Macon man hawks drinks to help meet his family’s insurance bill

Kevin Lyons is crystal clear on one point: He’s not looking for charity.

During the past few weeks, motorists along Macon’s Mercer University Drive may have noticed Lyons standing on the side of the road during the late afternoon, hawking bottles of Gatorade and cans of soft drinks.

Lyons is selling the Gatorade for $2 and the soft drinks for $1 each to help cover his family’s high medical insurance costs, which run about $110 per week. He said he clears about $20 each weekday selling the drinks, which just about pays for the insurance.

“I’m doing it for my daughter,” said Lyons, who works as a baker from early in the morning to midafternoon, then sells the drinks for two or three hours before heading home. “I want to work for it. I don’t want charity. ... I need to (sell the drinks) to supplement my income.”

Several months ago, Lyons’ wife, Christine, had a high-risk pregnancy with the couple’s daughter, Isabella. Christine Lyons lost her job for missing too much work during her pregnancy, he said.

Kevin Lyons needed a way to come up with extra money to help cover the insurance costs, and he settled on the idea of selling drinks. It’s a relatively low financial risk to buy the drinks in bulk and resell them, and most people have been pretty understanding of his plight, he said.

“Every day they ask me the same question — why do I do it?” he said. “I do it for (Isabella). ... Every day, I pray and thank God when someone helps me out.”

Lyons said Christine searches for a new job every day, but with the faltering economy “jobs are just so hard to come by right now.”

The family has been waiting to hear from the state Department of Labor to see if Christine Lyons qualifies for unemployment benefits, but they have yet to get a ruling, Lyons said.

It’s not the first hardship the family has endured. Five years ago, the Lyonses lost their Florida home when Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances hit the state, Lyons said. The family arrived in Middle Georgia in January 2005 to look for work, and they lived in a camper in a Wal-Mart parking lot for the first month until he found a job working as a baker at the Fuddrucker’s on Zebulon Road, which later closed.

Most of the passers-by have been pretty good to him, he said, and he’s starting to see some regular customers who make it a point to drive by to see him. An occasional driver has tried to grab a drink out of his hand without paying for it, but for the most part, Lyons hasn’t had any major problems.

He said local law-enforcement officers haven’t had any issues with him, either, and several officers have bought drinks from him while passing by.

An employee with the city’s finance department said an endeavor such as Lyons’ would require a business license. Lyons said that even in these difficult economic times, people have still been willing to be generous and help a stranger.

“I don’t want people feeling sorry for me,” he said. “I appreciate people stopping and helping me. At first, people probably saw me and were pretty skeptical. Now, they see me every day and they know me.”

To contact reporter Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.