A former student at Pipkin Middle School stopped by his alma mater Wednesday to pay off all lunch debt — more than $1,116.53.
Al Miller said he and Roger Malarkey, operators of The Old Glass Place, were inspired to act after Evangel University student athletes recently paid off nearly $500 in student lunch debt at Weller Elementary.
“I figured it was something that needed to be taken care of,” said Miller, who owns Miller Coach Company. “It’s a good place to put your money.”
As a result of their generosity, no Pipkin student will start 2020 with lunch debt on their school account.
“We work so hard to meet their academic needs but we cannot meet those needs until their basic needs are met,” said Pipkin Principal Becky Ash. “We have a lot of kids who rely on school for lunch and dinner.”
Pipkin, located on Boonville Avenue between Chestnut Expressway and Division Street, has 500 students in grades 6-8 and 78 percent qualify for free or reduced price school meals, a national measure of poverty.
Ash said the lunch debt was not just from this school year. For a portion of the students, it has accrued over multiple years.
“A lot of these balances did not just accrue this year,” she said. “It follows them.”
Miller said he and Malarkey were surprised by the amount of debt accumulated at Weller and Pipkin.
“That is a very sad situation,” he said. “I didn’t know it existed to the extent it does.”
The district confirmed Springfield students collectively owed $38,151 in lunch debt as of Wednesday.
“I want to throw the challenge out to other businesses and individuals to help,” Miller said. “It is a fairly easy fix and it’s a lot of bang for the buck.”
Ash said the donation — revealed to students Wednesday afternoon — was viewed as an “early Christmas present.”
“It speaks to what an awesome community we live in that people are willing to give back and I hope they understand that they aren’t just making a difference in the life of a student, they are helping families that struggle,” Ash said.
“There are a lot of stressors on families right now. For this blessing to come from alumni makes it so much more special.
“We cannot say thank you enough.”
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