Lemonade stand becomes sweet success

Ella and Hannah’s stand collected 305 notebooks, crayons, markers and other school supplies.

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Hannah and Ella Keeping’s lemonade stand started small – a way for two little girls to learn about helping a good cause. But by the time crowds of neighbors and complete strangers swarmed their first-time enterprise on 41st Avenue South last week, the lesson had swelled to something of an epic.

When the last drops of lemonade were gone, the Keeping sisters’ enterprise had collected an amazing $1,356 in cash and via Venmo to benefit the United Way of Cass Clay’s annual backpack program, along with a small mountain of notebooks and boxes of crayons, pencils and markers.

Their dollars and donated supplies were part of the 6,000 loaded back-to-school bags the United Way has been distributing all week at Scheels Arena.

The project started small. Mother Angie Keeping, who works as a counselor at Horizon Middle School, was looking for activities to keep her two live wires occupied in the weeks leading up to the start of school. (Hannah will be in first grade at S.G. Reinsertion Elementary, and Ella is starting kindergarten there.)

“I’d been thinking we might do it in the middle of August,” she explains. “But when I found out they were giving them away in the first week of August, we had to get going fast.”

And so on July 26, the two sisters – 5 and 6 years old – woke up early. Hannah helped lug patio furniture from out back into the front yard. She and Ella counted – and sometimes miscounted – scoops of lemonade mix as their mother stirred. They helped seal cookies into bags. Then, buzzing with excitement, they were ready to go. “We planned it from 4 to 7, but they couldn’t wait, so we got started at 3,” Angie reports.

And then, as the temperature rose well into the 90s, the customers began turning out by the dozens. Many were friends and neighbors. The girls’ day care brought a whole load of their pals. Complete strangers pulled up, too, alerted to the project by Angie’s post on Facebook’s Moor head=Fantastic page.

By the time the last drop was drunk and the last cookie crumbled, the two little girls had raised their whopping total of donations – all going to make the debut of the new school year brighter for thousands of students from kindergarten through senior high across Clay and Cass Counties.

“They’re at a good age,” their mother observes. “They can do things themselves and semi-comprehend the idea of helping others.

“I couldn’t believe how much they really helped. I wanted this to be their thing, not mine, and they loved it.”

Helping others was already a familiar concept when the lemonade idea was born. Angie and husband Adam have brought them along to other charity undertakings. “They put food into boxes for Ruby’s Pantry. They keep asking to go back every time we drive past Church of the Good Shepherd,” she says. Last Christmas, they helped pack gift baskets for the Great North Pole and, to their delight, donned Santa hats as they were delivered to addresses around town.

Asked their favorite parts, the little blondes turned shy. “Seeing my friends,” Ella says when coaxed.

Hannah is more voluble: “Scooping the ice in the glasses.”

Their mother observes that the lessons of generosity and helping others seem to have taken root. “Now, whenever they see a homeless person beside the road … they want to buy a house for them.”

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