Newport Woman’s Act of Generosity

Nel Ward

Nel Ward

Thank you Central Oregon Coast NOW member Nel Ward for your generosity and for being the inspiration for the legislation that is proposed (HB 2545) to alleviate the problem of many Oregon families not being able to afford reduced priced school lunches.

Feb 27, 2015 by Elizabeth Seaberry

Last year, Newport-resident Nel Ward walked into Newport Intermediate School and paid off students’ past-due school lunch accounts -for every single student who owed money. Her act of generosity moved her community, and inspired legislators.

We talked with Nel about her act of kindness. We’re advocating for legislation to solve the problem of Oregon families not being able to afford the reduced-price lunch co-pay (HB 2545).

Can you share a little about your background?

I’m retired. I was a school teacher in Phoenix and moved here to Oregon 22 years ago. I opened a bed and breakfast and bookstore. Now I have small publishing company. I also write a blog.

How did you learn about the school lunch accounts?

I was on the internet. I read about this man in Texas who was a tutor at a middle or elementary school. He discovered that his school had kids whose families had trouble affording the reduced-price lunch co-pay. He went in and paid off what they owed. I went in and did it. I asked the school how much was owed. I wrote a check and that was that. It was a little over $300.

What was the school’s response?

It went viral because the school’s principal wrote a thank-you letter in the local newspaper. A lot of people around the town commented on it, including my dentist when I had a crown put on. It’s a small community. There are about 10,000 people in town. They took notice.

How did Rep. Gomberg learn about your story?

Probably through the newspaper thank-you. He said something about reading it. He called me a week or two ago and told me that he was introducing this bill (HB 2545) and asked me if I was interested in keeping up with it. I said yes.

What do you think of the bill to eliminate the reduced-price lunch co-pay?

I’m extremely supportive. In the past, I worked with a woman here who started an Operation Backpack in Newport. For a few years, my partner and I would pick up the backpacks and load them and take them back. We donated quite a bit to it. The foodshare took over the program, and they had enough volunteers.

Why should every Oregonian care about this?

This is about our future. These kids are the people who are going to be making decisions for us down the road. If they’re not well-educated, and of course food is a requirement for being well-educated, or if they’re not emotionally stable, food is a requirement for that too, then they’re less likely to make good decisions.

Besides, they’re little kids. They don’t deserve this. We’re a community. We should help the parents.

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