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Texas-Sized Generosity

February 18, 2005

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Everything is bigger in Texas - the hats, the trucks, the lemons.

Lemons?

One January day in Houston, lemons seemed to be the biggest thing to hit the state since the ten-gallon hat. On Saturday January 15, several area students put together Lemon Aid, a fundraiser to help survivors of December's devastating tsunami. The students sold lemonade and Lemon Aid t-shirts in front of the local Whole Foods Market.

The community's response was as heartwarming as the lemonade was cool.

With assistance from parents, the community and Whole Foods, Lemon Aid raised more than $6,200 for Mercy Corps' tsunami relief efforts.

That's a lot of lemons.

A sweet idea

Sissy Lappin, one of the parents that helped organize the event, admits that Lemon Aid had humble origins.

"One of my daughter's friends had a lemonade stand, and so my daughter asked if she could sell lemonade, too," Lappin said. "When she painted the sign for her own stand, it ended up reading 'Lemon Aid' instead of 'lemonade'."

An idea was born.

The misspelling was a truly a sign. It came just a few days after the Indian Ocean tsunami ravaged much of Southern Asia. Lappin's daughter, Leah, and her friends had been following news of the tsunami, and were especially interested in helping children in disaster zones.

They quickly sprung into action, with some critical logistical and financial help from their parents. Within a couple of days, they had gathered supplies and arranged to set up shop in front of the local Whole Foods Market. They even had Lemon Aid t-shirts printed.

Leah and her friends spent a good amount of time researching what organization to give the donations to. A representative of Whole Foods Market suggested they check out Mercy Corps. Whole Foods and Mercy Corps have worked side-by-side to raise awareness and support for tsunami relief organizations over the past several weeks.

As a result, Leah and her friends visited the Mercy Corps website and read some of the tsunami-related articles. They liked what they found, particularly the stories about how Mercy Corps was distributing sports equipment to displaced children. Leah and many of her friends are on a Houston-area soccer team.

They had found their charity.

A team effort

On January 15, Lemon Aid got underway at 10 am. Leah's soccer team had meticulously arranged a schedule to staff the lemonade stand, organized into one-hour shifts. The stand was set up and attractively decorated, and the lemonade, t-shirts and signs were carefully arranged and displayed. Whole Foods Market donated several boxes of chocolate cookies to go with the lemonade.

As soon as the stand opened, the students greeted a steady stream of generous customers. Most bought lemonade for a $1 donation, and many purchased Lemon Aid t-shirts for $25.

There were plenty of unique, heartwarming stories as well.

"One little girl came up to the booth with a big smile on her face and a handful of dimes," Sissy Lappin described. "When she handed over ten dimes, she said 'here are my ten diamonds.' It was adorable."

Children helping children was certainly the business of the day.

When the day came to a close at 6 pm, many of the Whole Foods Market staff and customers stood around to hear the final tally. When it was announced that over $6,000 had been raised, everyone cheered and clapped. Lemon Aid was an enormous success.

Lemon Aid lives on

In the weeks since Leah and her friends raised critical funds for Mercy Corps' tsunami relief efforts, the Lemon Aid t-shirt has become a bit of a phenomenon around the Houston area.

"I've seen Lemon Aid t-shirts all over the place," Sissy Lappin said. "I just went to a Houston Rockets basketball game, and saw a few there. When I went to the Houston Marathon, I saw several runners wearing them."

In fact, Lemon Aid has become a larger effort, spinning off into more lemonade stands and increasing t-shirt sales. Students around the community are continuing to raise money for tsunami relief efforts, and plan on making Lemon Aid a more frequent event.

As Lemon Aid continues to grow, it does seem that things are bigger in Texas. In Houston, deep in the heart of Texas, generosity is the biggest thing of all.