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Bolingbrook Church Associate Pastor David Quilatan holds the ceremonial check for $4,000, representing payment to cover school lunch debt at a suburban Chicago school district. Leilani Langdon, Bolingbrook Church leader (facing camera) hugs Leanne Lyons from the Valley View School District. | Photo courtesy: Bolingbrook Church     

January 17, 2020

Church eliminates school lunch debt

Several families are experiencing relief after Bolingbrook Church raises funds to pay off overdue school lunch accounts in the Valley View Public School District.

The church donated $4,000 to clear the books for a still-to-be-determined number of students in the suburban Chicago school district. Sixty one percent of the 17,000 student population qualify for free or reduced lunch program.

The decision to help the school was initiated as Christmas approached and Bolingbrook Church leaders began thinking of ways to bless their community.

“A lot of churches will do giving campaigns to raise money to cover their budget for the next year or they just do a big push financially for the church,” explained Leilani Langdon, Bolingbrook’s Director of Ministry and Operations. “The last couple of years we’ve decided that we wanted to forfeit that idea and raise money to do something impactful in the community.”

For example, two years ago the church raised $36,000 to renovate an elderly couple’s home.

It was last summer that the church donated 100 back packs to the students in the district and saw a huge need to do more. Once again, Langdon reached out to Leanne Lyons, the district’s Community School Site Coordinator.

“She said there’s a really high need to help students with delinquent bills, parents who can’t pay or afford to pay their child’s lunch bill because they’re don’t make enough money on paper but are living paycheck to paycheck, so the working poor,” said Langdon.

After a three-week giving campaign at Bolingbrook Church, Lyons took to the stage at the end of last week’s Sabbath service to thank the congregation for their support. “It tears me up because it’s amazing what you’ve done,” she said to applause from the congregation. She announced that the check was four times the largest donation she had ever received.

“I’m so grateful that I’ll have the job of telling people their lunch fees are forgiven, that they can go through the lunch line without feeling mom and dad owe some money,” said Lyons. The check is expected to cover all overdue lunch bills at Wood View Elementary School and leftover funds will go toward other schools in the district.

This outreach effort fits Bolingbrook’s mission, which was founded on the belief that the church exists to continue the work of Jesus Christ in the world.

"It is a privilege for our church to be able to extend grace and show compassion to those in our community," said Bolingbrook's Pastor David Oceguera. "Through this giving campaign the church was able to tangibly share the message of Jesus by meeting real needs."

Wood View School was grateful for Bolingbrook's donation to eliminate their lunch school debt. From left to right: Victoria Warpinski, nutrition services worker; Robert Israelson, assistant principal; Jessica McCaslin, principal; Francine Crain, nutrition services manager; Carmen Garcia, nutrition services worker; Leanne Lyons, Valley View School District Community School Site Coordinator | Photo courtesy: Valley View School District

According to the church’s website: “While Jesus was on earth, He preached the good news to the poor, freed the oppressed, confronted the evils in our world, and removed any obstacle that would keep people from living fully as God intended. Jesus demonstrated a passionate love for outsiders; He gave them unlimited access to God’s transforming love. In the same manner, we believe that the church ought to be a living, loving, growing community that brings healing to our world.”