How a Lemonade Stand Fundraiser Grew Into a Total-Home Makeover for a Vet
With their Memphis chapter of Little Helpers, Selena Silvestro and her kids raised money and awareness to buy one wheelchair-bound veteran a new bathroom, roof, and more.
When Selena Silvestro first heard of a veteran in need of some help, she didn’t hesitate: She went straight to his house. The Collierville, Tennessee, resident and mother of two met Lorenzo Rhynes, a 60-year-old U.S. Army veteran, late last spring. Silvestro plans service projects for the Memphis-area chapter of Little Helpers, a national volunteer group for parents and children. A friend had posted about Rhynes on Facebook, and Silvestro saw an opportunity. “We’re just a tiny group of families, but what can we help you with?” she asked.
Rhynes, who uses a wheelchair, told Silvestro he suffers from macular and cerebellar degeneration, which affects his vision and motor skills, and asked for a wheelchair-accessible shower. She also noticed that his garage door was stuck and that his living room ceiling had leaked from damaged roof shingles.
So she quickly set up a lemonade stand on Rhynes’s front lawn and posted about it on Nextdoor and Facebook. In a few hours, the group raised more than $800—an impressive amount and enough to cover the garage door replacement, but not much else. Then, to her surprise, a pair of contractors reached out after seeing a video she posted from the lemonade stand and volunteered to redo Rhynes’s bathroom. Another offered to fix the roof.
What started as a one-off project is now an ongoing effort. Silvestro hopes to replace the flooring in Rhynes’s home so he can more easily navigate it. “I feel blessed,” says Rhynes of meeting Silvestro. “Very, very blessed.” She helps him with grocery shopping and even threw him a surprise birthday party. “We’ve become friends with Lorenzo and consider him family now,” says Silvestro.