When Jose Rodriguez from state Sen. Jeff Klein’s office arrived in the lobby of the Winston Churchill co-op in Spuyten Duyvil to pick up donations to help Hurricane Maria relief efforts for Puerto Rico, he found more than a dozen children waiting.
The children raised $500 for the effort in just three hours, all thanks to some hard work, a good business ethic, and a nice cold glass of lemonade.
“We wanted to do a lemonade stand for fun,” said Ivan Alexander Laca Jara, 9. “Then, all of a sudden we heard about the hurricane victims.”
Jara opened his first lemonade stand at the Johnson Avenue co-op in 2013, when he was barely out of kindergarten. It’s part of his dreams to become an entrepreneur, with his lemonade stand — which operates one day a year — helping to create experience toward that goal.
But after learning about the devastation created by Maria in Puerto Rico, Jara’s mother, Miluska Jara, had a different idea for this year’s lemonade stand. Maybe this time proceeds could go to a cause to help those suffering without electricity and food in the U.S. territory.
“We spread out the word,” Jara said. “Everybody’s like, ‘Yes.’”
The one-day lemonade brought in more than $400 in three hours, used to purchase baby formula and diapers. The group opened a second stand the following day at Seton Park picked up an additional $100.
Neither the younger Jara or Amari Joseph — co-founders of the stand — know or are related to anyone in Puerto Rico. They just wanted to help.
“It makes everyone feel good inside when you do something right,” Joseph said. “Knowing that people care about those people who were hit by the hurricane” and wanting to help make their lemonade stand a success is something he would always remember, he said.
Neighbor Eva Rayas-Gribben, 10, and her family baked muffins.
“It’s nice to think of someone else,” she said. “It just makes you appreciate what you have.”
Her 9-year-old brother Samuel said he watched news reports of the destruction and felt like he could not sit back and do nothing.
“When I see that, I try to help the best I can,” he said. “When I heard we are doing the lemonade stand and it was for that cause, I immediately decided to do it.”
Miluska Jara was happy to see Winston Churchill’s rally around the Puerto Rico hurricane victims. She even donated her “secret” lemonade recipe to contribute in her own way.
The entire group of kids approached the lemonade stand as a serious business, some of the parents said, putting a great deal of thought behind the effort. They created a business plan, and even considered at one point allowing pre-orders with home delivery. They later nixed that plan after realizing it wasn’t feasible.
Each signed up for different duties like greeting customers, working the cashbox and promoting the lemonade stand. When the children counted the money at the end of the day, the 4-year-olds took care of the pennies while the older ones handled the larger denominations, said parent Khaliah Adams.
In a departure from the lemonade stands of years earlier, the Winston Churchill kids increased their prices. The usual 25-cent glass now sold for $1, and they added items like fidget spinners for $3 and cupcakes for another dollar.
Hurricane Maria, which at one point became a Category 5 storm, was one of the strongest to ever hit Puerto Rico last month. It left the island without power, running water and virtually no access to health care services. At least 40 people were killed and more than 50 remain unaccounted.
“When you see kids in the building coming together and asking people of all generations to make sure that they have supplies, that they get what they need, that they really can get help, it’s heart-warming,” Adams said. “It makes you feel as a parent that you’ve done something right in raising your children.”