Virtual lemonade stand takes off, raising $25,000

UPDATE: Morgan says THANK YOU to the Collaboration Project for their matching $10,000 donation – and announces a new goal for this page to hit $20,000 for a $40,000 total! If it does, then she announced her lemonade stand will have a live band!

In many ways, Morgan Marsh-McGlone is a typical 7-year-old girl. On a recent day, she is pleading with her parents for a puppy and can’t wait for the pillow fort and pajama party her teacher is hosting on Zoom for her Lapham Elementary School class. 

But she is also aware of adult issues, like the fact some kids in her Madison school community and beyond have “food insecurity.” 

So the little girl with a big heart pivoted on a plan she had to open a lemonade stand and raise money for kangaroos affected by the Australian wildfires. Instead, she is raising money to feed other children whose families are out of work because of COVID-19.

Thanks to her idea for a virtual lemonade stand, she has raised nearly $25,000. That’s enough money to feed roughly 600 families for a week. 

In an effort to raise money for families with food insecurities, Morgan Marsh-McGlone, 7, created virtual coupons for lemonade for people who donate to her charity. (Photo © Andy Manis)

“The reality is that all the food going into a food insecure house is going to feed everyone,” said Chef David Heide, whose charity-driven, pop-up Little John’s Restaurant is the recipient of Marsh-McGlone’s fundraising effort. “Our goal was to get enough food into those households to feed everyone.”

Going to the virtual lemonade stand is easy. Click on the Facebook fundraising page. Once you have made a donation, a coupon for a real cup of lemonade will be mailed to you. When life returns to normal, Marsh-McGlone will notify donors that her “real” lemonade stand is open and they can redeem their coupon for a nice cool glass of lemonade.

Marsh-McGlone’s fundraising could not have come at a better time.

Heide’s food delivery program had  depleted its initial funding from the Reach Dane agency that was making it possible for him to feed 632 families associated with the Head Start program.

Feeding those families involves cooking enough food to serve six meals a week to a family of five. Serving that many meals to all those families costs $23,500 per week, Heide said. Marsh-McGlone has raised $25,000.

“A little girl with a lemonade stand is making this possible,’’ Heide said.

Restaurant owner and chef Dave Heide sautees mushrooms. Heide uses his kitchen to make and deliver food for families with food insecurities during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Megan McGlone, Morgan’s mom, said an initial goal of $90 was set once her daughter decided to raise money “to help people who didn’t have enough to eat.” 

Morgan quickly shot past that goal. She then set another, promising cookies at the lemonade stand if they raised $800. 

Soon that goal was in the rearview mirror, too. She upped her goal and offered another promise. This time, she promised that her friend would play the cello. Then she made a video promising that if she raised $1,500, people who came to her lemonade stand could snuggle with a puppy.

The puppy promise paid off, big. Local TV news picked up the story and donations shot up. 

The Oregon Community Bank promised to match the first $10,000 of donations. As of late last week, Morgan’s Facebook fundraising page had raised more than $14,000, plus the $10,000 bank donation.

“A lot of people have been commenting that they were looking for a way to do something to help, and they like the idea of the money going directly to needy people in our community,’’ McGlone said.

In addition to the funding from Marsh-McGlone’s virtual lemonade stand, others in the community are coming through to help feed those families. 

All Comfort Services recently helped Heide replace a broken water heater at the restaurant. Other businesses donated a delivery van, and the Friends of the State Street Family donated $9,000 to keep the food coming.

 In addition to donating to Morgan’s fundraiser on Facebook or at the restaurant site, people who can be larger or matching donors can email Heide directly at  [email protected]

There are other ways to help. This past week 70 volunteers helped assemble and deliver the meals, and Heide says more people will be needed next week when they switch to home delivery of all meals, rather than dropping some off at community centers for pickup. 

People who want to volunteer can fill out the form  or email [email protected]

“It’s intense. There’s a lot of struggle. I don’t think anyone feels good accepting charity, so we want to make sure they feel it’s okay to take the food,’’ Heide said. “They don’t want to feel like they’re taking advantage.” 

Volunteer Gerry Greenfield loads up his car with food being delivered to families with food insecurities. (Photo © Andy Manis)

Both he and Morgan’s family are looking forward to the day when everyone who contributed can get together for a real life lemonade stand at Heide’s Lilianna’s restaurant in Fitchburg. 

Heide is going to have his staff help Morgan make cookies and lemonade, and he says he’s going to invite some of the musicians that regularly play at the restaurant to accompany the boy on the cello.

“Thank goodness he’s doing that,’’ says Megan McGlone. “I had no idea how we were going to make all those cookies.”

Before that day comes, though, Morgan and her lemonade stand are making family dinners a reality. 

Last Thursday, volunteer Sue Pierringer was delivering the meals in South Madison. The little kids in the neighborhood know Pierringer because she is the bus driver who drove them to the Head Start program.

These days, with preschool closed and many of their parents out of work thanks to COVID-19, Pierringer is driving her old bus route to deliver honey chicken with roasted vegetables and enchiladas with rice and beans.

The kids are excited to see her. One girl likes to hold crayon drawings up to the window, and another rushed to help answer the door.

“Hi Brianna,’’ says Pierringer, smiling and grabbing her own shoulders in a ‘virtual hug,’ “I miss you!”

None of the little kids know it, but their meal this week is partly thanks to the big heart of a little girl not much older than they are.