Mount Ararat Baptist Church has paid about $18,000 worth of school lunch debt in Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.
“We recently found out about this need, and we thought it would be great to give back and lift this burden,” said Jerry Williams, missions pastor at the church, which is known as The Mount and has three campuses in Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.
He said the church is committed to being part of the community in a positive way.
“Ten percent of everything that comes in, we make sure goes back out beyond our walls,” Williams said.
Church members provide backpacks for local schoolchildren and donate money and volunteer hours to Micah Ministries and Loisann’s Hope House, in addition to other ministries. But this is the first time The Mount has donated to erase school lunch debt, Williams said.
The donation to Stafford County Public Schools eliminated all lunch debt—about $10,400 worth—at Winding Creek, Kate Waller Barrett, Park Ridge and Moncure elementary schools, a Facebook post from the school division confirmed.
“We wish we could have paid all lunch debt in Stafford, but we found out that would be about $40,000,” Williams said. “We plan on chipping away at that.”
The Mount’s donation of $6,518.22 to Spotsylvania County paid off the school division’s entire negative balance as it stood on Nov. 19, when the church reached out to the division, Spotsylvania schools spokeswoman René Daniels said.
“We are very appreciative of our community partners,” she said.
Williams filmed a short video of himself preparing to drop off the check in Stafford County and posted it to Facebook on Dec. 2. It has been viewed 17,000 times.
“We did not do this for recognition, but to let others know of this need and encourage others to bloom where they are planted,” Williams said.
Daniels said that school lunch debt is “a very fluid number.” Spotsylvania’s negative balance is back up to $5,124.19 as of Dec. 11, she said.
She said 39 percent of students who attend Spotsylvania County schools receive free and reduced lunch.
“That’s just the ones we know about,” she said, adding that there may be more who are eligible, but whose parents have not signed up because they don’t know the service is confidential.
“We encourage parents to be sure to work with us and get that paperwork in,” Daniels said.