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Marysville couple pays off students' lunch debt

The local couple donates more than $5,000 to pay off the lunch balance for elementary school students in the district


Photo courtesy of the Marysville School District

Mike Sullivan, Marysville School District's executive director of finance, left, along with Christine Lee, center, and Thomas Lee, a local couple who donated more than $5,000 to pay off elementary school lunch balances on May 12.

Two Marysville community members donated more than $5,000 on May 12 to pay elementary school students' lunch balances at the Marysville School District.

The Marysville couple, Thomas and Christine Lee, said that they were looking for a way to help local children.

"The bottom line is that we had been looking for a way to give back to the community," said Thomas Lee.

There is often a debt that accumulates for some families of children when they are behind on their lunch bill, and Lee said he was familiar with the lunch debt because of friends who are school administrators.

Mike Sullivan, Marysville School District's executive director of finance, said that the gift wasn't about the district.

"Yes, they paid off money that was owed to the district from the students' accounts. But for me the gift was really to all the kids and their families that owed the district money," he said.

The district does provides food to students who have a debt on their lunch bill.

"We will never pull a tray out of a child's hand of someone who has a deficit," said Marysville School District Superintendent Becky Berg.

If they have a deficit, students typically receive a turkey sandwich and always have unlimited access to the salad bar, she said.

In total the Lee's gave about $5,495 to settle the elementary school lunch balances, which was about 65 percent of the district's total outstanding balance of about $8,550 at the time.

The couple has one son who has gone through the Marysville School District, including Kellogg Marsh Elementary in the 1990s.

They began wanting to pay off the balance at Kellogg Marsh. After seeing that balance, they realized they could help more though.

"When we were there we asked, 'Well, what if we wanted to pay off the lunch debt for all the elementary schools in Marysville?'" said Lee.

Lee said they took the number home but knew on the car ride back they wanted to help.

"On the drive home I turned to my wife and said, 'We're doing this, aren't we,' and she said, 'Yeah, we're doing this,'" he said.

Lee said their son enjoyed his time at 10th Street Middle School and Marysville-Pilchuck High School as well.

"They gave him a lot of opportunities," he said. "He really enjoyed his school life."

Their son is now a chef and lives in Arlington with two children of his own. A few days after their Marysville donation the Lees also stopped by Kent Prairie Elementary School to pay the lunch debt balance their as well.

District officials appreciated the help from local community members.

"What a role model for us in our lives about paying it forward," said Berg.

"It is amazing and they were the nicest people," said Sullivan. "This is, to me, by far the most generous donation to the district coming from an individual," he said.

The district receives a number of donations from local individuals and organizations and they are always helpful, said Berg.

"It really fills the gaps and it's usually a direct benefit to students," she said.


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