CENTERBURG — The Centerburg community pulled together in little under 24 hours to pay off the student lunch debt that accumulated in the Centerburg School District.

Heather Monroe, a mom of an elementary student at Centerburg, said that the idea came to her a few weeks ago after seeing an article about another school in a different state where the kids couldn’t play sports if they had lunch debt.

“There was nothing I could really do for them,” she said. “But I could help my community.”

She got in contact with Autumn Pauley, the food service director at Centerburg Schools, to see how much students owned in lunch debt. It was a total of $822.40. On Friday, she put together a money pool through Paypal and shared it to two Facebook groups, Centerburg and Beyond Forum and We Love Centerburg.

“Less than 24 hours later, it was fully funded,” Monroe said. And the amount still continued to grow over the past few days. As of Monday, about 50 people raised a total of $1,208, close to $400 more than what was needed. Monroe closed the pool down in order to transfer the money to give it to the school.

“It alleviates pressure on the families and prevents the district from having to dip into other funds to cover the debt,” Monroe said about the money raised.

She said that Centerburg has a strong, tight community that is really supportive of the schools and the kids.

“(They) will always come together,” Monroe said about the people in the community. The school lunch debt, she mentioned, was something that people weren’t aware of or aware of how much lunch debt can be accumulated.

She said that the school district does what they can but they can’t foresee what is going to happen.

“Price wise, the lunch price is fair and less than other districts,” she mentioned. But sometimes a family barely passes the cutoff point for the free and reduced lunch program. This means that one little problem, such as having to fix a car, will affect how they can afford to pay for their student’s lunch.

A school lunch for the middle school and high school costs $2.85 and $2.60 for elementary students. The parents can pay for their students lunches through an app called MySchoolBucks. They will also receive notifications when a student’s account is getting low. Mike Hebenthal, Centerburg’s superintendent, said that students are allowed to charge their account to a certain extent. After that point, the school will reach out to the parents to work something out.

“Anytime someone wants to help out, it’s a good thing,” Hebenthal said about the donation. The extra money raised will be kept, as he understands, in an account to help pay for future lunch debts as the occur.

The money pool Monroe created is currently closed but the future of it is unclear. Monroe said a lot of people think it’s a good idea to keep it open for future debts that may occur. She also said that she might reach out and talk to the school about what she, and the community, can do to help with future lunch debts.

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Jamie Holland: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @