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'Secret Santa' pays overdue lunch bills at elementary school

Meredith Bland is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Time.com, Brain, Mother, The Rumpus, Scary Mommy and Narratively, among others.

An anonymous donor gave over $1,000 to help families struggling to afford lunch

Good news: Santa is real, and he's starting early this year!

An anonymous man contacted H.W. Good Elementary School in Herminie, Pennsylvania, last week to ask how much money families owed the school for overdue lunch accounts. A couple of days later he gave principal Amy Larcinese a check for almost $1,000 to pay off all those accounts and cover most of those students' meals for the rest of the month.

More: The scary truth about school lunch that has nothing to do with the food

The man, who Larcinese now calls the school's "Secret Santa," did not want to be identified, only saying that his daughter had graduated from the same school in the 1980s and that he was inspired to make the donation after reading about a similar gift in another school district.

"I told him, 'Words can't describe what my feelings are.' I had tears in my eyes," Larcinese told The Tribune-Review. "It's just good to know there are so many good people out there who are willing to sacrifice to help others." Of the school's 300 students, nearly half receive reduced and free school lunches. Of those 300, 44 had outstanding balances, with one family owing over $400.

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"I know it's not that they don't want to pay their account balances, they just can't afford to do it right now," said Larcinese to CBS Pittsburgh.

What this man did in seeking out a lower-income school and easing the financial burden of dozens of families is extraordinary. What a gift to those families, to remove this burden from them before the New Year — a burden that they shoulder because they want their kids to be able to eat lunch at school, but can't afford to pay for it. Paying off school lunch debts is a gift that might not occur to most people and, granted, most of us don't have $1,000 to give. But for someone with the financial means to think about this debt and take the initiative to pay for it is something those families won't ever forget.

If you want to make a similar kind of donation, you can call your local school and give what you can, or you can donate to the following charities:

The Backpack Program, which gives kids who receive reduced or free school lunches food to take home with them over the weekend.

No Kid Hungry, which works to end childhood hunger.

Farm to School, which works with schools to help them purchase their food from local growers and educate students about agriculture and nutrition.

More: Teen uses bar mitzvah cash to donate 800 sneakers

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