(Editor’s Note: The 2022 Lemon-Aid fundraiser raised $15,000 for Lindsey House, not $12,000 as was previously reported. We apologize for this mistake and any confusion it has caused. Congratulations to Katie Eller Murray and everyone who helped with the event for the wonderful work!)
Who else has fond childhood memories of selling lemonade during the summer? The idea of the lemonade stands is an interesting one, and uniquely American. According to an article from didyouknowfacts.com, the practice of New York City street vendors (adults and kids) selling drinks for cheaper prices than the soda fountains was common in the late 1800s. One of those kids was a Dutch immigrant, named Edward Bok, who sold ice-cold lemonade (basically lemon-water with sugar) to carriage passengers for three cents a glass. By the beginning of the 1900s, lemonade stands were common “little businesses” kids could set up to earn money to buy things they wanted, and to learn about business firsthand. That tradition has continued to this day.
I’ve enjoyed taking part in this childhood tradition with my sisters many times. We would split up the tasks (and the profits) equally, and we enjoyed making some money and talking with our neighbors that came by and visited with us. So, needless to say, when I saw a story in the Tulsa World newspaper about the Lemon-Aid Project, I was intrigued.
The Lemon-Aid Project was started in 1994 by then 11-year-old Katie Eller Murray. After she and her younger siblings held a summer lemonade stand, their parents suggested they donate the money. Not really knowing what donating meant, they agreed, and Eller Murray went with her father to take the money to the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless. While there, she saw a kid about her age playing – or trying to play – underneath a table. “No kid should have to go through that,” Eller Murray said. She went home and told her family about what she saw (had seen?), and her parents asked a very important question: “What are you going to do about it?” The kids put their heads together and decided to hold more lemonade stands with the help of their friends and cousins. Eventually, the idea grew into a city-wide fundraiser. They got local businesses to donate supplies to set up lemonade stands, and the rest is history.
Eller Murray and her siblings held the informal fundraiser annually from 1994 to 2000 and raised over $350,000 for the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless. After that, they took a break from the project, as Eller Murray and her siblings grew up and went their separate ways. But in 2019, for the fundraiser’s 25th anniversary, Eller Murray filled out the paperwork so the Lemon-Aid Project could become an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
She said that while the process of filing the papers and doing all of the documentation that comes with being a nonprofit is “quite tedious, it’s worth it.” Now the Lemon-Aid Project is back, and with the help of some local sponsors, it provides all the supplies and lemonade so kids can focus on running their stands and learn about helping others in the process.
The money raised this year (over $12,000!) benefited Lindsey House, which helps women who have children and are experiencing homelessness by providing a place to live and classes focused on financial literacy and work/ life skills. For more information, visit https://www.lindseyhouse.org/.
I volunteered with the Lemon-Aid Project myself by holding a lemonade stand (my first in a few years) over Labor Day weekend. It was a fun experience; I enjoyed reliving childhood memories by catching up with neighbors and selling lemonade for a good cause!
It is inspiring to see someone who made a difference as a kid continue that work in adulthood. The story of Katie Eller Murray and the Lemon-Aid Project shows that getting children involved in giving back instills good values that are amplified in adulthood.
Growing up isn’t easy, but it is worth it, in part because by having more money, more options, and more control over the direction of our lives, we have the opportunity to help more people.
You can find more information about The Lemon-Aid Project at https://www.thelemonaidproject.org/.
Editor’s Note: The 2022 Lemon-Aid fundraiser raised $15,000 for Lindsey House, not $12,000 as was previously reported. We apologize for this mistake and any confusion it has caused. Congratulations to Katie Eller Murray and everyone who helped with the event for the wonderful work!