WAVY Staff - CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) - Bishop Kim Brown has signed a $4,101.57 check from his congregation to help dozens of students at 38 schools settle up their school lunch debts.
"We are a community giving congregation," said Brown, of the Mount Lebanon Baptist Church. "The thing I am most proud of about the church and the Saints that I serve is they are benevolent. If nothing else, we might be benevolent to a fault."
Brown says a post online asking people to pay off students' lunch bills recently got his attention. He says a call to the Chesapeake Public Schools ended with him agreeing to pay off delinquent accounts at all of the district's elementary and middle schools.
"I think why it happens is because times are hard sometimes," said Brown. "I think it's hard to be a good academic student when your stomach is not full."
Ruth Jones Nichols, executive director of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, says one in six children throughout Hampton Roads worry about where they will get their next meal.
"Without food, which is a very basic need, they're not going to be able to study. They will not be available to learn," said Jones Nichols. "These are children who are waking up hungry, going to bed hungry and leaving schools on Friday without consistent access to healthy access to nutritious meals."
The food bank services more than 175,000 needy people throughout the region, including 5,000 children enrolled in their nutrition programs.
"Together we can solve hunger, and this is a very great example of how one organization and a group of individuals came together to address a critical need," said Jones Nichols. "[Families] are making tough choices between paying their rent, paying their utilities and actually paying for food."
The bishop hopes their investment will touch people from all walks of life and encourage others to join them in paying it forward.
"As much as our society sometimes looks like it's lost its moral compass … there are still some people in our community that have a strong moral compass that like helping people."
Brown says the church and its members donated nearly $1 million to the community in 2016.
Members of the congregation plan to hand deliver the check to the Chesapeake Public Schools on Wednesday.