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Secret Santa pays off students' lunch debts in Herminie

| Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, 12:06 p.m.

A “secret” Santa paid off more than 40 students' overdue school lunch accounts at H.W. Good Elementary in the Yough School District this week, school officials said.

The donor and his wife, who had a daughter in the school long ago, approached Principal Amy Larcinese on Monday after hearing about a secret Santa who paid off students' debts at another district, Larcinese said.

The school in Herminie, Sewickley Township, had 44 students whose accounts were in the red, including one whose family owed more than $400. The donors gave the school a check Wednesday for nearly $1,000 to clear the accounts and cover its most indebted student's meals for the rest of the month.

“I told him, ‘Words can't describe what my feelings are.' I had tears in my eyes,” Larcinese said. “It's just good to know there are so many good people out there who are willing to sacrifice to help others.”

She said the donor wanted to remain anonymous and didn't give her much information about himself except that he and his wife were residents of the district, which covers West Newton, Smithton, Sutersville, Madison, Arona, Sewickley Township and South Huntingdon, and their daughter had graduated from high school there in the 1980s.

H.W. Good Elementary has about 300 students in kindergarten through fourth grade, nearly half of whom come from economically disadvantaged families that qualify for free or reduced lunches, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Students who don't qualify for free meals get an account with the school that parents pay into monthly. Those accounts can go into the red if their families don't keep up with payments, because students aren't denied meals based on their accounts, Larcinese said.

“I've been in education 16 years, and I've never had someone go so far to help so many families at the holidays,” she said.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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