist those with a developmental disability or special needs. The two agreed
that Lemonade Living and Rose Chocolatier were a good fit, and, in 2019, McClay donated her
shop to Lemonade Living. The Rose Chocolatier facility now provides job-training
opportunities for young adults with special needs. All candies and pastries are made on site in
an open kitchen.
Arias said, “We have also started to build a farm to kitchen living skills and jobs training
program.” For this, Lemonade Living uses two historic cabins and The Gifted Horse facility on
North Mesa for ranch school programming and for special events like Homestead Day. In
addition to homestead history lessons and activities at ranch camp, Lemonade Living offers
therapy riding, has a goat herd, and plans to develop a fiber arts program. They have taken an
important first step in that direction with the recent arrival of two adorable sheep.
Although pandemic protocols have restricted some of Lemonade Living’s activities and plans,
its board and families in the community continue to support the long-term goal of providing a
residential campus for those with developmental disabilities and special needs.
As Arias said, “Funding is never enough.” Those interested in donating or inquiring about
volunteering or services provided may refer to Lemonade Living’s website. And, don’t forget
to stop by Rose Chocolatier. As Arias reminded Rotarians, “Chocolate is healthy!”
For more information about Lemonade Living and Rose Chocolatier, please go to
Arias has lived in Los Alamos since 2003. In addition to Lemonade Living and the
Developmental Disabilities and Special Needs Roundtable of Los Alamos, she founded
Stewards of the Plateau in 2020, and continues to belong to several local boards and subcommittees. Arias has just been elected president of the Los Alamos Sheriff’s Posse.
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos, through its Club Foundation, is a 501(c)3 non-profit and one of
over 34,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary, which now has 1.5 million members, was founded in
1905; the local Club was chartered in 1966. Rotary areas of focus include promoting peace;
fighting disease, particularly polio; providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; supporting
education; saving and enhancing the lives of mothers and children; growing economies; and
protecting the environment.
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos meets in person Tuesdays, 12:00-1:00, in the Community Room,
Cottonwood on the Greens, at the golf course. A Zoom option is available by contacting Linda
Hull, Rotary Club vice-president, 505-662-7950. Hull is also happy to provide information
about the Club and its humanitarian service.