Bay Area Proud

San Francisco College Student Looks for Way to Help Favorite Nonprofit, Finds It Strewn All Over Backyard

"Seriously, it's been the highlight of the quarantine for me."

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In the telling of this story, we will not be using the phrase, "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade."

It's a little too cliche, for one thing.

And it's not really what Conor Harty did, actually. He did something much better with his lemons. He helped rescue dogs.

The story really begins where all stories do these days: at home. Namely, Harty at his family's Pacific Heights' home, thinking about all the things he could and couldn't do during the pandemic.

At the top of the list of things Harty, a dog-lover, couldn't do was one of his favorite things: volunteering at Family Dog Rescue, a small nonprofit in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood.

What Conor could do was sit at home, staring at the backyard.

It was while doing just that, Harty focused on the huge Meyer lemon tree dominating one half of their yard and spilling over into their neighbor's property.

"I've been watching it all quarantine drop lemons," Harty said.

For years, Harty's family has been using the few lemons they could and donated a few bushels to a friend's restaurant. The majority of the lemons, though, ended up falling off the tree before being scooped up and disposed of.

"My mom's always asking me to go out and clean up the lemons on the ground," Harty said.

During this pandemic, though, Harty started wondering if there was more he could do with the fruit. So, he posted a question to his neighborhood's Nextdoor group asking for ideas.

The responses came flooding in.

"I cannot explain how much feedback I got," Harty said. "And how much enthusiasm I got for Meyer lemons."

It became immediately clear to Harty, a sophomore at Emory University majoring in economics, that there was money to be made off these lemons.

Just not for him.

"Honestly, it felt wrong to do that," Harty said.

So, Harty started harvesting hundreds upon hundreds of Meyer lemons off his tree, selling them to customers from his front steps, then donating the money to (you guessed it) Family Dog Rescue

"This is the best of both worlds. I can give lemons to the community — people are obsessed with them — and I could donate to the shelter," Harty said. "I was feeling guilty because I hadn't been able to volunteer in person."

Harty says the few hundred dollars he raised, while not a fortune, goes a very long way in a small organization like Family Dog Rescue.

What's more, Harty said, is that he not only raised money for a good cause, he raised his spirits in the process. Like so many others, Harty said the pandemic had forced him to shy away from meeting new people.

"I got to meet so many nice people," Harty said. "It made me feel a little more normal. Honestly, it was the highlight of the quarantine for me."

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