Anna Claire Aldridge had just sold a cup of lemonade when someone showed up with a hound dog.
The 4-year-old left her stand, set up outside Venero’s Pizza, and joined other kids who were petting the dog, Shiloh. Anna Claire put her small arm around the dog’s neck, and he nuzzled his nose close to her face.
Anna Claire has woven her love for animals into her lemonade enterprise, donating the money she makes from “Anna Claire’s Homemade Lemonade” to Smithfield-based Ruf Creek Ranch Animal Rescue and Adoption Center.
Her latest sale, on July 31 at Venero’s, netted $4,800 for Ruf Creek.
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Anna Claire started collecting money for the animal center on July 18 outside her family’s home in the Glen Laurel community. She raised about $250, which she donated to Ruf Creek the next day.
Her father, Ed, said many passersby donated more than the 50-cent cost for a cup of lemonade.
“I was surprised by how many young people – high school- and college-aged – came by and dug out change out of their ash tray,” he said.
Word spread on social media about the young girl’s fundraiser, and Anna Claire and her family started planning their next lemonade sale.
The Aldridges worked with Venero’s Pizza on U.S. 70 Business, which agreed to serve as host for the July 31 fundraiser. The restaurant also donated lemons so Aldridge could make her lemonade.
Posts on Facebook helped promote the sale. USA Today even touted the event on its state-by-state page after picking up the story from a local newspaper article.
During the sale at Venero’s, dozens of donors, ranging from family friends to strangers, stopped by to buy lemonade.
Kitty Havrish, a family friend, learned about the fundraiser on Facebook. She stopped by Venero’s to drop off a $200 donation from her employer, Bailey’s Fine Jewelry in Raleigh.
Havrish also gave Anna Claire a pink necklace with a puppy medallion.
“At such a young age, she has such a big heart,” Havrish said. “It’s nice to hear about something wonderful in the news.”
Anna Claire raised about $1,600 on her own, and Venero’s and Sally Said So Dog Training of Raleigh matched that total.
Ruf Creek Animal Rescue and Adoption Center is a no-kill facility that takes in and cares for homeless dogs. The center keeps the animals until they find permanent homes or live out their natural lives.
Joy Frannicola, who founded Ruf Creek with her husband Arthur about six years ago, said the Aldridges contacted her by email after Anna Claire saw an ad about another shelter that had run out of food.
“I read the email twice because I didn’t believe it,” Frannicola said. “I said look at this, ‘A 4-year-old wants to donate.’”
Frannicola said Ruf Creek relies on adoption fees to help run the rescue center. However, those fees don’t cover all of the operating costs. Donations and the couple’s own money make up the difference, she said.
“Adults don’t realize the predicament of animals, especially in this state,” Frannicola said. “There are so many homeless ones and animals who are dumped in shelters.”
“Anybody who helps the way this child helps is amazing,” she added.
Anyone who wants to donate to Ruf Creek can do so through its website, www.rufcreekranch.com.
Anyone interested in donating to Ruf Creek Animal Rescue and Adoption Center an do so through its website, www.rufcreekranch.com, or by sending a check to 5201 Brogden Road, Smithfield, N.C. 27577.