Debbie Croft: Lemon-Aide stand devoted to helping out

April 12, 2013 

DEBBIE CROFT

When two little girls stood at the end of a driveway one summer day, with lemonade for sale, they only sold one cup.

Moving their small business to the corner of Old Highway and Yacqui Gulch Road made sense and increased their profits dramatically. Of course, it helped that the owner of that stretch of land supported the lemonade stand.

"Mr. Long would come and hang out, and cars stopped, because he'd call out to the drivers. Then people would be standing around, talking and drinking lemonade," the two girls said.

Christine Garrett and Grace Cassady were 7 and 8 years old at the time. Grace's brother, Cooper, was 5. He stood holding the signs.

Eventually Frank Long invited the kids to sell lemonade during the Las Mariposas Civil War Days, which is held on his property every year in April.

What started out as a way for these kids to make some extra money, though, turned into a charitable project.

The LemonAide Kids began in 2008 giving 80 percent of their profits to charity. But the following year they decided to give away all the profit.

The group operates as a nonprofit organization would, by having a board of directors, presenting ideas to be voted on and holding a meeting before each event to decide which organizations they want to support with donations.

Christine and Grace are now 13 and 14 years old, and Cooper is 11. Triana Garrett, 16, joined the group early on. Thaddeus Rowney helped for a few years. Sometimes they'll invite a friend to volunteer for a day.

The kids work in shifts, taking turns handling drinks, ice and money.

"People like it that we count back change," Grace said.

Some re-enactors look for them every year, and really appreciate that 100 percent of the profits go to charity.

Lisa Garrett and Cari Cassady are the kids' moms. They can see how this small business venture has benefitted their children.

"They've learned how to deal with the public, how to interact with people by speaking up and smiling," Lisa said.

Christine added, "We're learning to do what we can to help others."

"And we're learning how to be nice," Cooper added. "Because then we get more tips."

After lugging water from the big tank at the re-enactment the first year, they're grateful for local sponsors who now donate water and ice: Gold Country Water, Best Western Hotel, Mother Lode Lodge and the Mariposa Volunteer Fire Department.

The kids agree, it's a lot of responsibility, but a lot of fun, too. Dressing up in period costumes is part of the fun.

"It's more satisfying to donate the money than to keep the profits," Triana said. "None of us are old enough to go to Africa or write a big check to help someone. So this is our way of doing something."

Typically, the LemonAide Kids earn $400 to $800 during a weekend event. Each year they split the profits, giving one half to a local charity and the other half to an international charity.

Mariposa's Habitat for Humanity and Manna House have benefitted from their efforts. These groups weren't expecting this kind of generosity from kids so young.

Food for the Poor and Heifer International are their favorite overseas charities.

International humanitarian aid usually involves providing families with an animal or fruit trees or honeybees, instead of simply handing someone a bag of food.

"It teaches them how to learn a trade or how to grow crops, to benefit their families and villages," Christine explained.

"Changing the spelling of 'lemonade' to 'lemonaide' signifies the help they're giving to others through the proceeds," Cari Cassady said.

Free refills of cold lemonade or iced tea are available when customers return with their cup.

Be sure to look for the LemonAide Kids next weekend, April 20-21, at Civil War Days.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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