Sisters Sofia and Bella Monteleone of West Point, Miss., might be questionable capitalists, but their spirit of philanthropy is tremendous.
In four years, the lemonade stand begun by the Monteleone sisters, and later joined by cousin Kathryn Williams, has raised $9,636 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital by providing free lemonade in exchange for a donation to St. Jude. The three girls, Sofia, 12; Bella, 10; and Kathryn, 9, set up the stand in a family friend’s front yard every year during an annual arts festival held on Labor Day weekend in the central East Mississippi community.
“We give away lemonade and we take the opportunity to tell people about St. Jude,” said mom Stacey Monteleone. “We donate every penny we take in, as our family donates the supplies.”
The popularity of the lemonade stand has grown exponentially with each passing year. The first year the girls raised $470; last year the total was $4,635. For 2017, the girls have set a goal of $5,000.
“Families come (to St. Jude) for free, so St. Jude relies on donors to be able to do their research to help the kids,” said Bella.
Older sister Sofia said, “I love to help people and it makes me happy to think I am making a difference in people’s lives.”
Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should have to worry about is helping their child live.
The girls begin promotion of the lemonade stand weeks before it opens in September, making announcements at school and church and inviting people to visit the stand and make a donation. Their mom said the project has become more of a drive than a lemonade stand.
“We have given away lemonade in exchange for a $300 donation,” said Stacey. “That is some expensive lemonade.”
The sisters learned about St. Jude through a copy of the St. Jude “ABCs of Cancer” book, based on a patient-created display in the hospital. Their mom, a regional director for Dollar General, was given the book during a tour of St. Jude with her company.
Dollar General is a St. Jude corporate partner, and Stacey’s region is a top St. Jude fundraiser for the retailer and regularly brings teams to St. Jude for tours.
“We as parents feel like it is important to teach our children about service to others,” Stacey said. “What they learn as young children will surely influence them throughout their lives.”