When life gave her lemons, 8-year-old Belleville resident Morgan Marsh-McGlone turned them into more than $50,000.
Now her effort to use an online lemonade stand to fundraise for a local nonprofit has led Marsh-McGlone to be among those highlighted Wednesday at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Marsh-McGlone has raised $53,000 and counting for Little John’s, a pay-what-you-can nonprofit restaurant in Fitchburg that also prevents food waste by using grocery store surplus from Metcalfe’s Market.
“My hope is that a lot of people with food insecurity get good food for paying what they can,” Marsh-McGlone said in an online video.
Scheduled to speak in a pre-recorded video Wednesday, she will be featured along with five other “everyday Americans” from across the country who have served their communities, according to the Biden Inaugural Committee. The program, called “Celebrating America,” will be hosted by actor Tom Hanks.
Chef Dave Heide, who owns Little John’s and the Cajun and Creole restaurant Liliana’s in Fitchburg, said Marsh-McGlone has “an amazing heart and powerful spirit.”
“She’s like one of the coolest kids in the whole world,” he said. “If I didn’t have three kids of my own, I definitely would say she’s my favorite kid, period.”
Heide said Marsh-McGlone “just wanted to raise 90 bucks for a nonprofit,” but then her fundraiser exploded.
“Next thing you know she’s at like $15,000,” Heide said. “Next thing you know she’s at $20,000.”
Marsh-McGlone was not available for an interview Monday, but Little John’s helped make her a website called “Morgan’s Lemonade Stand“ with videos and photos about how her project started.
Marsh-McGlone got the idea to raise money for charity with a lemonade stand in January 2020, but her mom suggested waiting until the spring when it would be warmer outside. When the weather improved in April, the COVID-19 pandemic made it unsafe to have an in-person lemonade stand.
Her mom, Megan, suggested she turn to Facebook to host the fundraiser online. For each person who donates, Marsh-McGlone mails them a lemonade coupon.
“We’ll have a real lemonade stand in the future when we can all be together, and you can use your coupon there,” she wrote on her website.
The fundraiser continues, with 100% of proceeds going to Little John’s.
The funds grew in part because of a $10,000 match from Oregon Community Bank and another $10,000 match from area nonprofit Collaboration 4 Good.
But Marsh-McGlone also had creative ideas to push for support, including providing chocolate chip cookies at her future in-person lemonade stand event if she reached $800, a cello performance from her friend if she reached $2,000 and a live band if she reached $20,000.
Jennifer Zisser, a spokesperson for Little John’s, said the restaurant plans to help host the event, but a date has not been set because of the ongoing pandemic. Zisser said Heide has a connection to a “pretty-well known” band that will make that aspect possible.
Marsh-McGlone decided to pick Little John’s to donate to after talking with family friend Dana Pellebon, who serves on the boards of several local nonprofits, including Little John’s. Pellebon is also the co-executive director of the Dane County Rape Crisis Center.
Marsh-McGlone was interested in Little John’s mission to reduce food waste and increase access to restaurant-quality meals, especially for those struggling with food insecurity during the pandemic. Heide also plans to provide culinary training and employment at the restaurant to military veterans who may have trouble finding jobs or assimilating back into society after their service.
It’s unclear what Marsh-McGlone’s next project will be, but she said she plans to continue doing fundraisers.
“My dream is basically just to help a lot of people because that is what I really like to do,” she said. “When you help, you get this feeling that even though you’re not doing anything for yourself, you’re still happy because you’re helping and making people’s lives better.”
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