St. Simons UMC father helps organize $6,500 student debt payoff
By Kara Witherow, Editor
A note sent home in his son’s folder before the end of school last May spurred one St. Simons Island man into action to organize a community effort to pay off the lunch debt at every school in Glynn County.
The note reminded parents to pay their children’s cafeteria debts. Instead of reading it and immediately tossing the note in the trash, Dan Meyers, a member of St. Simons United Methodist Church, wondered what he could do to help those who couldn’t afford to pay what they owed.
“I thought, ‘Man, it stinks that there are kids as young as 4 years old carrying debt,” Meyers said, adding that the debt accrues and follows the student year to year. “That’s crazy.”
He found out anyone could help get accounts up to date, and decided to make that happen. He posted on Facebook, asking if others wanted to join the cause. People responded almost immediately, leaving cash in envelopes on his doorstep and in his mailbox, sending him money via Paypal, and dropping cash and checks off at the schools.
What started out as one father’s desire to see the $89 cafeteria debt at one elementary school paid turned into something much bigger than he dreamed.
In less than six days the community gave $6,500 to pay off the cafeteria and senior debt at 10 elementary schools, four middle schools, and two high schools.
Meyers gives credit to the community and the generous individuals and business in Glynn County for realizing his big goal. The avid community volunteer also credits his faith for giving him the passion to serve others.
“For these children to have this debt hanging over their heads from such a young age is something I can’t comprehend,” he said, stating that once he knew about the need he had to act. “God calls us to take care of the children and the widows. If I’m not putting my faith into action, my faith is dead.”
Not only did the donations pay off the cafeteria debt at all the schools, but enough was given to pay seniors’ debt, which was important to Meyers because seniors with debt would not be allowed to graduate.
Being able to help children is a blessing and privilege, Meyers said.
“God can feed the orphans and clothe the homeless on his own, but we are blessed to be able to help,” he said. “When Christ carried his cross he dropped it and he let a human help him carry it. It wasn’t because He needed the help, but it tells me that God allows us to help him.”
“We talk a lot about how we are called to be God’s instruments of compassion, healing, forgiveness, and helping,” said Rev. Marcia Cochran, senior pastor of St. Simons United Methodist Church. “This group sees a need and jumps in and responds, and they realize they represent Christ to people. They are trying to be that reflection of Christ to those in need. It strengthens their faith as they serve others.”
Meyers gets teary when talking about this effort and how the community came together to help others.
“It shows how impactful God is,” he says. “My faith is strengthened and I am humbled every time I think of this.”