Young girl assists immigrants through beverage stand
September 7, 2018

Young Collins Clark at her beverage stand that raised money for immigrant separated families.

Tiny acorns make mighty oaks, but it turns out that, in the right hands, what comes from lemon seeds and coffee beans can be equally impressive.

That was the experience of six-year old Collins Clark, a Dearborn Park area resident, whose summertime lemonade/iced-coffee stand and online presence generated nearly $1,000. Even more telling, every penny that the girl, who just started first grade, raised she earmarked from day one to help immigrant families, especially children, facing residency challenges.

“She’s incredibly empathetic,” said Kathleen Castillo-Clark, describing her daughter, who has a track record of extending helping hands to those in need. Collins Clark regularly has dipped into her piggy bank to donate to childhood cancer victims and on a few occasions even started her own toy drives, collecting used toys in good shape to give to less fortunate children.

At the beginning of summer, Collins Clark set her sights on having a lemonade and iced coffee stand to make a few dollars, Castillo-Clark said, a venture her parents encouraged. At some point, however, the little girl glimpsed a newspaper headline about the immigration crisis and its impact on children.

The images and the paper’s message struck a chord, her mother said, and Collins Clark began asking questions. Castillo-Clark gave what she described as “age-appropriate” explanations of the difficult issues, which Collins’s father, Scott Clark, bolstered with further explanations. Neither parent wanted to upset Collins or her younger sister, Hazel, but they told the children about what was happening to immigrant families at the border.

Collins Clark approached her parents with the idea of donating whatever money she was able to make from her beverage stand to a cause that would help children currently separated from their families because of immigration issues or citizenship status. With their approval, she went to work preparing the beverages and making an over-sized sign that clearly stated the purpose of her stand and the cause she was trying to help.

Like any child of the 21st century, however, Collins Clark also enlisted technology’s help. With her parents’ help, she posted online images of herself, her sister, and the fully equipped stand they had set up on the sidewalk outside their home. From the start, things went well, Collins Clark said.

Business was brisk, and by the time Collins Clark closed her one-day stand on a July afternoon, she had earned $178.

It was the online donations, however, that stunned everyone in the family: between beverage sales and online donations, she raised $973. The family has donated all proceeds from the project to the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), an agency Collins’s parents discovered and researched.

Byron Sigcho, a director with the Pilsen Alliance, does not know Collins Clark or her family, but when he heard about the beverage stand and its fundraising purpose, he said he recognized in her what he described as the human impulse to help. “She reminds us that we’re all human beings,” Sigcho said.

Encounters with families and individuals facing the stresses of immigration issues are a regular part of Pilsen Alliance’s work, he said. The plight of people in extraordinary circumstances also ignites the kinder side of many other people, Sigcho noted, and he regularly witnesses instances where a willingness to try to be of service comes from unlikely sources. He found Collins Clark’s work unique because she is a small child.

Pilsen Alliance provides many services for immigrants.

Collins Clark’s parents try to be socially conscious and well informed. They purposely did not highlight the more controversial aspects of the immigration crisis and legalities surrounding family separation throughout the entire venture.

They are proud of their daughter’s accomplishment and admit to being a bit shocked still by what the energetic and enterprising young girl could do.

For Collins Clark, the matter remains simple: “I helped the kids,” she said.

– Sheila Elliot