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‘Just Trying to Do a Good Thing’: Alabama Mother Defends Ad for Help at Son’s Lemonade Stand That Was Shut Down After Anonymous Department of Labor Complaint

An Alabama mother is speaking out after a summer mentorship she promoted for local children was reportedly shut down by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Cristal Johnson and her son Cameron started a lemonade stand in 2022 in their front yard in the Birmingham suburb of Bessemer, Alabama, but it quickly grew. They started to sell their lemonade at local community events, and it eventually found its way to the shelves of Piggly Wiggly stores across two counties.

Cameron and Cristal Johnson posing in their custom T-shirts representing their lemonade brand on the right. (Photos: @camslemonade/ Facebook screenshot)

“It started out last year as just a lemonade stand at the end of the driveway, and thankfully, it just blew up,” Johnson said to CBS42.

Johnson said they started the lemonade stand because Cameron would constantly ask her to do things that became very expensive.

“As a typical 8-year-old — he was 7 at the time — he stayed in my pocket, asking, ‘Hey, can we do this, can we do that?’ and so when he asked about Disney World, I told him, ‘Let’s let you earn a dollar,'”Johnson said to CBS42.

Their business went from earning extra money to gaining quick popularity in their local community. So, this summer the Johnsons decided to spread their information and knowledge on how to run a small business.

She made a Facebook post on June 22 that asked any local youth from ages 6-10 who would be interested in a mentorship program to submit their résumés.

“On July 9th Cam’s Lemonade will employ 2 kids 6-10yrs old. We will open from 2-6, you can drop them off with us at the truck for a 2 hr shift, and pick them up at the end of their shift. I will let them work with Cam on communicating with customers, giving and receiving payments, and good manners,” wrote Johnson.

The original post for the mentorship offered by Cam’s Lemonade. (Photo: @camslemonade/ Facebook screenshot)

Johnson said she was going to be offering them $20 each at the end of their shift. She also said her main goal was to teach math and customer service skills and build their self-esteem.

However, Johnson made a post the next day announcing that the event was canceled because someone made an anonymous complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor that claimed she was employing minors. She received a call from the federal agency the next day, and officials told her that the event could not proceed.

According to USA Today, Johnson said that the representative she spoke with told her that they understood what she was attempting to do, but the event had to be canceled because she could’ve made a profit while the children were working with her if lemonade had been sold in those two hours.

“It was a very heartbreaking thing for me,” she said to USA Today. “I was just trying to do a good thing and help some kids and help the community. For someone to turn it into what they did, it was pretty awful.”

Department of Labor officials told CBS42 that the Johnsons’ lemonade stand is “perfectly legal,” and they weren’t being penalized.

Johnson stated that she offered to take back paying the youth but was told it would be a violation because her business is not a nonprofit.

“I was shocked,” said Johnson to USA Today. “There’s no way a decent person would gather that I was trying to hire minors to do any type of work for me.”

She said local business owners inboxed her on Facebook to give suggestions and other ideas on how she could still provide the mentorship.

“Strangers reached out inboxing with me suggestions. I’ve had a couple of places reach out and say, ‘hey come set up at our location.’ What someone meant for bad definitely turned out good,” Johnson told CBS42.  

The Johnsons haven’t disclosed details of how they were going to attempt the mentorship again but told everyone to stay tuned.

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