Youth lemonade stand raises thousands for Operation Christmas Child

Sisters at Hibben UMC create Operation LemonAID

By Ronnie Musselwhite

Four years. A lot can happen in the span of 1,460 days. Presidents can change. Olympic records can be shattered. Kids can graduate from college.

And in the case of Anna and Tracy Musselwhite, two young members of Hibben United Methodist Church, Mount Pleasant, a small lemonade stand can grow into an initiative that has raised several thousand dollars for a deserving charity.

“We always enjoyed packing shoeboxes at our church for Operation Christmas Child, but when we heard how much it costs to ship each box, we wanted to do something,” Anna said. “So we set up a lemonade stand at the end of our driveway with some friends and sold drinks and a few baked goods. Then we gave all the money to OCC.”

At the time, they were just trying to raise a little money to give to Operation Christmas Child, she said.

“We didn’t have any idea it would become what it has.”

What “it” has become is Operation LemonAID, an annual campaign created by the Musselwhite sisters to raise funds that help defray the cost of shipping OCC boxes to children in foreign countries who might not otherwise receive a Christmas present or learn about God. In the four years since launching Operation LemonAID, the girls have donated more than $4,000 to OCC. This past year’s event alone generated an excess of $2,000.

“We set a really high goal this year and weren’t sure if we were going to get there,” Tracy said. “But people kept donating, and we finally did. It was really sweet.”

Like most worthwhile efforts, Operation LemonAID continues to evolve. After hosting the event in their driveway for two years, the Musselwhites moved the stand to their church, Hibben UMC. There, Anna and Tracy—along with a growing number of friends and parents from their neighborhood and church—set up multiple stands and sold hundreds of cups of lemonade and baked goods following the Sunday morning service. Once the church grounds cleared, they moved the stands to a remote location for several more hours.

With each edition of Operation LemonAID, momentum grows. Earlier this year, Operation LemonAID gained the attention of Samaritans Purse, the parent organization of OCC, and prompted a representative to cut short her vacation in Myrtle Beach to travel to Mount Pleasant and help with this year’s event. Future plans call for the Musselwhite sisters to be featured in a brochure being produced for OCC.

“It’s pretty exciting stuff for a 9- and 13-year-old,” said Cathy, the girls’ mother.

Admittedly, organizing an event like Operation LemonAID requires countless hours and the support of dozens of volunteers. Clinton Hall, a Charleston-based graphic designer, waived his fees and created the official Operation LemonAID logo, which is used on flyers, shirts and other promotional items. Meanwhile, friends and family and some Hibben members offer their time to help make lemonade, bake cookies and other treats and set up and break down the stands.

“(Operation LemonAID) has really taken on a life of its own and become a huge labor of love for the girls—and really for all the kids and adults who help with it,” Cathy said.

To spread the word about Operation LemonAID, the girls create and distribute signs and flyers, post on social media and address the Hibben congregation on the morning of the event. They’ve also produced a video showing highlights from past stands and information about OCC, which they show at church and share with friends.

For the past two years, they’ve even appeared on a local morning show, Lowcountry Live, to promote the effort and encourage people to support the cause.

“It was really cool being on TV,” Tracy said.

For all the success Operation LemonAID has enjoyed, the Musselwhite sisters are thinking much bigger. Next year, they still plan to set up their stands at Hibben, but instead of moving to a remote location following the morning service, they’re encouraging youth throughout Charleston and beyond to host Operation LemonAID stands at their churches on the same day, then combine all of the funds raised into a giant Operation LemonAID donation to OCC.

“It’s not about Tracy and me, or our friends or even our church,” Anna said. “It’s about trying to help some needy kids and spreading the news about God. It’s about Jesus.”

The date for Operation LemonAID 2017 is Sunday, July 30. Email [email protected]g if your church would like information on starting your own Operation LemonAID stand.

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