PHOENIX, NY – While it may look like your ordinary lemonade stand, it’s much more than that.
This lemonade stand is serving life lessons along with a cold cup of fresh lemonade.
The children working the stand are known as the “Little Difference Makers.”
The difference they make for their community is anything but little.
The Little Difference Makers open their lemonade stand four days a week outside their home for three hours a day.
That’s 12 hours of slinging lemonade and 12 hours of slinging inspiration and hope.
These Little Difference Makers select a local cause and donate all their earnings to that cause each week.
This week, The Little Difference Makers were able to donate $368.24 to the Francis House in honor of the late Tony Fratto, former Mayor of Phoenix..
Fratto had been suffering from brain cancer and was receiving care at the Francis House in Syracuse.
The house, dedicated to providing care to those with terminal illnesses and a prognosis of less than six months to live, has been around since 1991 and has served more than 1,000 residents.
Fratto has left a mark on Phoenix that the village residents cannot deny.
“We are just trying to make him proud,” said one of Little Difference Makers founders, Christian Felix. “We owe him so much as a community. He brought our downtown back to life, he read to our girls in school. He’s a huge supporter of Bridge Street Brats, in one of his last meetings as mayor they voted to switch to Metro water after decades of water issues. He has put so much time and money into Phoenix. He would make money in mayoral pay and he would donate most of it back to the community. We just want to make sure he knows he’s affected this generation and hopefully the next one and the next one after that.”
And with that, the Little Difference Makers are able to present a check to the Francis House of $368 in honor of the man that they believe shaped the Phoenix that there is today, Mayor Tony Fratto.
Six years ago, Erin and Christian Felix were perplexed when they read an article citing New York State at the bottom of the list of community volunteerism, especially for children ages 6-18.
While Erin Felix has been very involved with volunteerism and even received a scholarship based on community volunteer hours, motherhood had slowed her ability to give back.
“Our girls are close in age so it was hard to do much. Then we realized, this is how we are going to do it. We started small; we rang the bell for the Salvation Army first. Then we did things like St. Baldrick’s, Make-A-Wish, the MS Walk, Locks for Love and making cookies for the rescue mission,” said Erin.
“We thought of the idea for the lemonade stand at the end of last summer. We got supplies from neighbors and grandparents, cost us very little to actually make the lemonade stand. We want to show the girls you don’t have to be rich, it doesn’t take money to give back, just time,” said Erin’s husband, Christian.
The Little Difference Makers keep everything in the local community.
They tend to stay away from larger chains to donate.
Even for campaigns like St. Baldrick’s (which fights childhood cancer), the Felixs donate in honor of a local young girl that lost her battle.
The week prior, in its first week of operation, the group managed to raise $266.40 for Matt Hunt, a local community member who was injured in a pool accident that left doctors believing he may never walk again.
To The Little Difference Makers’ pleasant surprise, Hunt showed up to their stand and was able to walk and show his gratitude for their help.
“That’s my favorite part,” said 9-year-old Savannah Felix, daughter of Erin and Christian and one of the Little Difference Makers. “I like meeting the people we get to help.”
And while the girls were hesitant that Mayor Fratto wouldn’t be as accepting of their help due to Erin and Christian being asked to leave a couple water meetings with the mayor, Christian used this as an example to help the girls learn yet another lesson.
“The mayor had kicked us out of a meeting or two, but I think that’s just as important to show the girls. We may have different political views, or views on anything, but at the end of the day, we shake hands and we help each other,” Christian explained.
Savannah and Abigail, the Felix daughters and Little Difference Makers, will also learn another valuable lesson from their mother in a month.
“I want to show them that beauty is on the inside. I’m shaving my head for St. Baldrick’s on September 12,” said Erin. “But what’s most amazing about this lemonade stand is that people are coming from all over. Oswego, Fulton, Fayetteville, Liverpool. And only about 1/3 of the money we are raising is coming from lemonade. People are making donations without buying lemonade, or buying lemonade and making a donation on top of their payment.”
With such tremendous community response, the Felixs are overwhelmed with happiness at their booming business.
“Our biggest goal is just to inspire other people. We want to make other people want to volunteer. We aren’t rich, we have our struggles just like everyone else. But, it feels good to do good,” said Erin.
The young girls and many friends, neighbors and strangers stop by the lemonade stand to help sell the $1 lemonade or $1 water and to help hand out smiles and waves to all passers-by.
The Little Difference Makers insist that all the smiles, waves and honks are just as motivating and rewarding as sales in lemonade.
The young girls make their own lemonade with bottled water and Country Time Lemonade Mix and are always accepting donations in these forms as well.
Savannah, manning the lemonade stand with her parents on Saturday morning was able to see firsthand the effects of their charitable acts when Judy Christopher paid the lemonade stand a visit.
As Christopher drove by, she noticed the sign asking to help support the Francis House.
Well aware of the house and all it does for people like Mayor Fratto, Christopher stopped at the stand — and emptied the contents of her purse into the donation jar.
Christopher thanked the family for what they were doing, like many other customers had done, and drove away.
Minutes later, Christopher returned. Only this time she presented a large bag of change and a tearful exchange of thanks.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Christopher revealed that she had been friends with Mayor Fratto for more than 30 years.
“That’s all the money I have. I don’t know how much it is, but it’s all I have. Francis House is a wonderful place, as wonderful as it can be. And I knew when I drove by and saw that sign I had to stop,” Christopher said. “It’s not a lot of money, but I figured what do I need it for; laundry? This is a better place for it!”
“That’s why we do this,” said Erin.
“And even though his body and brain are shutting down, it’s that fighting spirit that gave us this town back that just won’t let go,” added Christian.
The Little Difference Makers can be found at 503 Main St. in Phoenix and on Facebook for more information and updates.