One lemonade stand set up to raise a few dollars for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School district has grown into a community-wide effort, backed by local businesses ranging from the growing Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt chain to Huckleberry Café and Bakery on Wilshire. With an Aug. 15 deadline to collect money for the Save Our Schools campaign, kids, parents, and community members are putting their all into raising funds to bring back teachers, aids, and programs cut for the 2010-11 school year.
As part of the Save Our Schools Campaign, Project Lemon-Aid has allowed kids in the district to help counteract the budget cuts.
“It truly started a just lemonade stands with the kids,” said parent Cara Brander. “We’ve raised $20,000 just on stands. From there, we’ve been contacting businesses.
They’ve been really helpful.”
When the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s parcel tax, or Measure A, was narrowly defeated in late May, families throughout the district were devastated.
“It’s personal for everyone,” said Tracy Pettit, who has two elementary school aged children in the district.
The district’s school board was forced to cut $7.1 million from their budget for the upcoming year, which hit the elementary level hardest many parents believe. A total of 65 teachers and staff members in the district were pink-slipped Brander said.
However, as an emergency 60-day campaign for the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (SMMEF), Save Our Schools has raised more than $1 million.
The money will help reduce class sizes, save teacher and staff jobs, keep music, library, and counseling programs in the local schools, particularly at the elementary school level.
From that first stand grew a desire to keep going said Stacey Abarbanel, a parent with two sophomores at Santa Monica High School who has coordinated a number of events and business partnerships for the campaign.
On top of widespread word-of-mouth exposure, parents and other supporters have used a Project Lemon-Aid Facebook page for updates on upcoming lemonade stands and other events to raise money for the district.
The Lantana Center, a high-end entertainment industry complex in Santa Monica, invited Project Lemon-Aid to set up a stand at their all-tenant outdoor lunch on July 21. With hundreds of in attendance, parents and kids were able to sell lemonade and baked goods and spread the word beyond district families.
Apart from just lemonade stands, Josh Loeb And Zoe Nathan, the husband and wife team who own Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon, Sweet Rose Creamery, and Huckleberry Bakery and Café have also volunteered time and resources to help the initiative.
“My wife and I both grew up in Santa Monica and are attached in a lot of ways,” Loeb said. “We were really looking for some way to give back, and we wanted to do something more substantial.”
On Aug. 9, the chefs from Rustic Canyon will come to Huckleberry and donate their time to prepare a four-course meal with dessert for attendees. At a $100 a seat and with
two seatings, all of the money raised that night will go to the SMMEF.
“What’s been really amazing is their overwhelming support for this,” Abarbanel said of Loeb and Nathan. “To get all their staff onboard on a night when they’re normally closed is incredible.”
“I can’t think of anything more important than teachers,” Loeb said.
Loeb and his wife have also helped coordinate an auction that will raise money for the district, offering baking classes and a farmers’ market tour, among other things. The online auction will be going on from Aug. 6 until Aug. 13.
Through Aug. 6, Project Lemon-Aid is coordinating with businesses on Santa Monica’s Montana Avenue to have “Lemon-8 Days.” Tenants who participate are committing to give eight percent of their sales for those days to the campaign. The businesses include Menchies and the Italian restaurant chain Rosti, among others.
“What started locally as a movement of the kids and family is now moving into our business community, and we’re having a really great response from them,” Abarbanel said.
Although many of the children don’t know all the details of the effort, they have a good idea of what they want their efforts to achieve.
“Part of what’s really been neat about Project Lemon-Aid is that the kids who have become involved have leaned to engage in solving a problem in their community,” Abarbanel said.
“We’re selling lemonade to save our teachers,” said Aidan Pettit who will be attending Santa Monica’s Alternative School House (SMASH) in the fall. “We’re doing a pretty good job.”
To donate or learn more about the campaign you can visit http://www.smmef.org.
To look at options for the Project Lemon-Aid Auction, go to http://www.benefitevents.com/auctions/lemonaid/.