Local kids raise thousands of dollars for flood relief in Midland area

Anyone at any age can make a difference.

After the devastating floods in May, local kids Ellie Martindale and Memphis Nelson have been raising money for relief.

Ellie, 6, started with a lemonade stand in June. For Ellie, the flood was the final push in getting her to open her long-desired lemonade stand. The idea was inspired by her favorite book “Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand,” a true story where Alex uses her stand to raise money for kids with cancer.

“I’ve been wanting to make a lemonade stand for a long time and then the flood came,” says Ellie.

Each cup of lemonade was sold for $1. Additionally, Ellie served home-baked chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies, costing 50 cents each.

“I tend to like oatmeal better,” says Ellie.

When customers found out she was raising money for flood relief, people were happy to chip in an added donation. Within a single day, she raised $250.

After the first success, word started spreading. Pioneer Sugar donated 40, one-gallon bags to the family to use as ingredients for making the from-scratch lemonade. The next stand, in August, garnered $500. All proceeds were donated to the Midland Area Community Foundation’s Flood Relief Project Fund.

Depending on the state of the pandemic, Ellie hopes to do a hot cocoa stand as winter sets in.

“It would just be the same,” says Ellie. “I think I’ll be cold this time.”

Memphis, 9, started with a pop can drive in late May. He and his mother, Samantha, didn’t expect much — initially, they thought it would be just one weekend. Now, it’s a whole operation.

What started out as a challenge to fill up the shed in the Nelsons’ backyard escalated into filling a cargo trailer and then an old semi truck, which was filled in one day. Then, Go-To Transport Inc. called and offered two more trailers.

“I think it was [filled in] two days,” says Samantha, Memphis’ mom.

The Nelsons operate out of a warehouse on Grove Street, lent to them by James D. Geisler. Cans are sorted into large, plastic bags and purchased by distributors, such as Coke, Pepsi, and Fabiano Brothers, for $25 a bag. Right now, the warehouse has bags piled up to the ceiling. Samantha estimates that they have $10,000 waiting to be cashed and another $15,000 waiting to be sorted.

“We had zero plan for what to do with the money, we were just going to donate to some flood relief plan,” says Samantha.

They settled on opening an endowment fund with the Midland Area Community Foundation, making Memphis the youngest fund holder. “Mustang Strong” — named after his school’s mascot at Meridian — has approximately $8,000 in it. The money will first go toward flood relief, then an emergency fund for Meridian students’ families and sports registrations.

Facebook was pivotal for the drive’s success. Even Brawny® Towels noticed the campaign, and awarded Memphis with their “Brawny® Giants Initiative” — a $1,000 award and 300 rolls of paper towels.

“The whole front yard was full of boxes. We couldn’t even get in the front door,” says Samantha.

Memphis and Samantha drove around the neighborhood, distributing them to families affected by the flood. Brawny® also intends to feature Memphis in a commercial.

The Nelsons never anticipated for the pop can drive to be so long. Even now, people are eager to donate more cans, but the Nelsons have to turn them away because the distributors put a freeze on accepting the bags due to the pandemic.

To follow their progress, you can check out their Facebook page, “Memphis’s Flood Relief Collection.” Donations are also accepted through their endowment fund with the Midland Area Community Foundation.

For anyone wanting to do something positive for the community, Ellie would “tell them how fun it was.”

Memphis’ favorite part was his friends coming and helping. Both kids are optimistic about the future.

“Everything is getting better, I hope,” says Ellie.

Read more articles by Crystal Gwizdala.

Crystal Gwizdala grew up in the Tri-Cities and enjoys broadcasting all the positive change happening in Midland. As Assistant Editor for Catalyst Midland, her favorite topics are environment, wellness, mental health, and the arts. As a human, Crystal is a serial hobbyist: hiking, drawing, yoga, and playing music. Her work can be seen in The Detroit Free Press, Midland Daily News, and The Delta Collegiate. To see what Crystal’s up to, you can follow her on Twitter @CrystalGwizdala.
Signup for Email Alerts