Cornell, IL,
09:14 AM

Oil for Water

Selling homemade sugar scrubs, two 10-year-old girls raised $620 for a well in India.

Making a difference doesn’t have to include a five-year plan, hundreds of people or millions of dollars. It can be as simple as two 10-year-old girls, a homemade craft and a Facebook post.

Lani Pinkerton from Cornell, Ill., has always loved crafts, as her mother Agnete (Nete) Defenbaugh, a State Farm® employee in Bloomington, Ill., explains. From paintings and stationery to dream catchers and clay animals, Lani has a big imagination. She and her best friend, Josie Hart, even made a homemade sugar scrub as a Mother’s Day gift this year.

“Lani also loves helping people,” Nete says. “She is such a giver.”

This summer Lani and Josie stumbled upon the perfect way to fulfill both those passions at their local church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS).

Cornell United Methodist Church was partnering with a mission organization in India to raise money for clean water wells. The first evening, Lani came home from VBS with a heavy heart after hearing about the challenges that people in India must overcome to obtain clean water.

“Especially being from small town Illinois, she understands the importance of wells,” says Nete. “She couldn’t believe that people in India walk miles every day to get water, only to have to boil it to make it clean. That really bothered her.”

What would the mother and daughter do about it?

“I said, ‘We can raise money for this. We can do this. Do you want to sell your scrubs?’” says Nete.

Lani and Josie were thrilled — they could make crafts and give to people at the same time. Their mothers purchased supplies and prepared a Facebook post with a video of the girls explaining the need for clean water, and asking for a $3 to $5 donation per order. Nete posted around 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening, and immediately, a response popped up for two scrubs.

That set the pace.

“We watched the responses come in for several hours, even though it was late,” Nete says. “We had orders for around 25 jars by the end of the night.”

Susie Hart, Josie’s mother, half-jokingly suggested pulling the post out of fear that they wouldn’t have enough supplies. But they kept it up, eventually receiving orders for 64 jars. The two mother-daughter teams spent the next day mass-producing sugar scrubs by blending sugar, olive oil and essential oils.

“It was exhausting, but we did it. And it really was fun, too,” says Nete.

With a population of around 500 people, Cornell doesn’t seem like the town for fundraising. But the girls raised around $620, proudly donating their earnings to the VBS group fund. That fund, including Lani and Josie’s hard-earned dollars, came to a total of about $1,550.

With wells in India priced at around $850 each, the group purchased a well for the town of Penugudurupadu, India, and put money toward another one. A sign with the church’s name will be placed on the well when it goes up next month.

“Even before this, the girls have always loved to give and help people in need,” Nete says. “But what this taught them is that even if you think you don’t have enough to give, there’s always someone who has less. So you should give from what you do have.”

Lani and Josie are already planning next year’s fundraiser.

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