Sometimes it feels like existence is a series of constant debts that need to be paid. We pretty much accept that as fact, aren’t too thrilled about it, but it’s the way things are. In fact, 35% of Americans overpay their taxes every year by $500 or more. What we don’t hear a lot about is people trying to pay the debts of others. We’re often so consumed by our own priorities that thinking about what might help others doesn’t readily pop into mind. This is especially true of adults. Kids, on the other hand, can be much more charitable.
Two North Carolina sisters learned about debt that isn’t often discussed. School lunch debt. Hannah Hager, 11, and Hailey Hager, 13, caught wind of their school’s student lunch debt and have made it their goal to try and help pay it off. They learned that school lunch debt is incurred when students can’t afford to pay for lunch. Rather than not feeding them, the school takes on the debt and ends up owing it to the federal government.
Hannah learned that her school, Southwood Elementary, owes $3,100 in lunch debt and Hailey’s school, Central Davidson Middle School owes $3,500. But, that combined $6,600 is a drop in the bucket compared to their district of 36 schools owing a total of $41,000. With things like income taxes making up $1.688 trillion in federal revenue and payroll taxes making up another $1.238 trillion, significantly smaller sums like school lunch debt can be easy to overlook on a daily basis. Still, it impacts millions of families every single day. The girls set to work with the goal of helping pay off that debt.
They started with a lemonade stand for their fundraiser. It started to gain all sorts of traction. Since 35% of businesses wouldn’t have been discovered had it not been for good signage, the girls dubbed their stand Hailey and Hannah’s Helping Hands Lemonade Stand and they got going. Their efforts started getting returns pretty quickly. Soon their stand gained media attention. Using their weekends to fundraise, their mother Erin said they were basically out there flailing around trying to get the attention of anyone who was passing by.
As soon as they knew they were on to something, they played it a little smarter. Since 40% of consumers like businesses who engage on social media, the girls created their very own Facebook fundraising campaign. Their efforts paid off and their mother is one proud mama.
“I just want to give back, I want to help people, I want to be there,” Erin said. “I want people to know that there’s people who care in the world and that there’s so many people and causes that need help.”
Americans spend some 12.6% of their income on food and for this cause, people were eager to help. Selling lemonade, hotdogs, chili, chips, and other snacks, the girls ended up raising just over $2,600 to help take a little piece out of the student cafeteria debt. Every little bit counts and the example the girls set for fundraising and human kindness is nothing short of extraordinary. Their parents, school, and greater community are all proud of their accomplishment. Southwood Elementary School Principal Ashley Lemley sums up the problem with lunch debt while praising the what the two sisters have been doing:
“We do not believe in giving students an alternative lunch; therefore, they are allowed to continue to charge. This can lead to charges getting quite high. I could not be more proud of Hannah and Hailey for wanting to help others. They are truly amazing students who are going to continue to do great things in our community. They are showing initiative, kindness, and empathy toward others.”