For the 12th year, St. Clair Elementary will hold its annual lemonade stand this December.

The lemonade stand sells candy, soda, donated toys, Christmas decorations and more for students, parents and community members at a low cost.

The money collected is then donated to local food pantries at St. Clare Catholic Church, First Baptist of St. Clair and Holy Trinity Lutheran in St. Clair, as well as the St. Clair Cares and Shares Committee.

The stand will be open from Dec. 4-8 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Clair Elementary.

The lemonade stand began in December 2006 by Preschool Teacher Suson Elbert. During that time, her students were learning about the letter “L” and as a teaching tool, she brought in a lemonade stand.

Elbert said she asked her class what is something that could be sold at a lemonade stand and what could be done with the profits.

“We talked about how we could help people at Christmastime,” Elbert said.

As the class conversation grew, the idea of having a lemonade stand and donating the profits was born.

The first stand was comprised of candy, soda and cookies, which were sold mainly to teachers. Approximately $304.50 was raised and it was donated to the Loving Hearts Outreach in Washington, according to Elbert.

“Over the course of the next year, I started thinking ‘How can I make this bigger?’ And I knew there was a need right here in St. Clair and so I did a little research about where the food pantries were,” Elbert said.

In 2007, the stand raised $1,000 and the money was donated to five local pantries, according to Elbert. As the stand started to expand, toys, Christmas decorations and raffle prizes were added.

“It’s been wonderful watching it grow,” Elbert said.

Over the years, the stand has donated a total of $32,253.82, she said.

Parents, teachers and community members can donate new and gently used toys for students and families to buy at a low cost. Items cost anywhere from 50 cents to $2, according to Elbert.

“People count on me to do this because they can come here with $30 and buy toys for their whole family.

“So, not only are we helping people that are in need with food, but I’m providing something here that I feel can help the community that wants to just come and shop, and get nice things for their family and not have to go spend $200, $300,” Elbert said.

In addition to local donors for the stand, parents from Immaculate Conception Grade School in Union, where Elbert’s children go to school, also provide the stand with many of toys and items to sell, Elbert said.

“I’m just really fortunate that so many people help me by donating things,” she said. “I think it’s so wonderful that all these families in other communities are helping.”

The lemonade stand has become a family project, in which her basement has become a designated location for items collected year-round. Additionally, Elbert said this yearly event is an opportunity to teach her own children about the importance of helping others and giving back.

Elbert gave gratitude to everyone who donates and volunteers their time with the stand.

“I may be the ring leader on it, but nothing gets done without all your helpers,” she said. “I just have so many people that are so wonderful about giving me things.”

No donation can be too small to help make a difference.

“Lots of parents tell me that ‘I never knew that I do something to help people.’

“I said ‘Yeah you don’t need to write a $1,000 check,’ ” Elbert said.

To get more involvement, Elbert said she and her coworkers decided students should donate a 12-pack of soda to be sold at the stand, instead of students exchanging gifts with one another.

This lemonade stand is “something I take very seriously and I feel a real calling and commitment to do this,” she said.

Last year, the stand made $5,113.63; the goal is to beat that amount this year, according to Elbert.

The students who were her class in 2006, come back and shop at the stand every year, she said, as well as past parents and staff.

“It’s a nice way to start the Christmas season,” she said.

The lemonade stand will have be open during St. Clair Elementary’s Cookies With Santa event Tuesday, Dec. 5, from 4:15-6:15 p.m.

St. Clair Elementary is located at 895 Bardot St.