The owner of The Aquarian Gift Shop in Belfast late last year formed a group to raise money for outstanding lunch accounts at local schools.

On April 18, Jen Wenz was able to present a $500 check to staff at Capt. Albert Stevens School in Belfast.

Wenz said she was shocked to learn in December the number of meal accounts for students that were empty or overdrawn — meaning students were missing out on meals. She felt so strongly about helping out, she decided to form the group she calls Spiritual Warriors. In a few short months, the Spiritual Warriors solicited donations from Aquarian customers, neighbors, friends and family, enough to make their first donation.

Though it was school vacation week, two women who manage the cafeteria — Stacie Hustus and Marianne Abbott — agreed to meet with Wenz and Spiritual Warriors Board members Pam Schultz and Regina Quattrucci to accept the funds.

"We talked about the purpose of our program as they shared stories of far too many instances in which they have had to witness kids coming to school sleepy and hungry with no money to pay for their lunches asking for something more to eat or another milk," Wenz said in a Facebook post.

"(That is) a request fulfilled on many occasion by staff members taking money from their own pocket to pay for. Children are hesitant when a three-day weekend or week-long vacation from school because school, for whatever reason, is the only place they receive a meal and are able to eat. Too common a problem to hear and see on a daily basis and not acceptable by any standard.

"And we presented them with a check for $500 to help pay outstanding lunch accounts for kids to receive healthy breakfast and lunch in school that you — customers, spiritual warriors, neighbors, friends and family — all contributed and donated to. This is who your donation is helping today; please help us continue this effort by donating your items or money to Paying it forward for Kids Lunch Program and we will show you who your donation helps next!"

According to Schultz, the group continues to raise funds. Wenz said the Spiritual Warriors' mission is to help kids get a healthy meal so their only focus is to be a child and do well in school.

For more information on how to donate, contact Wenz via The Aquarian Gift Shop Facebook page.