A memorial fund set up to honor the late Philando Castile has raised enough money to clear a year’s worth of student lunch debt across St. Paul, MN.
Castile, whose killing by police officer Jeronimo Yanez sparked nationwide outrage, worked as a nutrition services supervisor at the J.J. Hill Montessori school in St. Paul.
The Philando Feeds The Children Fund was started by Pam Fergus, a local community college professor who was inspired by stories of Castile having helped pay for student’s lunches with his own money.
“We just had this little idea that we were going to help do Mr. Phil’s job and make sure you guys have good lunch to eat every day,” Fergus told students, according to a WCCO report.
In total, more than 2000 donors helped the fund raise over $72,000—well above the initial $5,000 goal—which was presented to officials at J.J. Hill on Friday by Castile’s mother Valerie.
“We as a community have to work together in order for things to work,” Valerie told WCCO. “This would’ve meant everything to him.”
Castile was shot and killed by Yanez while driving with his girlfriend and her daughter in the Twin Cities suburb of Falcon Heights. His death sparked waves of protests across St. Paul, which were renewed after Yanez was found not guilty for Castile’s death earlier this summer.
While the money raised in Castile’s honor is believed to be enough to wipe out St. Paul Public Schools’ $400 per-student lunch costs for the coming year, Fergus noted that the fund’s work is hardly done.
“Kids gotta eat every every semester,” she wrote on the PFTC crowdfunding page. “We are set to help pay off lunch debt this school year, but will keep asking for donations and sharing of this site because we plan to ALWAYS find a way to help! Philando Feeds the Children is gonna be around a LONG time :)”
According to St. Paul Public Schools’ nutrition services director, Stacy Koppen, around 900 students started this school year owing money for school lunches—a number that typically grows to approximately 2,000 students by year’s end.
In addition to the Philando Feeds the Children fund, a separate scholarship has been established in his name by his former classmates at St. Paul’s Central High School. The $5,000 award is intended for an “African American male or to a member of another underrepresented demographic in education.”
Last summer, a local auto mechanic also announced plans to fix and replace tail light and license plate bulbs to ensure more people aren’t pulled over by police as Castile was.
“We will be replacing tailight and license plate bulbs indefinitely FOR FREE,” Unity Autoworks, a Twin Cities car repair and customization shop, explained. “A defective bulb should never be a reason to be murdered.”