Detroit boy sells snacks to save Motor City

ABC News
Detroit Boy, 9, Saving Motor City with Snack Stand
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Detroit Boy, 9, Saving Motor City with Snack Stand (ABC News)

An industrious 9-year-old Detroit boy's bid to help the city rid itself of the crippling debt crisis by selling snacks in front of his family's home has begun to snowball, with efforts to save the Motor City now coming in from across the world.

While on his way to attend a piano lesson, Joshua Smith overheard on the radio that the city of Detroit now has a budget deficit exceeding $200 million. Joshua decided to figure out what he could do to help the city, and wound up deciding on what Americans have done for years: Start a small business.

"His heart is really in it for the people, and he's always been a very helpful boy," Joshua's father, Flynn Smith, told ABC News. "He gets that from his parents. We try to be helpful whenever we can.

"His question was: How is the city broke?" Flynn said. "The effect of that, what he sees -- parks are broken down, the garbage collection come late -- he begins to see how that happens. My wife told him how it happened, all the factors. He said, 'I want to do something to help the city.'"

In April, Detroit officially entered into agreements with the state of Michigan in order to get its finances in order. The city, once a manufacturing behemoth, took the controversial action to avoid the appointment of an emergency manager.

Joshua, who lives with his family in Detroit's Russell Woods Historic District, opened the stand on Monday, and will be there every night after vacation bible school from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. until Friday night. He and his buddy, 10-year-old Dwane Durant, will be selling home-popped popcorn and lemonade, which Josh insisted be organic.

Flynn Smith, along with his wife Rhonda, says the couple invested approximately $100 to help Joshua help Detroit. The proud dad says he's popped about five pounds' worth of popcorn so far.

The family helped put up flyers across the neighborhood, and Rhonda promoted her boy's efforts on Facebook.

"May you please help the City of Detroit. ... The money will help clean up trash on the ground and cut the grass in the parks," the flyers read.

The power of word-of-mouth and the speed of the web have now grown the boy's effort tremendously.

"We've had neighbors, church families have come through," Flynn Smith said. "Yesterday we saw many strangers. A group of older white gentlemen biked by … members of the Detroit Institute of the Arts -- that was real cool. We've seen everyone from little kids to elderly folks come through to support."

As of Wednesday, Joshua's tally had reached $500. His ultimate goal of $1,000 by Friday seems to be in his sights.

Flynn says that support has also been coming through from people across the city and the globe who are not looking for popcorn but ways to help. Today, he told ABC News, there was a Detroit Fire Department t-shirt left at the family's door along with a $20 bill. Earlier in the week, a woman from England mailed $5 toward the effort.

"Yesterday I came downstairs and there was $100 there … Once it hits social media, it really takes off," he said.

On Tuesday, her website, Rhonda Smith, who set up a PayPal account to help in her son's effors, said that they still plan to give the money to the city. She says her husband summed up their feelings on the mayor's idea well.

"It would be disingenuous of us to have people come by to make donations under one premise and then turn around and use the money for our own gain," Flynn said.

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