Last week Helena Public Schools announced its plan to use a collection agency in an effort to recover over $100,000 of unpaid lunch debt. Now, a woman in the capital city is doing her part to help make up the dues.
Annie Hanshew says she owes a lot to the Helena school system. She was raised by a public school teacher and grew up in the district. Which is why when she heard about the plan to use a collection agency to gather unpaid lunch debt, she felt like she had to do something.
"Between the overwhelming need of the school district to get this money and also the concern about the impact that debt collections could have on a family, I decided that the community could step up and help," said Hanshew.
She started a Go Fund Me page that's already collected almost $4,000. She hopes to collect all the money needed, but understands that's a lofty goal. Still, the fundraiser caught the eye and appreciation of the district's superintendent.
"I am actually still amazed that numbers out there doing that, and I mean, we are very grateful that we have a citizenry like that," said Jack Copps, Superintendent of Helena Public Schools.
Copps says they're going to use that money to help pay off debt for students who are now on free or reduced lunch, which accounts for about 20 percent of the total debt.
However, Hanshew aims to help everyone affected.
"Some people make a distinction between deserving and undeserving families, but free and reduced lunch as a pretty low threshold, so you can be a family that is struggling without qualifying for free and reduced lunch," said Hanshew.
Helena Public Schools announced Tuesday they're only going to use the collection agency as a last resort, after receiving backlash from the community.
Superintendent Copps says the last thing they want to do is target already struggling families.
Use this link to support the cause: https://www.gofundme.com/LunchforHelenaMT