Inspired to help young girls in India, 4-year-old Sophia Elliott of Santa Ynez is making a difference, one cup of lemonade and a cookie at a time.
On July 7, Sophia, with assistance from her parents Leanne and Ryan and 2-year-old brother Cooper, set up a lemonade stand in front of her house on Pine Street and in three hours raised $71.75 for an all-girls school in Piyali, a village outside of Calcutta, India.
“It was very popular,” Leanne said.
Sophia heard about the Piyali school from her parents and wanted to do something to help the girls.
In all, she sold 3 gallons of homemade lemonade, created from 15 pounds of lemons, and many homemade cookies. She had three wardrobe changes, ate five cookies for lunch and drank a few lemonades herself.
Keeping track with a handheld clicker, Sophia sold 73 “units” of lemonade or cookies.
She waved at everyone who passed by on a bicycle or in a vehicle that afternoon to catch their attention. Within 30 minutes of opening, there was nowhere to park in front of the Elliott house across from Santa Ynez School.
Although priced at 50 cents per lemonade or cookie, generous customers — including grandparents, family from Santa Maria, friends from Santa Barbara, neighbors, and passersby — handed over wads of dollar bills and $10 bills to help the cause — raising money to fund a playground for the girls.
The young entrepreneur and fundraiser took a nap after all the lemonade was sold.
About $500 will fund a playground with swings and a slide, or most of one, for the school, Leanne said. More donations were expected from family, she added.
Sophia hopes others will be encouraged to help the Piyali girls by matching her fundraising or making a contribution.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to PACE Universal, attention Piyali Learning Center, PO Box 1622, Santa Ynez, 93460.
Deepa Willingham, a Solvang resident who was born and raised in Calcutta, founded PACE Universal’s Piyali Learning Center in September 2003. The school has about 200 students, all girls, from ages 4 to 14.
PACE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education, health, nutrition and social development of girls in impoverished areas of India and other parts of the world.
Leanne said she has known Willingham, PACE president and a member of the Rotary Club of the Santa Ynez Valley, for several years and was drawn to her work in educating girls.
Being a mother to a little girl made Willingham’s work more poignant for her, Leanne said.
Leanne’s father Allen Cooper also is a member of the Rotary Club of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Sophia had wanted to sell lemonade to those parking on Pine Street for youth soccer games at Santa Ynez School in the fall, however, the lemonade didn’t come together until earlier this month.
Leanne said she hopes to instill in her children a sense of the world’s different cultures and to share the privileges they have.
One day when she is older, Sophia would like to visit India and make friends with the Piyali girls.