Donor pays off student lunch debts in Pasco County

- An anonymous donor has paid the lunch debts for dozens of students and families in Pasco County.

According to the Pasco County School District, a man called their office on Thursday asking what schools had students with outstanding balances on their lunch accounts.

Officials directed him to Mary Giella Elementary in Spring Hill, a Tier One school, which means the majority of students come from low-income families and receive a free or reduced-cost lunch.

The businessman, who wants to remain anonymous, stopped by the school on Friday with a check for more than $400. He paid off the accounts for every student at the school.

"We asked to take a picture. We wanted to thank him properly on our Facebook account, and he said that he wanted to do it anonymously. He left a wonderful letter,” said Assistant Principal Kara Abbatello.

In the hand-written note, the donor stated, in part, “I received the gift of a lifetime when I became an American.”

As an immigrant from Kosovo, he said he came to the U.S. and was able to achieve the American dream. After recently getting his American citizenship, he said he wanted to do something to “pay it forward” to the country that has given him so much.

Haley Williams, a parent and teacher, said she was surprised when she got an email informing staff members of the generous donation. She said the money will have a big impact on many low income families at the school.

"That was super generous,” said Williams. "I know sometimes people don't have the means to do that, and so they will be super happy about having it paid off and they don't have to worry about it."

According to the school district, the donor also wrote a check for more than $200 to pay off the lunch debts for many students at Connerton Elementary School in Land O' Lakes, where his two children go to school.

"It gives you that good feeling that there are good people out there that make a difference, and it's wonderful for our children to see that, so that they too learn that someday they can do this and maybe pay it forward,” Abbatello added.

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