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When life (and a hurricane) gave her neighbors lemons, this girl made lemonade

By Lisa Gartner
LARA CERRI | Times
Kennedy Waechter, 10, left, and Danika Kubiak, 7, wait for customers at their stand that included coffee and a power strip. 

ST. PETERSBURG — Danika Kubiak is no stranger to the lemonade business. When her neighbor's dog ate her retainer last year, Danika set up on their block. She asked for donations. She raised $15. Anything to lower that orthodonture bill, right?

So when the freckled-nose 7-year-old woke up on Tuesday and realized some of her neighbors still didn't have power, she went up and down 14th Avenue NE, knocking on doors. "Would you like to do a lemonade stand?" she asked Meara Hill, still in her pajamas. The 8-year-old said sure, and they added coffee and power strips to the mix.

"I thought this might help," said Danika, standing outside their two-story house with plywood still on the windows.

"I'm really thirsty!" yelled a woman slowing her Toyota in the street.

"Lemonade or coffee?" Danika shouted back, then asked if she'd like ice.

Helping her neighbors was as much a help to Danika, 36 hours after Irma made her bedroom window rattle. She had never experienced a hurricane, living in the Old Northeast all her life. She had tried to stay busy in the hours leading up to the storm, walking to the bay to see where the water had receded. She watched so much Berenstain Bears that her mother memorized the theme song.

When it hit, Danika listened to the rain drip on a patched hole in her roof and whispered with her friend Olivia, whose family had evacuated from Shore Acres, a hamster and two chihuahuas in tow. They prayed that the oak tree in the back yard wouldn't come down on the house. On Monday, when it was all over, Danika helped her parents clear the street of debris and trees.

But on Tuesday, with school canceled all week, she was growing stir-crazy and looking for something to do. So was Meara, and other friends in the neighborhood.

Danika's mother, Alison Cobb, suggested they take some of the water they had stockpiled and make lemonade to sell on the front lawn. It was Danika's idea to snake extension cords through the yard, offering electricity to anyone with dead or dying phones.

They served up cups to police officers, tractor drivers, people driving by and others out for walks, like them looking for an escape from their houses. They stuck orange and pink cocktail umbrellas in each cup, on loan from Meara's parents' bar. The girls drew signs on the back of UPS express shipping envelopes and held them up for cars, singing a jingle: "No power? No problem!"

Another driver thanked them for her lemonade, saying it was just what she needed. She handed Danika a $5 bill. "That's very generous," Cobb said. "Make sure you say thank you."

They thought that they had about $100 in their jar. They plan to donate to the Red Cross.

Around 1:30 p.m., they drew the attention of Holly Rotlewicz, carrying a pink scooter and holding hands with her daughter, Sasha. Rotlewicz didn't have any cash on her, but Cobb handed her one of the last cups of lemonade anyway.

Sasha was holding a seashell in her palm. "Is there any life in there?" Danika asked the 4-year-old. They couldn't be sure, but they decided to believe that there was.