Society

John Legend Donates $5K To 'Lunch Debt' Initiative

| by Michael Howard

A Seattle man was taken aback when his GoFundMe campaign to erase Seattle's public school "lunch debt" received a $5,000 donation from someone named John Stephens.

Jeff Lew started the fundraiser on May 9. His goal was to raise enough money to cover the debt owed by families in Seattle whose children couldn't pay for their lunches at school.

"As of May 9, 2017, the total school lunch debt at my child's school is $97.10," Lew wrote. "My first goal is to have that paid off. The second goal is to help pay off the school lunch debt for the entire Seattle Public Schools district."

After reaching out to the school district, Lew posted an update: "Seattle Public Schools total lunch debt is $20,531.79."

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Accordingly, he set the goal for his GoFundMe campaign at $21,000. The campaign has since raised more than $34,700, and Lew has bumped the goal up to $40,000.

When he saw the $5,000 donation from John Stephens, Lew typed the name into Google's search bar. The search results indicated that John Stephens is the birth name of Grammy-winning singer John Legend.

That's when Lew decided to send the donor a private message.

"I thought, 'It could be him, let's try sending him a personalized note,'" Lew told The Seattle Times.

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At the end of his message to John Stephens, Lew wrote: "By the way, are you also known as John Legend? Regardless of who you are or not, thank you. You’ve helped a lot."

"Yes, it's me," Stephens replied, adding that he had learned about the campaign on Twitter.

The donor's identity was confirmed on May 28 when Legend responded to one of Lew's tweets.

"Thank you [John Legend]!" Lew wrote.

"My pleasure!" Legend wrote back. "We should have free lunch for all our public students!"

Lew said any extra money raised will be used to pay off future debts to Seattle Public Schools. He has also created GoFundMe campaigns for two other school districts in Washington -- Renton and Tacoma. Both are currently working toward their respective goals of $18,000 and $20,000.

"As a parent and graduate of the Seattle Public Schools, I am trying to help ease the burden of these families and make sure these children get to eat a nutritious meal each day at school," Lew wrote. "I used to look forward to school lunches each day. I am sure these children feel the same!"

Sources: The Seattle Times, GoFundMe / Photo credit: a href="https://flic.kr/p/5RpHRa" rel="nofollow">Julio Enriquez/Flickr

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