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The City Journals

Golden anniversary turns golden moment for local school

Feb 07, 2019 02:33PM ● By Jet Burnham

Principal Jim Birch and lunch worker Becky Hutchings met the Parks with a hug. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

It was a golden moment at West Jordan High School when West Jordan residents Sherri and Bill Park celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a donation to help 50 students pay for their school lunch.

“We wanted to celebrate—50 years is a long time,” Sherri said. “We’ve been trying to think of ways to celebrate besides the usual party thing, which doesn’t really work out well for us because we have so many disabilities.”

Sherri called the cafeteria at West Jordan High School to ask if there were a few students they could help. She was told there were a few hundred students behind on their lunch balances. 

Sherri told the lunch clerk that they wanted to donate $1,000.

“She said, ‘Well, that’s nice’—then we both started to cry,” said Sherri.

When WJHS Principal Jim Birch heard about the offer, he was touched as well.

“I was shocked that on their day, their 50th wedding anniversary, that they would think of us,” he said.

With nearly 50 percent of the student body on the free and reduced lunch program and about 50 homeless students, the donation was appreciated.

“Obviously, we jumped at it,” Birch said. “We have a lot of kids we feed that the only meals they get are through our breakfast program and our lunch program, and then what we’re able to give them through the Principal’s Pantry to take home. So, this will go a long ways to helping those kids.”

The Parks chose to donate to WJHS because it is where their youngest son attended (30 years ago) but mainly because it is their neighborhood school.

“These kids probably live near us,” said Sherri, who feels strongly about supporting local schools. She said there were not any programs like the Principal’s Pantry when she was a teacher in the 90s. At that time, she would just ask the lunch workers for an extra roll when she had a hungry student.

Birch took the Parks on a tour of the school’s Principal Pantry, showing them the canned meats, cereal, pudding packs and boxes of mac-n-cheese that go home with students in need each day.

Sherri was surprised at the number of students being served by the pantry.

“We knew some students have trouble paying for lunch,” she said. “But I didn’t know it was this bad—I had no idea.”

The Parks didn’t expect any attention from the press — they didn’t even tell their family about their gift.

“For us, it’s just symbolic of 50 good years,” said Sherri.