DETROIT – What started off as a seemingly innocent way for a young man to help the city he loves has turned into an international outpouring of support. In just three days, the Detroit lemonade stand started by 9-year-old Joshua Smith has made over $1,200 and his family still intends on donating the money to the city.
“I just heard that we were in a crisis and I wanted to help,” Smith said, crediting his father with the idea to sell popcorn along with the lemonade. “I was trying to come up with [a goal] of $600 or $700 and my mom suggested $1,000.”
Smith first came up with the idea in June when the city was facing potential insolvency. He felt that he had to do something to help the city, despite the fact that it faces a deficit in excess of $100 million.
“The week has been tedious, strenuous, arduous,” Flynn Smith, Joshua’s father, jokingly said. “Monday was cool. He was still just a boy in the neighborhood. Our profit from Monday was $32. We took in $100 but because of expenses and everything else, we only made $32. But after Monday, it hit.”
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What spawned from the lemonade stand was a national and international response, with donations coming from all over the United States as well as Great Britain and Canada. There has also been a steady stream of local, national, and international media coming to their home in Detroit’s Russell Woods neighborhood on the west side.
The sale began at 5 p.m. on Monday afternoon, and will end tonight at 8 p.m. – “He wanted to do it every day for a week,” Mr. Smith a high school math teacher and minister, said. “This is the first of any kind of anything like this, ever. We let him come up with the prices.
“We would chime in and educate him on how think things through. I told him ‘This is your thing. You’re going to be out there sitting at the table. We got your back.’”
By Tuesday, when word of the lemonade stand had spread through social media and eventually radio and television, Joshua had made a $500 profit. People had also begun dropping off donations at the family’s home.
“That’s the power of media,” Mr. Smith said jokingly about the response to his son’s business. “Each day starts the same. I come down and people have dropped some stuff in the mail slot. We’ve had donations from London to California. It’s been a real special thing to see that people thought this was worth joining in with it financially.
“I’m very proud of him. It’s not often that someone sees a small problem and wants to do anything about it, much less a big problem – the city’s broke. We have adults who understand some of the complexities of that and come away jaded and negative.”
The response from the city came quickly. Members of the Detroit City Council presented his family with a “Spirit of Detroit” award on Thursday and will honor him on Tuesday morning.