It was a gift of the heart to help the needs of some of the Bitterroot Valley’s most helpless residents: school students who have unpaid lunch tabs. When Max Coleman of Exit Realty in Hamilton came up with the idea, he had no idea of the impact he, his wife, Tina, and the rest of the Exit crew would have on people’s lives.
“It was a lot bigger than we thought,” said Coleman, the owner/broker of EXIT Realty Bitterroot Valley which has offices in Hamilton, Stevensville, and Darby.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, he went into the team meeting with the idea. He had found out that Hamilton had $880 in outstanding fees and figured that if each school had about that much, it would be a donation of around $5,000. However, after calling all of the schools, the total was much different. When it was all said and done, EXIT Realty had donated almost $15,000. In addition to Hamilton, Corvallis had $1,600, Darby had $1,260, Stevensville had $4,400 and Florence $4,900. Victor’s school lunches and breakfasts are all paid for through a grant so Coleman decided to donate $500 to the backpack program there. In Lone Rock, an anonymous donor picked up the tab there.
Coleman said the brokerage made the donation but all of the agents were in favor of this. “They made the sales from which the fees came. It was these fees that the donation came from.”
Tina Coleman said they had no idea of how great the need was, and is. “It’s a constant need. Wouldn’t it be lovely to find a permanent solution?”
As news of the donations have spread through social media, so have the good deeds. As other EXIT Realty brokerages have gotten wind of this, they have jumped on the band… – or lunch – wagon and paid off outstanding lunch bills around the nation. The president of EXIT Realty contacted Coleman and Tina to congratulate them and is encouraging more brokerages to continue to do this.
Around Montana there have been several people who have stepped up to pay off these debts. Carole Kiley of Helena donated to Jefferson Elementary School in Helena. An anonymous donor did the same for Lowell Elementary in Missoula.
Tina and Max are excited to see this trend and others similar to it. “It’s happening at Maria’s Restaurant here in Hamilton, they have a pay it forward board so people can pay for kids to eat during the Christmas vacation. Everything helps,” said Coleman.