By: J.L. Shively
While July was winding down and many families were making the best of the last stretch of summer sun before getting ready for the new school year a group of Country Oaks children decided to use their time to give back to the community.
The classic lemonade stand is always a memorable fixture of the hot summer months, surrounded by children selling ice-cold, homemade lemonade to passing neighbors. In a sense the lemonade stand helps to bring the community together, especially when the proceeds of the stand are going towards a good cause.
The idea for the Country Oaks lemonade stand came from local mother, Shelly Collins, who had reached out to other parents in the community suggesting a big lemonade stand, explains Lisa Magrini, a teacher in the Mt. Olive School District for 15 years and parent of two children involved in the stand.
“Lemonade stands and playing outside together are things that the kids in this neighborhood, and their parents truly look forward to each summer,” she says. “You will often find all of the kids riding bikes, shooting hoops or drawing with chalk together, and maybe, if you’re lucky, showing off their latest dance moves.”
The idea for the stand, Collins explains, came from the her son, Kai and his friend, Max Koller, who had been playing basketball and dreaming about the new basketball jerseys they wanted last summer.
“I remember sitting and thinking, both of these boys have so many jerseys already,” Collins states and then goes on to explain how she told the boys it would be a good idea if they earned the money to buy their own jerseys.
After the fun and success of this prior lemonade endeavor, Kai and Max approached Collins this summer about rebooting the lemonade stand.
“I asked what they were trying to earn money for,” she explains. “They both replied that there really wasn’t anything they wanted or most importantly, needed.”
While everyone involved was completely on board with the idea of hosting the stand, they pooled their ideas together on the day of the sale and decided that donating the proceeds from their sale would be the best and most rewarding thing to do.
“They all agreed [to donate the money] with zero hesitation,” states Collins.
“We decided together that a local charity, primarily something that would help children in the area would be a great idea,” says Magrini. “All the kids felt a sense of pride and kindness knowing they were helping others.”
With the new school year just around the corner, it was decided that the proceeds from the sale would go towards purchasing school supplies for local children in need.
“I had seen Mayor Greenbaum post that there would be a collection of supplies at the Municipal Building and another parent recommended the Mt. Olive Food Pantry,” states Magrini, so it was agreed that whatever funds were raised would go towards donations to both causes.
In total, 16 children took part in the lemonade stand efforts including Brielle and Ava Magrini, Kylie, Kelsey, Jordyn, and Jake Burke, Arianne and Nathan Rosebaum, Kai Collins, Madison and John Galdieri, Max, Olivia, and Charlotte Koller and Kylie and Zoey Farrell.
The children range in ages from two to 12 and have known each other for years. Most are students at Chester M. Stephens Elementary School with the exception of a few attending Sandshore and Mt. Olive Middle School.
“This group of children are all so different but in the end, they all have huge hearts that are filled with kindness and love,” states Collins.
Marini’s feedback about the children was similar stating, “They really are a sweet and awesome bunch and all of us parents are so thankful for such a great community to raise our children in, and always look forward to watching the kids play outside together like we did in our neighborhoods as kids.”
Deciding to combine their efforts, the children began to raise more funds together at their large sale held on Sunday, July 29. The sale, although only for one day, was very successful.
The sale was held at a field located in the center of the neighborhood where they might catch the eye of anyone passing through. The Country Oak neighborhood is located in Budd Lake.
Everyone involved in the sale, children and parents alike, helped to erect the stand, make signs and make lots of lemonade! They were able to offer both pink and yellow lemonade, offering samples of each also. Throughout the sale parents were back and forth from their homes to make more lemonade.
“We all chipped in,” states Magrini of the efforts of the children and their parents. Magrini and Jackie Rosenbaum made lemonade, Collins brought the table and table cloth and Kylie and Kai created the signs used for the sale.
“The community response was fantastic and heartwarming!” says Magrini. “People pulled over in their cars when driving past, people walking dogs went home to get money, and many were very generous.”
The kindness of the community did not end at the closure of the sale.
“Jim DiRienzo, a member on the board of Country Oaks saw a photo of the lemonade stand in the days following and left a donation of $20 in my mailbox with a very kind note thanking the children for their kindness,” Magrini explains.
In order to turn their funds into their donation, Magrini went with her daughter, Brielle to the local Walmart to purchase school supplies. “Brielle was super excited to choose backpacks and shop for supplies,” states Magrini.
With the funds they were able to purchase two boy backpacks and two girl backpacks as well as supplies to stuff inside such as pencil boxes, folders, composition books, highlighters, pencils, crayons, markers, glue sticks, expo markers, scissors, erasers and pencil sharpers. Basically everything a kid could need to get a good start at a new school year.
After dividing up the supplies into each backpack, the Magrinis dropped off two of the backpacks at the municipal building where there was a bin set up for donation drop-off.
A Mt. Olive municipal spokesperson stated that this was the first year the town has run a school supply collection. Supplies they were gathering included backpacks and any other basic school supplies. The bin was located in the lobby of the town hall and the collection was set to run right up until the start of the school year.
Supplies collected by the town were intended to be divided up and put inside the donated backpacks. The backpacks, stuffed with the supplies, would then be given to the four elementary schools and middle school where school employees would then distribute the supplies to students in need.
The other two backpacks donated from the lemonade stand were dropped off at the Mt. Olive Food Panty to be distributed from there.
“Running a lemonade stand for any pantry should be recognized,” stated Susan Morse, an administrator for the Mt. Olive Food Pantry.
Though the Country Oak kids do not have any concrete plans for future fundraising they would likely jump at the chance to hold their lemonade stand again next year after the success they experienced this year. “The children were very proud and happy with the whole experience. They were excited about the money they raised, and happy to be together,” states Magrini.
In closing Magrini states, “I’ve always been proud of all that Mt. Olive has to offer to families, as well as its sense of community and pride. There are so many wonderful families and students who understand the importance of supporting one another. I, as well as the other parents involved, are thankful to be a part of this community and to be able to raise our children here together as we all agree, it takes a village! Hopefully this simple little lemonade stand inspires others to help in any way they can because no act of kindness is too small.”
For more information about the Mt. Olive Food Pantry and their current needs, visit ww.mountolivepantry.org.