Good News

Motel owner pays overdue school lunch fees for nearly 100 children

 (AP, File)

A motel owner in Burlington, Iowa, has surprised the elementary school he attended by writing a $700 check to pay overdue school lunch fees for dozens of kids.

“I myself positively affected 89 students today. I gave them extra money in the account so that every kid at Grimes Elementary School won’t be hungry the rest of the school year. Now it’s your turn to do something good for your fellow man,” Jerry Fenton commented on his Facebook page last week.

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Fenton said the money would be used to cover bills for children who haven't been able to pay for meals but receive lunch anyway, the Des Moines Register reported.

Fenton said he read a story online about a boy who brought two lunches to school so he could give one to a friend who wasn't able to pay his lunch bills, and decided to go a step further.

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“When I saw that, I thought it was a nice gesture, and I thought, ‘Hey, I can do that too,” Fenton told KCCI.

School district food service director Alan Mehaffy said unpaid lunch bills weren't a major problem at Burlington schools, but sometime caused tension between parents and teachers when the school sent home reminders about the bills.

Fenton, who owns the Arrowhead Motel in Burlington, received lots of publicity on social media after writing about the donation on his Facebook page.

"I don't want to tell people what to do ... but it's always nice when people do nice things," he said, adding that he hoped the donation would inspire people to do something generous for others.

Mehaffy said gifts like Fenton's donation were "extremely rare." He said he could only remember one other similar donation to the school, when a school food service employee had died and asked for memorial donations to be directed to the overdue lunch bills.

$400 will be used to pay off overdue lunch fees, with the rest of the donation going to future bills, according to Fenton. 

"It made a big impact," Mehaffy said. "It was a very generous offer."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.