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Mon, Dec. 09

Local restaurants, citizens help school district write off student lunch debt
‘We can’t let a kid go without a hot lunch’

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Guff Brown, owner of G’s Burgers in Clarkdale, brings pies to the Sept. 28 fundraiser lunch held at Verde Valley Rentals in Cottonwood. Photo courtesy Ken Wood

COTTONWOOD – When he and his buddies are building cars, it’s Ken Wood who rounds them all up for lunch.

At 11:30 a.m., precisely, Wood lets the boys know it’s time to break bread.

That’s why his friends call him Lunchbox.

It’s ironic that he initiates feeding time, Wood said Monday, because growing up in a southern California suburb with three siblings, it wasn’t always easy for his folks to feed six mouths.

That, Wood said, is why he helped raise approximately $2,800 so Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District could provide hot meals for the students whose parents were behind on their lunch payments.

“I wish there were more people like Ken in this world,” said Steve King, Cottonwood-Oak Creek superintendent.

Wood remembers the day – Sept. 23 – when he found out that Cottonwood-Oak Creek had a near-$3,000 school lunch debt that forced the school to provide cold food rather than hot food to its students who showed a negative balance on their lunch accounts.

“I had to raise money to help,” he said. “We can’t let a kid go without a hot lunch. It causes bullying and it causes shame. When people see you’re not getting a hot lunch, it makes for a bad day for a child.”

So Wood reached out to the restaurants where he and his buddies eat their lunch. Five local restaurants, Tavern Grille, G’s Burgers, Calavera Bar and Grill, Steak N Stuff, and Scott’s Main Street Café, provided food for a Sept. 28 picnic outside Verde Valley Rentals in Cottonwood.

“We didn’t charge. This was all free,” Wood said. “I asked everyone to come eat and if it filled you belly, please donate. And they did just that.”

Less than four hours of good eats and good hearted people earned $2,074. And with other donations thanks to a video Wood shot in which he asked for community support, the district’s roughly $2,800 lunch debt was cleared.

“I proudly handed the money to the school [district] and [the debts] were marked paid in full and [the district] notified all children in our district were back to getting a hot meal,” Wood said.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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