By Mark Messer
BLUE HILL — A $50,000 gift from the parent of a George Stevens Academy boarding student who graduated in 2018 has boosted efforts to make sure that all students are able to eat lunch at the school.
The donor, a businessman from China, made the gift partly to honor what he said was the wonderful experience his child had at GSA and partly because of a lifelong interest in feeding people.
The man grew up in a small town where many came to school without food. When his mother saw them going hungry, she insisted that they share their food with these schoolmates. She knew how important good nutrition was to education, and the lessons she taught her son about hunger and giving to others have stayed with him.
The gift substantially expands GSA’s Food for Thought Fund, which was established last summer when Blue Hill resident Dorothy “Dottie” B. Hayes made a major gift to the school as an expression of her lifelong love of the Blue Hill Peninsula and strong commitment to education. Her experience in schools informed her belief, like that of the recent donor, that a hungry student cannot be a focused learner.
Hayes passed away in August, but her support for the program lives on. Her family has asked, in lieu of flowers, that contributions be made to the GSA Food for Thought Fund, Friends of Blue Hill Bay and the Blue Hill Concert Association. Contributions to the school have already been made in her memory to help feed hungry students, of which there are more than some might expect.
In Hancock County, the rate of child food insecurity, or not having dependable access to nutritious food, was approximately 20 percent in 2016, according to Feeding America. Information from a 2017 needs assessment by Downeast Community Partners revealed that more than 42 percent of Hancock County students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
In a public school, the federal lunch program helps keep students fed, but as an independent town academy, George Stevens Academy does not participate in that program. Some of that need at the school is met by income from the Food for Thought Fund.
While the approximately $7,500 generated by the fund helps tremendously, Head of School Tim Seeley has estimated that it will take nearly three times as much revenue to meet the need completely. Still, the school is committed that no student will go hungry.
The anonymity of recipients of help from the fund was important to Hayes and is important to the school. A confidential survey went out in the school’s back-to-school mailing to determine eligibility for support. An application for help paying for lunches was included with that survey.
Parents who have not yet applied for help can contact Fred Heilner of the business office at [email protected] or at 374-5081. The survey and application also are available for download from the Documents, Back to School section of the GSA website, www.georgestevensacademy.org
Anyone interested in supporting GSA’s efforts can mail a check made payable to “GSA-Food for Thought” to the GSA Development Office, 23 Union St., Blue Hill, ME 04614 or visit www.georgestevensacademy.org/onlinegift and specify the Food for Thought Fund.