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Consider the lemonade stand. A thick slice of nostalgic Americana and a summertime staple on neighborhood sidewalks and front lawns everywhere, the humble lemonade stand is often a child’s introduction to the world of business and finance. But for one Jefferson Elementary fourth-grader and her best friend, a lemonade stand was an expression of love, generosity and kindness that will touch the lives of many who need it most.

Changing the
World With a

Reagan Rodriguez is a petite, polite young lady with a shy smile and eyes brimming with an empathy and intelligence of someone much older. Jefferson Elementary Principal, Nathan Pinter describes Reagan in glowing terms: “She’s superb. She’s an awesome, awesome student, always thinking of others.”

Outwardly, Reagan seems like a typical fourth grade student. She likes to read Judy Moody books, she studies dance two days a week, and she and her best friend, Payton, like to dress up like celebrities and do their dolls’ hair. But inside Reagan lives a strong desire to help those who are less fortunate than she. She and Payton had each been wanting to have a lemonade stand all summer. So, one day they decided to go into business together. They gathered their supplies, made a batch of lemonade and some Rainbow Loom bracelets to sell, put up some signs and set up shop in front of Reagan’s house. 


Business was fairly brisk in the morning and into the early afternoon. Workers from the Ameren building across the street and people walking and bicycling by stopped in to buy a cold drink for only 50 cents a cup (quite a bargain in today’s economy). And when the girls decided to close up shop for the day, their receipts totalled over three-hundred dollars – $311.51, to be exact!


And what do you think Reagan and Payton wanted to do with the fruits of their labor? Maybe buy some Rainbow Loom supplies, or Judy Moody books? Not even close. The girls knew that they wanted to use that money to help those who needed it. So they decided to donate it to the Ottawa PADS Shelter. “The PADS Shelter has shelter, showers and food for homeless people, so they can sleep through the night,” Reagan explains. With her trademark humble enthusiasm, she shares that on October 2 of this year, the proceeds from their lemonade stand will purchase a meal of pizza, salad and drinks for 40 people at the PADS Shelter in Ottawa.


When asked how she thinks she would feel, if she herself were homeless, Reagan carefully considers the question and says that she would be afraid and sad. She is happy that her donation might help to lessen those feelings of fear and sadness that shelter clients might be experiencing, if only for the short time it takes to share a meal and some company. “They’re going to be happy and thankful,” Reagan says. She is visibly pleased and justifiably proud that she and Payton were able to help make that happen. In fact, if she had the power to do anything she wanted, Reagan would give everyone without housing a permanent place to call home. And with her big heart full of generosity, understanding and kindness, she is already well on her way to making that dream a reality.

The Ottawa PADS Shelter is a 55-bed homeless shelter that provides shelter, meals, and other services to those in need. To find out more, including how you can make a donation, go to
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