AURORA, Colo. — Christmas came a week early for Aurora Public Schools after a generous donor dropped off a massive check at Lansing Elementary School to help pay off unpaid lunch debt.
Lansing is one of 18 Aurora schools qualified for Title I low-income funding. Principal Jennifer Murtha said approximately 6 percent of her students come from homeless families, so the surprise donation truly was a Christmas miracle.
"They can't feed or clothe their children right now, so they rely on this assistance to help get them through the day," she said.
On Wednesday, exactly a week before Christmas, the school received a holiday gift check of $60,000 from Canvas Credit Union. The credit union's CEO, Todd Marksberry, presented the check to Aurora School Superintendent Rico Munn.
The money will help pay off the lunch debt at all Title I schools in Aurora, freeing up desperately needed funds elsewhere.
"The debt can get into the six figures. When you can cut into that, it frees up resources to hire teachers to provide more curriculum to do things that kids need to be supported," Munn said.
Eighty-five percent of the students at Lansing Elementary School take part in the free or reduced lunch program, and some of their parents of students said the check was the perfect holiday surprise.
"It's a blessing that helps out not only my kid, but every student at our school," parent Kevin Birdwell said.
Birdwell, whose daughter is a student at Lansing, said his family is going through tough times. Not having to pay his daughter's reduced lunch bill is allowing his family to have a Christmas.
"For us, it means that we can buy other things for my daughter, my younger son. Things around the house. It takes a load off," Birdwell said.
This holiday helping hand will allow many parents to pay their rent and heating bills — an unexpected gift humbly accepted by grateful parents like Birdwell.
"This is one of the best things you can receive. Somebody is trying to help out their fellow humans — being a good friend. It's something that helps everybody out. Merry Christmas to everyone," Birdwell said.
This story was originally published by Tom Mustin on KMGH in Denver.