Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:26 PM ET
When Kenny Thompson paid off overdue lunch accounts at a Houston elementary school last week, he hoped his kind act might inspire others to do the same.
It did just that and then some: Over the last week, he’s received hundreds of donations from across the country and heard several stories of people paying it forward at their local schools.
With the donations, Thompson was able to pay off the negative lunch account balances at five schools in Houston’s Spring Branch Independent School District on Monday, enabling 459 students to enjoy a hot lunch instead of cold sandwiches. The total came to $3,338.
“The outpouring of support has been unbelievable,” Thompson said. “My life was turned upside down. It’s all good, because kids are getting fed and people are going in and checking on their[school lunch] policies.”
Thompson’s phone doesn’t stop ringing these days. He’s heard from people as far away as Europe who are looking for ways to join in his efforts. To make donating easier, he started an online home for “Feed the Future Forward,” the organization he’s working to turn into a nonprofit.
Some people are donating to their schools directly, like two business owners from Durham, N.C., who paid off $830 in overdue lunch accounts at Pearsontown Elementary after they heard about the "lunch angel."
"Bottom line is, people are taking action," said Thompson, who works as a stagehand and mentors six boys at a Spring Branch middle school.
It all started with Thompson's $465 donation to Valley Oaks Elementary School after he realized that certain students whose parents hadn't paid off their accounts were receiving a cold lunch of cheese or peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches instead of a full tray of hot food. It "broke his heart" that some kids might still be hungry after lunch or, at the very least, suffer embarrassment because their parents couldn't pay.
Thompson applauds his school district’s receptiveness to donations after hearing that some people have had more trouble paying off accounts at their local schools.
“Spring Branch wants to take care of their kids,” he said. “It’s just a great bunch of people. They're excited about what's going on.”
And Thompson would also like to thank the many people from around the world who have donated to the cause.
“I’m humbled and so very blessed,” he said. “I’m thankful for everyone’s support. It’s nice to know there are angels everywhere and heroes all over the place.”
As Thompson is still receiving donations every day, his work is hardly finished. He's talking with other schools in the Houston area about where the money is most needed.
"The word is out, and I’m not going to stop," he said. "This money will be well spent."