PORT TOWNSEND — Carl’s Building Supply donated nearly $5,200 to the school districts of Jefferson County to pay off student lunch debt.
The balances for Port Townsend, Chimacum, Quilcene and Brinnon school districts are completely paid off, while Quillayute Valley School District, which serves both Jefferson and Clallam county students on the West End, had a much higher balance and the company was able to pay off only the elementary school balances, said Tom Rider, president of Carl’s Building Supply.
Three schools helped
Chimacum, Quilcene and Port Townsend also received anonymous donations toward the lunch balances, district officials said.
Rider said the team at Carl’s Building Supply, which is owned by Lawrence and Lori Johnson, was inspired by former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s $20,000 donation to Tacoma Public Schools in November to pay for its students’ lunch debt, and wanted to see how they could help the Jefferson County school districts.
“We were like, ‘We really have no idea what the schools around us owe, but that would be really cool,’ ” Rider said.
“We do a lot of donations and sponsorships but this would be kind of cool.”
Rider initially started working with Port Townsend and Chimacum school districts to find out student lunch debt there (about $1,500 each), and then Rider’s sales manager (who is from Quilcene) suggested expanding to include Quilcene and Brinnon, and the team found that the balances were smaller, about $200 and $500 respectively, “so we took care of them,” Rider said.
“Then the conversation went, ‘it would be really cool to say we took care of all of Jefferson County,’ ” Rider said. “I reached out to the Quillayute Valley School District and the number was huge … the staff boiled down the numbers a bit more for us and at the end of the day what we decided to do was give them just shy of $1,400, which paid off the entire elementary school.”
“We did effectively pay off all lunch balances for East Jefferson County.”
Rider and his team hand-delivered the checks to the districts Wednesday, driving the five-hour round trip to Forks to give a check to Quillayute Valley Elementary School.
Rider was surprised to see the need in the community.
“We just kept it rolling since we had no idea what to expect,” Rider said. “The assistant principal at Quilcene said to us ‘there’s families that that $40 helps them to get Christmas presents this year’ so we had employees crying about it, and we didn’t want to make a big to-do about it, but it felt really good.”
Much of the school lunch debt was for students who had, may or do qualify for free and reduced meals, and these funds have given the school districts the opportunity to reconnect with those families and encourage those who need it to apply for the free and reduced program, said John Polm, superintendent of Port Townsend School District.
Polm is grateful for the donation.
“It’s very generous. We’re thankful to the community members for their support and concern for students and families that have difficulty paying for their meals at school,” Polm said.
Brinnon Superintendent Trish Beathard was surprised when Carl’s Building Supply contacted Brinnon School District officials.
“I thought it was so generous,” Beathard said. “They didn’t give us a budget. They just called us and said ‘how much do you have in outstanding balances?’ and they paid for it.
“It was amazing.”
Chimacum Superintendent Rick Thompson is grateful.
“Carl’s Building Supply is fabulous, absolutely awesome,” Thompson said. “I just know that every one of our families appreciated that and it’s just a great gift to us.”
Quilcene Superintendent Frank Redmon was happy about receiving the donation.
“We’re very fortunate to have such a great connection with our community and such generous folks in the area that are willing to support students,” Redmon said.
Quillayute Superintendent Diana Reaume appreciates the donations.
“We’re very grateful for the donation and are heart-warmed by it,” Reaume said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]