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Helena woman donates to help pay off local school lunch debt

Posted at 5:21 PM, Dec 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 11:52:15-05

HELENA — A Helena woman is taking action to help local families this holiday season, and she’s challenging the community to keep it going.

On Tuesday, Carole Kiley gave the Helena School District a check for $650, to cover all the unpaid school lunch debt for students at Jefferson Elementary School.

“I would rather me go without shopping and be able to bless these families who are having a hard time paying for their kids’ lunches,” she said. “That shouldn’t have to be a worry for the families.”

Kiley said she saw a Facebook post about a person in Ravalli County who had made that kind of donation, and it inspired her to do it herself in Helena.

“I thought, ‘Challenge accepted,’” she said.

She said she doesn’t have kids of her own, but she has known kids who went to Jefferson, so she decided to ask the district how much would be needed to pay off the unpaid meal charges there.

Helena Public Schools Superintendent Tyler Ream said the district still provides students with lunches, even if their accounts have outstanding charges. That means they have to cover the costs of those unpaid meals with money from other sources. Ream said gifts like Kiley’s help the schools as well.

Kiley said she hopes other people and businesses in the Helena area will help cover the debt at other local schools.

“If you feel so inspired, pay off their overdue lunch accounts, because it takes a burden off of the parents,” she said. “Be a blessing to someone else. This is a time we should all be coming together in love.”

Ream said the district’s unpaid meal charges have sometimes totaled close to $100,000. However, he said leaders have heard from several people in recent months who were interested in helping address the debt.