Before Philando Castile became a household name after being fatally shot by police at a traffic stop in 2016, he was known for helping students who could not afford lunch at the school where he worked.
Castile, who was a cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul, Minnesota, used to memorize kids’ names and their food allergies, and often pay for their lunches out of his own pocket.
To honor Castile’s legacy of generosity, Pamela Fergus, an Inver Hills Community College professor, started the Philando Feeds the Children fund on YouCaring, a free fundraising and crowdfunding website.
The charity fund’s original goal was to raise to enough money to pay off the lunch debts of families at Castile’s former school, but the YouCaring initiative raised so much money that it is able to pay off all of lunch debts in the St. Paul public school system.
Thanks to the support of almost 4,000 donors, the fund surpassed its original goal of $5,000 and had collected more than $140,000 as of Sunday afternoon. Earlier in the week, Fergus gave a check for a little more than $35,000 to the St. Paul School District’s nutritional program to pay off students’ lunch debts, she told ABC News.
“Some kids get free lunch, but many kids come from families with incomes slightly above the cut off. They get behind in payments, and need our help,” the Philando Feeds the Children fund explains on its website. “St. Paul Public Schools System has 56 schools. K-12. That means that no parent of the 37,000 kids who eat meals at school need worry about how to pay that overdue debt.”
Fergus didn’t immediately return TIME’s request for comment, but she told ABC News that her goal was to “keep it going until the state of Minnesota provides food for all kids.”
Castile, who was known as “Mr. Phil” to the students at his school, was 32 years old when he was shot to death by police in Minnesota after being pulled over in a car. His girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook and Castile’s death sparked protests in the state’s capital.
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