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Lunchables Shelley Adams Gentle '99 has organized a Go Fund Me campaign to help feed children in her community.

Shelley-Adams-Gentle-99-800x533 LunchablesShelley Adams Gentle ’99 hands out bagged lunches to school children in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

“We got a lot of little gifts from a lot of people. It just goes to show that a small gift can go a long way.”

~ Shelley Adams Gentle ’99

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools across the country, it created a very real problem for children who relied on those free lunches.

In Vestavia Hills, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, the scenario was no different. “Even though our area is relatively affluent, about 7% of the student body receives free or reduced-price lunches,” said Shelley Adams Gentle ’99, a member of the Leadership Vestavia Hills’ Hunger Awareness Project. “That adds up to about 500 students in our school system.”

She reached out to Vestavia Hills City Schools’ superintendent, Todd Freeman, to offer her support in solving the problem. She learned that the schools were committed to offering a bagged lunch during the closure but needed help in covering those meals during what would have been the school’s spring break, March 23-27.

Knowing that the local businesses were also greatly affected by the pandemic, Gentle co-organized a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money from the community to buy boxed lunches for the children.

“Our local restaurants are so supportive of our schools, but they are struggling right now, so we didn’t want to ask for their help. Instead, we turned to our community to raise money so we could pay those restaurants to fulfill the lunch need,” said Gentle.

The initial plan was to serve 120 students a day. But the response was so great — 640 showed up to collect a meal in one week — that the school system asked to keep the partnership going for the rest of the academic year.

The city schools will handle distributing bagged lunches Monday through Thursday, while Gentle’s group will supply Friday’s meal. “It’s really a win-win-win outcome,” said Gentle. We’re able to provide more business to our local restaurants, give the school workers who prepare the lunches a break and offer the students a bit of variety.”

Of course, serving more lunches means she and her team needed to raise more money. “The response has been terrific,” she noted. “Our initial goal was $3,000, then we upped it to $15,000. We got a lot of little gifts from a lot of people. It just goes to show that a small gift can go a long way.”