PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Elise Markarian and Matthew Burke are on a mission to help people in need. The 11-year-old cousins decided to team up and raise money for two worthy organizations offering humanitarian aid around the world—and they chose a lemonade stand as the way to do it.
A few years ago, Markarian “had this idea that I wanted to help people.” Since it was summertime, she decided to sell lemonade. At first, she planned to sell the lemonade for the reasonable price of $1.00 per serving. But then she thought, “Maybe I’ll get more donations if I make everything free.”
Helping people who have suffered through disasters, both natural and man-made, is important to Markarian. Her grandmother shared that whenever Elise receives a monetary gift, she donates it to a charity. Over the years, she has made contributions to Toys for Tots and the Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry, among others. Her father, Stephen, told the Weekly that she refuses to spend monetary gifts for herself. “We try to tell her that she can use some on herself, but she doesn’t want to,” he said.
“I have just always loved to help people who are in need. There are many people who are in need, now more than ever. And I think it would be awesome to see smiles on some people’s faces when they see what we’ve done,” Markarian told the Weekly in between customers.
Markarian’s portion of the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross. She picked the organization “because I know with all these weather issues that have been happening, and the wildfires, that people are losing their homes, and I noticed that the American Red Cross is doing a lot to help them.”
This year, Burke decided to join forces with his cousin. Burke knew that his cousin had been “raising money for different organizations these past few years, and I thought it was a good idea because so many people need help,” he said. “So, we decided to combine efforts and raise money for the American Red Cross and the Armenian Relief Society.”
The seed was planted last year when Burke wanted to raise money to help Armenians in the homeland. Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh and the difficulties of getting supplies to its Armenian population captured his attention and prompted his selection of the Armenian Relief Society as his charity of choice.
“I picked the Armenian Relief Society because I heard a lot about how Artsakh has been struggling and not getting supplies. I thought if we could send money, they could get more supplies to help in Armenia and Artsakh,” Burke said.
The lemonade stand was set up in front of Steve Elmasian’s home in Providence for maximum visibility. Elmasian, who is the co-chair of the ANC-RI, thought it would be easier for people to stop by than if it was held in Cumberland or Lincoln where the cousins live. “I’m honored to have them use my house, and we’ve had people from church coming by, plus neighbors,” he said. “It’s nice to see positive actions from the youth and for them to get attention.”
Elise is the daughter of Stephen and Heidi Markarian and the sister of Aedan and Harrison. She is entering the sixth grade this year at North Cumberland Middle School.
Matthew is the son of Jon and Paula Burke and the brother of Melissa and Mia. He attends Mercymount Country Day School and will be in the seventh grade this year. He also is a member of the AYF Providence “Varantian” Junior Chapter.
Notably, the lemonade was homemade, as were the baked goods. Assisting the stand and making lemonade, including squeezing all the lemons, were Burke’s sister Melissa and Markarian’s brother Harrison.
As of this report, the proceeds from the lemonade fundraiser had reached over $1,500. The young humanitarians expressed sincere gratitude to all who supported their efforts on their parents’ social media: “Melissa, Matthew, Harrison and Elise say thank you. Today was a huge success.”