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A 9-year-old was so disturbed by this city’s finances that he told his parents he wanted to set up a lemonade stand to help fill Detroit’s coffers.
So 5 to 8 p.m. each day through Friday, you will find Joshua Smith selling lemonade, fruit punch (“It’s organic,” he said), water, and popcorn (“seasoned with sea salt”) at his family home.
Parents Flynn and Rhonda Smith, both 43, said they decided not to tell Joshua that a lemonade sale, no matter how successful, would hardly put a dent in the city’s deficit, which is in excess of $100 million. And they decided to invest close to $100 for the food and drinks.
“I’m really proud of him. He wasn’t asking how can he make money to buy himself something. My wife and I were talking about this earlier: Neither of us ever thought to do anything like this when we were kids,” said Flynn Smith, a high school math teacher and associate pastor at Evangel Ministries here.
Joshua knew things weren’t quite right in the city where he and his younger brothers, ages 4 and 2, were born. The grass at the parks near his home is frequently almost as tall as he is (he stands nearly 5 feet), and the water fountains are broken.
He was on his way to piano lessons one day when he heard a radio report about the sorry state of Detroit’s finances.
“I heard the city was in crisis because the city is broke, and I was really upset,” Joshua said.
Rhonda Smith posted news of the sale on Facebook, and along with Joshua made fliers distributed in the neighborhood and at a recent jazz festival.
The flier says: “May you please help the City of Detroit. Please buy this popcorn and drinks. It’s not so expensive. I didn’t make it expensive so you would have to spend all your money. The money will help clean up trash on the ground and cut the grass in the parks.”
Joshua’s goodies range in price from $1 for a bottle of water to $2 for a “big” bag of popcorn.
“He’s always been a conscientious child about what’s going on around him, and we want to encourage him with whatever he wants to do as long as it’s positive and God honoring,” said Rhonda Smith, a freelance writer.
On Monday, Joshua’s first customer was next-door neighbor Robert Rucker, 60.
“The city really needs all the help it can get, so I wanted to help out,” Rucker said. “Somebody needs to try something; the adults too.”
Although it isn’t common, donating money to the City of Detroit isn’t difficult. People who want to donate must take the money to the city teller on the first floor of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center; donated money goes to the general fund unless a department is specified.
Rhonda Smith said she is getting good responses from friends who are spreading the word through Facebook and other social media.
Kim Trent, a childhood friend of hers, posted a notice about Joshua’s sale on her Facebook page and heard from friends across the country. That’s when she suggested that Smith allow donations through her PayPal account.
“I posted it, and my friends posted it. I had friends as far as Oregon asking how they could contribute,” Trent said. She stopped to buy popcorn and water on her way home from work.
Rhonda Smith said she hopes Joshua can donate the money with the assurance that it will go to the recreation department to cut grass or improve the parks.
Joshua said that he also wants to send a letter to Mayor Dave Bing with the money that he raises. On Monday afternoon, he dictated what the letter would say:
“Dear Mr. Mayor, I’m sending this money because I hear the city is broke and I’m hoping to raise $1,000 or more so we can have lots of money, so we can cut grass and fix the water fountains in the park.”
He was slowly on the way to his goal Monday. A few hours into the sale, Joshua had made $69.
All donations can be made Monday-Friday (Aug 3rd) 5-8pm at the follwing address: 4252 Leslie in Detroit