ST. PAUL, Minn. - When Philando Castile, who was killed in his car by a police officer in 2016, was a school meals supervisor in a school in St. Paul, Minn., he was well known for paying for the lunches of kids who could not afford it.
Now a charity founded in his memory, Philando Feeds the Children, has paid off the entire school lunch debt for all 56 schools in the city’s public school system.
"That means that no parent of the 37,000 kids who eat meals at school need worry about how to pay that overdue debt," according to an update from the charity’s website. "Philando is still reaching into his pocket, and helping a kid out. One by one. With your help."
The crowdfunding charity was the idea of Metropolitan State University professor Pamela Fergus, whose aim was to raise $5,000 to wipe out lunch debt for students at J.J. Hill Montessori, where Castile worked.
Fergus approached Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, about the idea of raising money to pay for students' lunch debt at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul.
"(Valerie) said, 'He would love this whole idea,'" Fergus recalled. "She said Philando would come home every single day and call me and tell me about school that day and he would tell me about how many kids that he actually had to pay for lunch because they were so in debt in their lunch account."
Instead, Philando Feeds the Children has raised more than $150,000, leading Fergus and her students to drop off a $102,000 check to cover the lunch debt for students at all the public schools in St. Paul. Fergus said the organization will use the rest of the money to help more students in the future.
"At these strange moments it hits me, the generosity that people have already shown," Fergus said, back in December when the fund was approaching $100,000.
Nearly 4,000 people have donated to the fund.
Castile was shot and killed by a police officer during a 2016 traffic stop in suburban St. Anthony, an incident that was filmed on Facebook Live by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and sparked nationwide protests against police brutality. The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was later found not guilty of manslaughter and other charges.