CLAYTON — A north Dayton area church has raised approximately $40,000 in just over one week to pay off outstanding student lunch balances in nine Miami Valley school districts.
Salem Church of God Lead Pastor Steve Southards said the church was looking for “a quick project” for an ongoing series on the joy of living a generous life.
Salem, located at 6500 Southway Road, Clayton, put gave out a challenge to its congregation during its service on Feb. 16 — to raise $14,654.31 to pay off lunch debt for two area districts, Brookville and Northmont.
The congregation showed up for the challenge, almost tripling that goal.
“The total keeps moving up, but we’ve raised over $40,000,” said Steve Southards, lead pastor at Salem Church of God.
The church has raised now raised enough money to pay off student lunch debts for ten Miami Valley school districts.
“In our school districts, there are kids that are coming to school without money for lunch. The school will give them lunch, but they accrue a debt,” Southards said.
Families who have had their lunch debt paid off will now receive letting them know of the gift.
“As a church, we want to go looking for trouble, and we want to right a wrong,” Southards said. “We want to show the love of Jesus in really tangible ways that meets the needs of people.”
“Our hope is that this starts a snowball of generosity,” said Salem Next Steps Pastor, Bob Hawker. “There’s lots of ways to do this.
“It doesn’t just have to be about the school debt,” Hawker added. “It can happen in the Starbucks line or the neighbor next door.”
Amongst the school districts being aided by this generosity are Brookville, Northmont, Eaton, Vandalia-Butler, New Lebanon-Dixie, Milton-Union, Tri-County North, Franklin-Monroe, Troy and Kettering.
At the Feb. 23 service Pastor Southards said that in a recent staff meeting Hawker told of an idea he knew of whereby a church did a similar project to aid a school district.
“Generosity is contagious,” Southards said. “It does not matter what you believe, somethings that happen will honor God.
“There is joy when you give,” added Southards. “Salem has sparked a movement of generosity.”
The church is now setting aside some of the money to build an “angel fund” to help with lunch debt in the future.
Salem is hoping that representatives from the school districts aided will be able to attend the church’s March 1 services for a celebration.
“As a church, we want to be known by what we’re for instead of what we’re against,” Pastor Southards said. “We would love to be known as a church that’s for our community.”