By Jessica Simpkins, MD, photo courtesy Stephanie Binger
One seven-year-old boy has been making headlines in Spokane for his hot cocoa stand and generous spirit. Over his winter break this past December, Blaine Binger came to his parents, Stephanie and Tom Binger, with a cardboard box and an idea to set up a stand to sell hot cocoa. His plan was to donate any earnings to help people experiencing homelessness. While his parents were surprised, they were more than happy to help their son make his idea a reality.
The Binger family moved to Spokane in November 2022 after having lived in Texas for the past 17 years. Stephanie commented that whenever Blaine would see people living on the streets, he would always want to help them and give them money. When asked how he feels when he sees people living that way, Blaine says, “I feel sad.” He explains he is worried they will get hurt living on the street.
Stephanie took the time to explain to her son that one of the best ways he could help them was to donate money to local nonprofits that help people experiencing homelessness in a hands-on way. So with the idea of his hot cocoa stand firmly in his mind, Blaine got to work painting his box to create a stand while Stephanie found and purchased supplies.
Blaine had lots of decisions to make as a new entrepreneur. “At first Blaine wanted to sell his hot cocoa for $10 per cup. I talked with him about fair market prices to help him adjust his pricing. He was out there every day for seven days in a row selling hot cocoa to anyone who stopped by,” Stephanie recounts with a smile.
Having just moved to the area, the Binger family was unfamiliar with the local nonprofits. So Stephanie reached out to some of their neighbors to ask about local nonprofits that support people experiencing homelessness. The most recommended nonprofits were Family Promise, Second Harvest, Union Gospel Mission, and Blessings Under the Bridge. Blaine decided he would make little paper slips for each nonprofit and allow customers to pick one with their purchase and put it into his piggy bank.
Stephanie helped get the word out for the hot cocoa stand over Facebook, Instagram, and the Nextdoor app. The Bingers’ friends from back in Texas wanted to donate to help Blaine’s cause, and gave $300 remotely for a virtual cup of cocoa. Throughout the week, many people stopped by.
“One day there were firefighters who stopped by to support Blaine and another day there were two police officers who brought Blaine a little goodie bag and birthday card signed by the police chief. Blaine had the chance to talk with the police officers about what goes into becoming a police officer,” Stephanie shares.
Blaine says that when he grows up, he wants to serve his country. He lists off a few different career ideas, such as becoming a police officer, part of a SWAT team, and joining the military. Stephanie notes that he loves dressing up in his all-black snowsuit because he feels like he’s part of SWAT. “He is a self-appointed member of the law,” she chuckles.
At the end of the seven days, Blaine’s small but mighty hot cocoa stand had raised a total of $948. Blaine decided to select a paper slip from the piggy bank at random to decide which nonprofit would receive the funds. Family Promise was selected as the winner.
Stephanie says they went to Family Promise to deliver a check in-person and Blaine had the opportunity to meet the executive director and many of the staff members there. They had a snow-ball fight with fake snow in the lobby to celebrate the occasion. Stephanie later received an email back from Family Promise showing how many lives would be impacted by their donation.
“The email said the money we donated could be used to provide 21 days of care for a parent or child in an emergency shelter, over four months of stabilization support for an entire family, or 440 days of stabilization for one person. That’s over a year! I was so impressed!” Stephanie shares.
Since that week, Blaine has received a phone call from the governor’s office. Sometime next month the governor of Washington will be meeting Blaine and his family in Spokane to award him Washingtonian of the Day. Blaine is very curious about what the award will look like.
To anyone who wants to make a difference in their community but is feeling a little intimidated, Blaine says, “Just do it!” He mentions that he also plans to run his hot beverage stand every season. “We’ll do it again in the Spring. I’ll be serving apple cider, coffee, and tea,” Blaine says confidently.
Blaine is hopeful he can upgrade the stand to include wheels and maybe even be remote-controlled. Stephanie says his cardboard box didn’t hold up after the seven days out in the elements, so they will need to make some repairs and modifications before the spring season. In the meantime, having just turned seven years old, Blaine is looking forward to spending time with his new hoverboard.
If you’re interested in supporting Blaine’s journey, have questions about when the next beverage stand will be up and running, or have questions or suggestions, you can email Blaine and Stephanie at email@example.com.