Sweet, salty, chocolaty — the flavors keep drawing customers back to the Sweet Hope Foundation.
Founded in 2012, Tacoma-based Sweet Hope makes and sells a variety of truffles and caramels with proceeds benefiting orphans around the world. So far the foundation has donated about $25,000, selling candy as far away as England and South Korea.
The foundation’s founder and president, 38-year-old Lisa Lindholm, started making sweets to raise money after the adoption experience of her and her husband, Derek.
The Tacoma couple adopted their son, Oleg, from Russia in 2006 and experienced financial hardships throughout the process.
Grants to help cover the costs of adoptions were hard to come by and had numerous restrictions, Lindholm said.
“We thought this was ridiculous,” she said. “We just want to have a child, and we just need a little bit of financial help.”
After this experience, Lindholm started Sweet Hope to provide adoption grants without restrictions. Twice a year it helps families in the final stage of adoption with unexpected expenses.
To raise the money, she decided to sell the chocolates she made as gifts for friends around the holiday season.
The Lindholms brought Oleg home in 2006. That Christmas they sold chocolates for the first time and gave away their first grant.
Their idea became more popular over the years.
“Every year people kept asking us to make more and more chocolates,” Lisa Lindholm said.
In 2010, they raised almost $10,000, selling 741 boxes of candy, amounting to more than 4,000 truffles – all hand scooped.
“It was an amazing amount of candy and money,” Lindholm said.
CLOSE TO THEIR HEART
As the organization grew, its focus shifted away from just helping families, Lindholm said.
In Russian, children up for adoption who were left behind often had disabilities or needed additional care. So, instead of giving out adoption grants, the Lindholms started helping orphanages directly.
Sweet Hope officially became a nonprofit in 2012, and now donates more than just a check.
Lisa Lindholm visited Russia and met with officials from an adoption facility in Khor, a town in Siberia north of Vladivostok. She asked them what they needed most. The answer was playground equipment.
“There was nothing for these kids to play in,” Lindholm said. “Our first and foremost goal was to build as many playgrounds as we possibly could in the most needing areas of the world.”
Sweet Hope focuses on orphanages in Russia but works with other projects around the world.
Helping orphans is close to Lindholm’s heart. In addition to being an adoptive mother, she’s an adoptee herself. Plus, she and her husband have a long connection with Russia and wanted to stick with an area that means a lot to them.
Besides its work with adoptions, Sweet Hope has agreed to help with fundraising for Border Crossers for Christ.
The Minnesota-based organization supplies fabric and materials to orphaned girls in Honduras. The girls sew sheets for a hospital in need of linens and in return, receive 50 cents per sheet.
“It is a very broad-reaching program that touches the lives of more than just orphaned kids,” Lindholm said.
ANNUAL FUND RAISER
In addition to selling candy, the foundation depends on donations and its volunteers to cover its operational expenses, overhead costs and its work with adoptions, said Lindholm, who has a full-time job with GardenSphere on North Proctor Avenue.
“We send at least 50 percent of what we made,” she said.
The foundation has its annual fund raiser this time of the year. Orders for truffles and caramels will takes place until Nov. 28 with the sweets shipped Dec. 16.
Lindholm and her team also will be at the “Tacoma Is for Lovers” craft fair Saturday and Sunday at Kings Books, 218 St. Helens Ave. in Tacoma. They will have limited supplies that weekend — plain and candy cane truffles along with plain caramels.
Customers can also buy truffles — including gingerbread, balsamic and red wine flavors — from the Sweet Hope website.
As for the candy-making itself, Lindholm said she has several volunteers but most of the work is done by herself and her family. Previously, each truffle was hand scooped, but they upgraded to machinery that helps speed the process.
Oleg, now 10, is the chief taste tester.
“No truffle goes out of the store without him testing it first,” Lindholm said
Husband Derek is a truffle scooper and helps package.
“He’s there to support me,” she said.
This year the organization is in a bind financially. About $5,000 is missing from foundation funds, and a former treasurer is under investigation.
To recover, Sweet Hope is doing what it knows best.
“Selling chocolates,” Lindholm said. “That is basically all we can do at this point.”
This year, Ghirardelli and Gourmet Source are donating the chocolate to be used to make candy, ensuring the foundation’s annual fund raiser.
“Without that,” Lindholm said, “we would be dead in the water.”
With all the challenges she said she’s thought about ending Sweet Hope Foundation.
But then people tell her, “Christmas wouldn’t be the same without our truffles.”