By Dedra Cordle
Kai’mere Brown-Burgess did not establish his travelling ice cream stand ‘Cups of Love’ with the intention of making a profit. In fact, he would rather his customers put away their wallets and save their money for something else.
While he knows that this may be an odd business decision, especially for one who is just getting started in the industry, he said all he wants out of his summertime venture is to bring a bit of cheer to his customer’s lives.
“I’m in it for the smiles,” said the 8-year-old from the westside.
The idea for Cups of Love started to take form several weeks ago during a birthday party for his cousin, Eliana Burgess. As the day-long festivities for his slightly younger relative were winding down, Kai’mere took notice of all of the unused cups of ice cream that were slated to be pitched.
Remembering his grandmother Lisa’s favored expression of “not letting things go to waste,” he was determined not to let it happen.
“He came up to me and asked if he could give them to the kids in the neighborhood,” said Lisa Burgess. “So we went out and he passed them around to all of the children and anyone else he could find.”
After this experience, one in which he saw people of all ages light up after being offered a simple treat free of charge, he asked if he could do it again. This time, however, he wanted to take it beyond his neighborhood and into other communities where people were in need of a smile.
Despite knowing that she would likely have to foot most of the bill for the cups and utensils, the ice cream and the gas to allow Kai’mere to bring his travelling ice cream stand Cups of Love to different parts of the city, Burgess said she was all for it.
“I told him ‘Let’s Go,’” she said. “And we haven’t stopped since.”
On Saturday mornings, Lisa, Kai’mere, and his siblings Maliyah, Corday Jr. and Zy’Aire can often be found at a local homeless shelter where they pass out the sweet treats for more than an hour. Then, after Kai’mere packs up his ice cream cart, they travel to area parks where families often congregate.
They did make a detour from their regular journey on June 12, however, when community outreach organizer Sandy Bonneville invited them to participate in the free meal drive-thru that takes place every Saturday in the parking lot of Saint Aloysius Church on West Broad Street from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
“I told everyone that we typically see here week after week that there would be an ice cream stand coming,” said Bonneville. “You should have seen their faces – it was like they were transported back to childhood.”
She said that she was excited to have Cups of Love out there, and not just because of their family’s mission to bring smiles to others.
“Their appearance here and what they are doing is a real testament to their spirit,” she said. “They too have been touched by pain and grief and they have turned that into such a blessing for other people.”
Long before Kai’mere got the idea to start an ice cream stand, the smiles for the Burgess family were hard to come by.
It was December of 2017, just five days before Christmas, when they received the news that their beloved father, Corday Sr., had been shot to death outside of his home. Reeling from the sudden and senseless loss, Lisa had to work hard to keep her grandchildren from “going into a shell” despite wanting to curl up into one herself.
“It was so hard, but I didn’t want these babies to become numbed by grief,” she said. “I wanted them to continue living Corday’s legacy by making a positive impact in other people’s lives.”
Soon after, and with the urging of community activist Rachel Muha of The Brian Muha Memorial Foundation/Run the Race Club, the family started volunteering at the annual Thanksgiving dinner that Bonneville helps host and at Christmas events to assist the homeless or other families traumatized by gun violence.
Last year, Lisa started her own non-profit called Corday’s Golden Heart and they held their first annual Christmas event with proceeds benefiting children who lost a parent to violence. Cups of Love will likely be folded into their non-profit work because Kai’mere wants to make this an annual summertime venture.
“I’d really like that,” he said.
And while elder siblings do not usually think the younger has great ideas, 16-year-old Maliyah is on board too.
“It’s nice to feel like you’re helping people,” she said. “It’s nice to see a smile on people’s faces and know that you helped put it there.”
As for Lisa, she said it warms her heart to see her family continuing in the tradition of her son.
“Corday went through a lot in his life, went through a lot of struggles, but he always wanted to keep bettering himself and make a difference in this world.
“I’m so proud to see them making a difference too.”
For more information on the non-profit Corday’s Golden Heart, visit its website at cordaysgoldenheart.org. To find out where the Brown-Burgess family is slated to make their weekly Cups of Love stop, visit their Facebook page at Corday’s Golden Christmas.