Girl uses lemonade stand, garage sale money to buy food for the homeless
VANCOUVER - When Keanna Lai was just three years old, she started noticing the panhandlers on the streets.
"She's quite observant and curious, and she would ask a lot of questions as we were driving," said Grace Kuo, Keanna's mother.
As she got older, Keanna continued to ask questions about homelessness. The family told her if she wanted to, she could try to do something to help.
And so she did – by saving up the money from her summer lemonade stands for people in need. This week, the seven-year-old put it to good use.
"It's starting to get cold and they need food to eat and clothes to wear," Keanna told CTV News.
The family learned about a meal token program at Save on Meats, a diner located on the outskirts of the Downtown Eastside. Customers can purchase a $3.50 token in the restaurant or online that can be exchanged for a sandwich.
On Friday, Keanna and her parents went to the restaurant to purchase 40 tokens using money from her stand and the family's garage sale. They also caught the attention of co-owner Ash MacLeod.
"I noticed this exchange at the bar where a very young girl was counting out toonies and loonies and buying a bunch of tokens," MacLeod said, adding that it's always heartwarming to see a young person give back.
"It's really remarkable that someone so young could be so sensitive and empathetic to the things happening in our city and our community."
MacLeod posted a photo of Keanna on his personal Facebook page over the weekend that has since been shared more than 1,600 times.
On Monday afternoon, Keanna and her parents walked through the Downtown Eastside and handed out the tokens.
"Would you like a token for a sandwich?" a sheephish Keanna asked neighbourhood residents.
She admitted she was scared at first, but felt more comfortable as she continued to hand out the meal tokens.
"I gave out so many tokens and they can have food to eat," she said.
This isn't her first experience giving to the needy in the Downtown Eastside. Last year, the money from her lemonade stand helped buy $100 worth of socks.
"It's good for her," Kuo said. "This is part of our community and people shouldn't be scared to be out here."
Keanna already has plans to sell more lemonade next year, so she can buy more tokens.