Thursday, July 30, 2020

Serving Sweetness, One Glass at a Time

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

A little girl serving a sour drink is spreading sweetness
throughout Clearing and Garfield Ridge.

Nine-year-old Margaret Huitron’s lemonade stand in front of her home, across the street from the west edge of Wentworth Park, is typically open just two hours a day, four days a week.

But she’s pouring with a purpose.

After hearing that children will be required to wear masks while at school in the fall, Margaret—entering fourth grade at Kinzie Elementary School--decided she wanted to buy fun masks for all the students at school.

She told her mom, Theresa, that she thought some kids would be afraid to wear masks, especially the younger ones. So Margaret decided that colorful, fun masks would make wearing them less fearful for those students.

Theresa said she thought it was a wonderful idea, but asked Margaret how she would pay for the masks.

Margaret had the answer: a lemonade stand.

Mom’s response: “Let’s do it.”

Theresa and her husband, Fabian, invested in Margaret’s lemonade stand by buying her the supplies she needed. 
Margaret’s goal of 750 masks from the Crayola corporation would cost $3,900 before taxes.

Yet, she’s technically not selling lemonade (there is no “price” for a glass). She gives her stand’s visitors the option of donating what they can afford. Margaret said they could donate dollars or cents. All donations are welcome.

“She doesn’t keep any of it--but there was a gentleman who gave her a $10 donation for the masks,” Theresa says. “He also gave her $5 for herself, saying, ‘This is for you. You should set out a tip jar just for you.’ But Margaret hasn’t done it. She said she feels selfish doing it.”

With guidance from her mom and dad, Margaret operates a
stand that is a model of cleanliness and safety. She wears a mask and gloves, serves lemonade (yellow and pink) in disposable cups with straws and lids—and she has even chalked the sidewalk at six-feet intervals to encourage social distancing.

It’s working.

In a pandemic-weary world in which folks are longing for a little human contact, a little bit of life the way it used to be—Margaret is quenching people’s thirst, literally and figuratively. She has raised well over a thousand dollars, and her Facebook group went from zero to 300 members in the blink of an eye.

Margaret’s venture has also attracted the attention of some businessmen and women in the area. 

While Margaret’s first lemonade stand was cute and colorful, its cardboard design made it vulnerable to wind and rain.

So Theresa reached out to Geno Randazzo of All Exterior Contractors, a local business owner known for his generosity when it comes to the community, especially children.

She knew of Geno through his uncle, the late George Randazzo. Theresa, who is of Italian descent, knew George through his organization, The National Italian Sports Hall of Fame, as well as her visits to the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Little Italy.

Margaret also participated in a tribute to George Randazzo with her Little Lady Sinatra persona singing My Way. She and another young contestant won the contest. 

“It’s a small world,” Theresa says.

Geno came through. He sent over John Sabbia--who built a new, durable stand within an hour--free of charge. Margaret kept her parents up late one night to paint the stand with magnetic and chalkboard paint so she could hang things up. Geno and John also gave Margaret a $100 donation for the cause.

Original stand (right). New, sturdy stand (left).

Hearing of All Exterior’s good deed, Garfield Ridge Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ellen Brown stepped up next. She said going forward, if Margaret needed more supplies, the chamber would pay for them. Mary Ellen also extended an invitation to Margaret to set up her stand every Wednesday at the GRCC’s farmers market at Mayfield Banquets.

Theresa says they are investing in a credit card app, so donations will be easier. They also opened a PayPal account so people could donate through that. “People aren’t cashed based,” Theresa says. “People want to donate, so we wanted to make it simple. We are learning along the way.”

No matter how many masks Margaret is able to buy, she will hand them over to Kinzie Elementary School Principal Dawn Caetta at the beginning of the school year.

In the meantime, Theresa--who has lived in Garfield Ridge since she was 17 and once worked at the old Blockbuster Video and then TCF Bank, continues with her job as a home healthcare worker. Fabian is studying for his EMT exam and hopes to complete his studies at the Fire Academy to become a Chicago firefighter. 

Margaret wants to continue her lemonade stand after school starts. When the weather turns cold, she wants to convert it to a hot chocolate stand. 

“It’s gotten bigger than I thought,” Theresa adds with a chuckle.

Margaret’s Lemonade Stand is usually open noon to 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in front of her home—and now 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays at the GRCC farmers market at Archer and Monitor.

See you there?

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