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When life hands you lemons, a pair of enterprising west Sonoma County girls learned over the weekend, a call to the Sebastopol police might sweeten your outlook considerably.

Ava Holbrook and Heidi Dilling, both 9, prepared to sell lemonade and Meyer lemons from a sidewalk stand Sunday morning when something sad and mystifying happened.

While the friends were briefly inside the Holbrook home on Sebastopol’s Pleasant Hill Avenue, gathering a flower vase and other embellishments for their stand, somebody raided it.

Taken was the $10 Ava and Heidi had earned by selling lemons from the Holbrooks’ tree on Saturday, a basket of lemons and a prop for attracting passersby: Ava’s 4-foot-tall stuffed giraffe, wearing a hat. Only the little table remained.

“It was so disheartening,” said Ava’s mother, Deirdre Holbrook. “The girls were just bawling. It was devastating to them.”

Unsure what to do, Holbrook phoned the Sebastopol police to ask for advice. The dispatcher sent out Officer Jacques Levesque, who gathered details of the crime and told the victims he’d do what he could.

This is what he did:

Sebastopol Police Chief Jeff Weaver said Levesque drove downtown to The Toyworks store, intending to use his own money to replace the giraffe. John Goehring, a co-founder of Toyworks, asked why a uniformed police officer needed such a toy.

Levesque summarized the lemon/lemonade-stand caper. Finding no such giraffe in stock, Goehring phoned his son, Jon, now the owner of The Toyworks. The younger Goehring told his dad, please donate to Ava the closest thing in the store, a large stuffed crocodile.

A shopper overheard Levesque mention that the thief stole $10 and handed him $20.

Unaware that the stolen Meyer lemons could have been replaced by others from the Holbrooks’ tree, Levesque then stopped by the Whole Foods market, intending to buy more lemons. When Levesque shared why he needed the citrus, store employees insisted on donating a nice wooden crate to hold them.

Before heading back to the Holbrook house, Levesque paused at the police station and welcomed a $50 donation from dispatchers and fellow officers. Then he delivered everything — the Melissa & Doug brand crocodile, the cash, the lemons, the crate — to Ava and Heidi.

The red-eyed girls were over the moon.

“It was just the sweetest thing,” Deirdre Holbrook said. She and the girls are cooking up some way to thank everyone.

.....

FOUR YOUNG PEOPLE utterly wowed and awed a special gathering Sunday night up at Paradise Ridge Winery.

It was a scholarship gala for the nationally acclaimed Roseland University Prep school, and the speakers were RUP graduates who’d received help with college and post-graduate costs and returned to say thank you.

Alumni Christina Tlatilpa, Alan Flores, Omar Cortez and Zully Santos are doing remarkable things at universities or work places; all said they will come back to Sonoma County and give back.

Guests of the 13-year-old college-prep school in the Roseland area of southwest Santa Rosa paid tribute to the four by raising their hands for the benefit of future RUP grads. They donated to the scholarship fund close to $200,000.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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