LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Leah Cole of Bradenton plans to feed the orphans of the world, one cup of lemonade at a time.
Quite a task for a 9-year-old who just started the fourth grade.
But Leah is no ordinary elementary student.
Two years ago, Cole was jolted by the earthquake disaster in Haiti in 2010 and felt obligated to help.
"Ever since the earthquake, I wanted to help the orphans and raise money to help the damages," she said.
While visiting a flea market last year, Cole noticed a tiki bar. She instantly knew it was the perfect prototype for a lemonade stand, her means of raising money for Haiti.
"I said we're not leaving until we buy it," Cole said.
Armed with a mobile business location, Cole and her family created Leah's Lemonade. For the past year, the Coles have set up Leah's lemonade stand at various farmers markets in the Manatee area. This summer,
the stand is one of 30 or so vendors at the weekly market at San Marco Plaza in Lakewood Ranch.
So far, the Coles have accumulated hundreds of dollars. But Haiti is just the beginning.
Ten percent of the profits earned from selling Leah's Lemonade will go toward a nonprofit food distribution organization the Coles are creating, the Feed Every Child world feeding program.
Cole is thinking globally. "I felt like I was called to feed orphans," she said. During her kindergarten graduation, Cole, like her classmates, was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her response came as a surprise to her parents.
"She stood up and said 'I want to be an orphan feeder,'" said Glen Cole, Leah's father.
"We felt like she always had the Father's heart," said Tina Cole, Leah's mother.
Leah and her older sister, Hannah, are home-schooled three days a week, which allows them to work the lemonade stand with their parents at the different markets. Twice a week, they attend Providence Community School in Bradenton.
Glen Cole worked in the cooperate world for years, but the long hours away from his family weighed on his conscience. He resigned from his full-time job and became dedicated to his daughter's dream. He freelances from time to time.
"We wanted to do this as a family," Glen Cole said.
In October, the Coles will be featured at the downtown Bradenton farmers market on Old Main Street. In addition to the lemonade stand, Hannah, 12, who has a gift for writing and photography, will sell photographed portraits of shoppers.
"Times are hard and it's important to look outside yourself," Tina Cole said. "That's what we teach our kids."
Leah Cole is determined to raise enough money to help those in need.
"Millions," she said. "That can save a lot of people."
For more information on Leah's Lemonade, visit www.leahslemonade.com.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams.