By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Local moms joined a national effort to raise money for migrant children by holding a pop-up lemonade stand in front of Ibiza Kidz on First Avenue last weekend, raising $2,200 over two days. In addition to the money from the sales, an anonymous Stuyvesant Town resident boosted the tally by donating $1,000 on Sunday.
The event, organized nationally by Lawyer Moms Foundation, encouraged kids and families throughout the country to host lemonade stands to raise awareness for the separation of migrant children from their families at the southern border and to raise money for the Rio Grande Valley Rapid Response and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense).
This is the second year that the foundation organized the national event and technically the second year that Stuy Town moms and other local parents have contributed, although when East 24th Street resident Natalie Gruppuso set up shop on the sidewalk along First Avenue outside Stuy Town, they were booted out by Public Safety only about an hour after opening.
Gruppuso is the program manager for the all-volunteer-run non-profit NYC Mammas Give Back, which primarily offers assistance to mothers throughout New York City, but which got involved in the national event over the weekend, working with Stuy Town resident and Ibiza Kidz owner Carole Husiak to hold the event at the First Avenue store.
Waterside Plaza resident Alba Howard joined organizing in the event year, saying that as the mother of three young children and as someone with family directly affected by the migrant crisis, this issue is particularly important to her.
“My family is a combination of immigrants from Ecuador and Mexico so it’s really close to home,” she said. “My aunt has family that wants to cross over but the risk is too high, so she sends them money to help out, but their situation isn’t as bad as others.”
Howard added that she also wanted her kids to understand why getting involved with the community is important.
“I try to make sure that my kids know what’s going on and would prefer if [my 7-year-old son Dylan] learned firsthand that this is the right thing to do,” she said. “My mom is also an activist, and she raised us to give back so this is a nice way for us to do that.”
Ashley Campbell, a friend of Howard, found out about the event through a Stuyvesant Town moms group and brought her daughter, Autumn Cohen, to help out on Sunday.
“I thought this would be a good way for her to get involved,” Campbell said. “As a mother and a human, it’s upsetting to heard that children are being put in cages. I can’t imagine someone taking my child from my arms.”
Husiak contributed the sidewalk space in front of her store on First Avenue between East 19th and 20th Street to lend this year’s venture legitimacy and the stand was able to stay open all day on both Saturday and Sunday.
Local businesses also contributed to the cause, so it was more like a cookie-cupcake-bagel-lemonade stand, with donations from nearby Ess-a-Bagel, Gracefully market and Sugar Sweet Sunshine, a bakery in the Lower East Side, as well as local parents who baked their own cookies to sell. Howard also used to work for Bike NY and said that CEO Ken Podziba was supportive of the cause and wanted to help, and was able to donate the use of the coolers that held both and pink and regular lemonade at the stand for the weekend.
This is also not the first time that Husiak has teamed up with local moms to raise money and awareness for family separation and immigration causes. Almost exactly a year ago, Husiak helped another neighborhood group to collect donations for children separated from their families at the border who had been displaced in New York, collecting items like diapers, clothing and toys. The year before that, in April, Husiak helped a local non-profit collect items for Syrian refugees.
“As a mother and raising three kids, I’m very connected to families,” Husiak said. “This whole border issue touches my heart in a deep way. I would love to go to the border and help and the next best thing is to raise funds and help that way. It’s a way for people in the community to feel like they can give back.”
Husiak stays connected to local moms through groups on Facebook and got in touch with Howard and the foundation after seeing a thread about the event and offered her store as a space.
Husiak also wanted to encourage shoppers in her store to get involved, even if they weren’t there primarily for the fundraiser, by offering a 20% discount to anyone who donated.
“I’m a business owner so I do what’s important for my business,” Husiak said, “but more important than that, I’m a woman and a mother with strong beliefs and I will do everything I can to further those causes.”