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Austin’s infill builders raise $10K to pay for 3,400 student lunches

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

With an eye toward public education, infill developers in Austin are tackling a new problem.

Builders Care Austin, a 501(c)(3) that allows infill builders around town to make philanthropic contributions, has raised $10,000 to help pay off the lunch debts of Austin Independent School District students. Originally, Ed Ishmael, a local lawyer and developer who builds houses on Austin’s east side and who led this contribution campaign, told the Austin Monitor that he was only looking to raise $1,500 to pay off the debt that students in the 78702 ZIP code owed their school lunchrooms.

However, when he sent out the original request for contributions on April 6, he ended up receiving $7,500 within 72 hours. Within the week, Builders Care Austin had received $10,000 in donations from more than 50 builders and other professionals affiliated with infill building in Austin. Receiving almost seven times what he anticipated caught Ishmael “flat-footed” and so he reallocated the money to be used to begin to pay off the entirety of AISD’s $31,000 total student lunch debt.

“This is huge,” said AISD’s executive director of food services and warehouse operations Anneliese Tanner in a press release. “We estimate this $10,000 will pay for 3,400 student lunches and reduce the districtwide student lunch debt considerably.”

Although this is the organization’s initial philanthropic effort, and the nonprofit was just established in February of this year, Ishmael told the Monitor that he hoped to repeat this successful donation campaign to clear AISD’s remaining $21,000 in debt. “I would like to see that happen before the next school year starts,” he said.

Unfortunately, according to Lindsey Bradley, AISD food service marketing specialist, because the AISD lunch program is federally funded, this $10,000 contribution is separate from the $30 million debt that the district is facing.

Nevertheless, Ishmael explained that helping students eat lunch is something that was discussed frequently on the nonprofit board and resonated with the members. “It just seemed like an appropriate way to give back to the community,” he said.

Austin ISD received the Builders Care check at a presentation Tuesday, May 8, at Blackshear Elementary, and the district plans to apply the funds immediately.

This article has been changed since publication, to clarify the relationship between AISD’s existing debt and the payment made to AISD.

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