Although Cartier’s parents are together and active in his life, “a lot of his friends have single moms,” said Cartier’s mother, Britney Stewart, 30. “Through them, he knows how hard it can be.”
Cartier explained, “It’s just one of them, and they’re doing everything on their own.”
With most schools and summer camps shuttered since March, pandemic parenting is a big load to carry alone.
But perhaps the biggest burden of the pandemic for single parents is the anxiety of contracting the coronavirus — and what it would mean for their children who depend on them exclusively.
The United States has the world’s highest rate of single-parent households: 1 in 4 children live with only one parent. In 80 percent of those cases, women are the sole caregiver.
Through his peers, Cartier has witnessed the unique set of challenges single parents face, particularly during the pandemic.
“One of Cartier’s closest friends has a single mom,” said Stewart, adding that the friend is often at their house while his mother is at work.
Cartier started the lemonade stand with the support of his parents, four younger siblings and a number of neighborhood children. All proceeds go directly toward purchasing diapers, baby wipes and other supplies for local single mothers in need.
Cartier and his friends have been stationed on his front lawn since mid-July, selling lemonade for a dollar, chips for 50 cents and candy for 25 cents most days of the week. Next to the snack station is a separate table, packed with diapers and wipes for parents to come collect.
“We didn’t expect it would take off so quickly,” said Stewart. “We raised $3,000 in the first three days.”
The family lives near a busy intersection, so passing motorists frequently visit the lemonade stand and neighbors stop by regularly, Stewart said.
“A lot of the time, people see the sign and want to donate,” she said. “Many will ask to buy a lemonade for a dollar, but they’ll usually leave $20.”
So far, the lemonade stand has yielded $7,500 — enough to purchase approximately 27,500 diapers.
Every few days, Cartier and Stewart go to Walmart to buy supplies, which they’ve distributed to local shelters, churches and directly to women who have heard about the initiative and shown up.
Shaniya Green, an 18-year-old single mother with a 7-month-old baby, works at a McDonald’s restaurant and struggles to pay for diapers. She has collected supplies from Cartier twice in the past month.
“It has been really helpful because I truly can’t afford all of this on my own,” Green said.
As many as 25 single mothers have shown up daily over the past few weeks, Stewart estimated, including one woman whose gratitude was captured in a video.
“You are helping so many people, you have no idea,” said the woman, through tears. “You’re an amazing young man, and you’re going to go far.”
People have heard about Cartier’s lemonade stand through word-of-mouth and social media, Steward said, adding that local news attention has raised awareness, too.
Cartier’s lemonade stand is not his first effort to help people in need. In February, Cartier and his mother created care packages to distribute to the homeless, which included sanitizer, hand warmers, soap, tissues, snacks, water and other supplies.
“Cartier has always been involved in the community,” said his father, Anthony Carey, 32. “He’s always looking to help other people.”
Other children in the neighborhood have followed Cartier’s lead, putting their free time toward helping to run the lemonade stand and organize supplies.
“It fills my heart up to help these people,” said Jasmine Ballard, 19, who lives in Cartier’s neighborhood and has been helping him since July. “They cry when they hug us, and it feels so good to know that we can help them and their families.”
Beyond providing parents with critical supplies, Cartier said he hopes his initiative will alert the community about the struggles single mothers face during the pandemic.
“I really want to raise awareness,” said Cartier, who is attending school virtually this fall and will continue raising money for single mothers and other Virginia residents in need.
“I want to spend all my free time doing this,” he said.
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