Eight-year-old Arlington Blanton, right, and her sister, Ansley, left, sold lemonade as a way to raise funds for children at Emerson Elementary School in Bartow County. The girls, who attend another school in the county, are members of Emerson First Baptist Church, where Chris Weldon is pastor and their father, David, serves as connections pastor. DAVID BLANTON/Special
EMERSON — Helping others is something eight-year-old Arlington and five-year-old Ansley Blanton of Emerson First Baptist Church know a lot about.
Inspired by a sermon by their pastor, Chris Weldon, the two girls took generosity and giving to heart and raised money for Emerson Elementary School. “I’m just incredibly proud she [Arlington] listened to the holy spirit,” said their mom Alison.
The fundraiser was simple: a lemonade stand and doing chores around the house. Arlington and Ansley operated lemonade stands on July 21-22, serving lemonade and chocolate chip cookies to bring in $183.25. They also did chores around the Blanton home, raising enough to purchase eight backpacks by cleaning their rooms, doing laundry, pulling weeds, and washing the car. The girls also tithed some of the money from the chores.
“Well, we were in church one day and there was a sermon that just really spoke to me on first, tithing, and serving others and I wanted to do something like that, said Arlington.
Arlington had received a pack of make-them-yourself magic markers for her birthday. It sparked an idea for her to collect store-bought markers for schoolchildren. That led to the idea of having a lemonade stand to raise more money for kids in the community.
Her mother said they could do that “sometime,” which ended up being the next day.
A church and community that cares
“We went out and bought everything and sold lemonade and cookies and raised a lot of money,” Arlington said. Energized by the outreach, Alison Blanton quickly agreed to her daughter’s request to do another lemonade stand.
For Arlington, it was about letting kids know that people care. “There are people who love them [and] … in the community who care about them,” she said.
It is a natural fit for Arlington, said her father, David. “She is a compassionate, natural leader who is artistically inclined and likes creative things. She has a heart for recognizing peoples’ needs.”
Ansley loves to serve and anticipates needs, he added. “She is a very sensitive, funny, nurturing child. ‘Helpful servant’ is how I would describe her.”
The girls attend White Elementary School, but the money went to Emerson Elementary. David said they bought the items, then consulted with the district office to determine where the funds were most needed. David suggested Emerson Elementary School, one of four Bartow County elementary schools that qualify for Title I status and free or reduced lunch. The Bartow County School System Free and Reduced lunch percentage for SY 2019 was 55.27%.
The actions of Arlington and Ansley caught the attention of CBS 46 in Atlanta, which did a report on their efforts.
Weldon said the two girls represented Christ well. “Giving is a part of our church’s DNA and being generous as an individual [as well as a congregation],” he said.
“It encourages our older people in our congregation to say, ‘Hey it doesn’t matter what age you are, we all can make a difference if we just follow the obedience of the Lord,” said Weldon.
Serving and giving, reflecting Christ
In a 2017 community profile by the Bartow Baptist Association, one area of concern in education was school supplies. Director of Missions David Franklin said 70% of Bartow is unchurched. He thinks 80% are lost.
“Do I know of specific people who have been reached through ministries like that, then the answer is absolutely yes. If those ministries didn’t exist, those people probable would not have been reached,” he said.
The profile stated that by 2022, the population is projected to grow by 9,691 people for a total of 113,127. That is a 9.4% growth rate, which is above the 7.6% average for the state.
Weldon said what the Blanton girls did can make a difference. “I think that when you are serving and giving, you have the heart of Christ,” he said.
Dr. Phillip Page, superintendent of the Bartow County School System, said the two girls will inspire others to action.
“I think it serves the community well to know they’re helping someone … and [shows] the spirt of ‘we are in this thing together,’” he commented. Furthermore, he added, it speaks to the importance of volunteerism.
“A lot of people want to do things for others, but sometimes they either don’t know what to do or don’t think about what they can do. This was something any student at any age could organize, have a purpose and a plan behind, and really learn at an early age how to execute something that will help others.
“I can tell you that [the recipients] were thrilled to be getting brand new school supplies, which otherwise they probably wouldn’t have had.”
Arlington hopes to serve more in the future.
“I don’t just want [it to be about] me; I just want to make the Lord happy and give Him the glory,” she said.