Why do alumni volunteer?

The 2013 Washington Monthly College Guide places Indiana State at the top of its list of 281 national universities in the category of community service participation and hours worked by students, faculty and staff. Alumnus Michael Holthouse answers the question, “Why do you volunteer?”

For a man who’s held executive positions at some of America’s largest corporations, a lemonade stand would be a cakewalk.

But such child’s play became a passion for Michael Holthouse, a 1980 Indiana State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science whose desire to teach children business concepts led him to found Lemonade Day — a chance for thousands of youth across the U.S. to operate a lemonade stand and acquire a taste for entrepreneurship.

“We figured out how to scale it so hundreds and thousands of kids can see the world in new way, which could have a significant impact on families, economies and the future of the country,” Holthouse said. “I have been blessed in life. The harder I worked, the luckier I got, and now I’m in a position to focus on things way bigger than me.”

Copyright Gittings, 2011

MIchael Holthouse (Copyright Gittings, 2011)

Holthouse headed to Houston, Texas, upon graduating from Indiana State and worked his way up the corporate latter before starting Paranet Inc. — a computer network services company he sold to Sprint in 1997 as part of a multi-million dollar deal.

That was his chance to make new investments of societal importance. He started two nonprofits organization geared toward America’s at-risk youth — Holthouse Foundation for Kids and Prepared 4 Life — as well as countless other nonprofits that benefit from his time and donations.

In 2007, Holthouse, a married father of four, added to his philanthropic endeavors by starting Lemonade Day in Houston, an idea that developed when Holthouse’s daughter decided to purchase a turtle with the money she earned operating a lemonade stand at home.

“I couldn’t get that day’s experience out of my head,” he said. “One afternoon in front of our house, my daughter learned what entrepreneurs need to excel — build trust and relationships and get people involved. That day, Lemonade Day was born.”

The event’s inaugural year in Houston, Texas drew 2,600 stands manned by two to three children each. Lemonade Day was expected to be sweeter than ever this year with anticipated 225,000 registered lemonade stands in 36 cities nationwide throughout May.

Lemonade Day begins with children setting goals and determining how many glasses of lemonade stand between them and that target. Then, they’re asked to save and donate some of their profits.

“There was this little African-American boy, 12 years old, who did Lemonade Day a few years ago and you could see in his eyes he thought this was awesome. He even told me at the end that he net $300,” Holthouse said. “I thought it was a lot of money for a lemonade stand, and I asked what he learned. He took a thoughtful pause before he talked about how he had to decide what he wanted first and commit to it. Then, he had to come up with a plan on how to get it. Once he had a plan, he said he worked hard against that plan and achieved his goal.”

Holthouse recalled the child turning to him with a funny look and asking, “How come nobody ever told me that before?”

“Lemonade Day is about teaching kids how to achieve whatever their American dream is. And what’s fair about America is that everyone has an opportunity, no matter whom they are or where you came from,” he said. “Through Lemonade Day, we’ve changed lives by changing the way kids see the world — not as a place of scarcity, but a place of opportunity.”

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