Good Samaritans exist, and it's because of the work they do that many of us are capable of getting out of tricky situations.
Tom and Christy Lee reached out to the Marysville School District on Friday, letting them know they wanted to pay off the lunch money debt for students at Kellogg Marsh Elementary School. Thinking that the debt would amount to $2,000, the Lees were ready. But once the school district told them that it amounted to only $259, they were shocked.
At the district's office, they learned that they could do more as it would cost them $5,495 to cover the lunch money debt from every single elementary school in the district. By donating that amount, the couple learned, they would be helping 262 kids in 10 schools.
Telling the district they would need to go home to make a decision, the Lees didn't even have to go that far; they made up their minds while sitting in their car instead.
“We already knew we were going to do it,” Tom Lee said.
After giving the district the good news, Marysville School Superintendent Becky Berg told reporters she was astounded by the Lees' decision to help so many kids.
“In my 32 years in public education, it’s the first time I’ve seen something of this magnitude,” she said.
The Lees, who have a son who attended the school in the 1990s, felt strongly about donating to Kellogg Marsh Elementary. Before retiring from Boeing a few years ago, they were very actively involved with charity organizations, donating the maximum amount they were legally allowed to the Employee Community Fund.
Ever since they retired from Boeing a few years ago, the couple continued to donate, giving money to Homage Senior Services’s Meals on Wheels program, the Marysville Community Food Bank, and an international ministry. A few months back, they started discussing doing something for Kellogg Marsh kids.
“We’re just not giving as much as we used to and we kind of missed that,” Lee said, adding that he and his wife's New Year's resolution was to be more giving.
“Friday morning, when I got up I said, ‘Today’s the day I want to do it,’” he told reporters.
Before the Lees decided to become more involved, Tom had a health scare that kept them from carrying on with their dream trip to Hawaii. As his kidneys failed, he told reporters, he had to start dialysis promptly, which kept them from traveling to where they had been waiting to go to for 40 years.
As he worked to get healthy so he could qualify for a transplant, they both decided to do more for their community.
Kids with lunch debt aren't given a choice of what they can eat, Berg stated. So instead of having access to better variety, they may get a cheese sandwich only. While the school won't throw “a lunch away or [take] it from a child’s hand,” Berg added, kids without any debt will see who's being able to choose and who isn't.
Lee said the couple was happy that “[n]o child is going to go without a good regular lunch today.”
While schools get regular donations from PTA groups and many individuals, most of these charitable actions target one specific program or just one school. In some cases, a parent will pay off lunch debt that belongs to one of their child's friends, but donations are never meant to go to an entire district.
With this incredible show of love for their community, the Lees have given hundreds of children a reason to believe in fairy tales.
Perhaps later, these same children will grow to be as successful as the Lees, and then they will be in the same position as their benefactors, bringing smiles to children's faces when they decide to pay it forward.