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Kenny Thompson, Local 51

When “Lunch Angel” Kenny Thompson, a Local 51 member out of Houston, Texas, paid off overdue lunch accounts at a Houston elementary school out of his own pocket in February 2014, he inspired others with his act of kindness – and the story went viral.

“I never expected it to happen. I was just concerned about my kids,” Thompson said over the phone. “It was 66 kids, $465 dollars, and one thing led to another. I didn’t work for two weeks because I couldn’t handle everything that was going on with that story!”

A member of Local 51 (Stagehands, Houston, TX) since October 2000, Thompson is the Assistant Electrician at Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars. Through the school district, he also mentors six students weekly.

With all the publicity around Thompson’s act of kindness -- he even got a call from the Ellen DeGeneres Show -- he started getting contacted by his community and all over the country to help. About 8 weeks after he paid for the first 66 lunch accounts, Thompson says that donations have already impacted 145,000 students locally.

“I’m very proud to be a union member because that’s where some of the very first monies came from, out of the pockets of my brothers,” said Thompson.

When Thompson first started appearing on television, many of his local union brothers and sisters started calling and texting him. One computer-savvy brother tracked every article and tweet for the first week, while others went to Thompson’s house to donate money.

“You really know what kind of people you work with if someone’s in trouble or someone passes away,” said Thompson. “But when this took place, they jumped on the bandwagon and did all they could to help and support me. It’s been a real honor to work with these guys.”

Local 51 Business Agent Mark Rhoads says that he didn’t know anyone in the Local “who didn’t think Kenny was awesome.” Rhoads also was not surprised when he first heard that Thompson was paying overdue lunch accounts for students.

“We voted through the Executive Board to run donations to elementary schools through Kenny’s charity,” said Rhoads. “It was a unanimous vote. We had to help out.”

Now when he’s on call, Thompson’s union brothers will ask for updates and occasionally slip him $20 to feed needy children. Old contacts from touring companies are reaching out to donate. IATSE members and representatives from around the country have sent money and shown support.

Despite being in the spotlight, Thompson says he’s still a Broadway lighting guy. He loves his theater and the people that he works with. He’s continuing to work towards his goal of having additional funding programs for more major Houston-area school districts.

“For the next two weeks, I’ll only be doing shows at night and on weekends, so all day long I’m not in the theatre,” said Thompson. “There’s plenty of time to volunteer. Find something you’re passionate about. It’ll impact the lives of others, but it’ll impact your life too.”