Hawkins business donates $13K to cover all student cafeteria debt

Jeff Bobo • Dec 6, 2019 at 10:40 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County business owner Don Messina surprised Hawkins County school officials this week by donating $13,000 to wipe out all student cafeteria debt within the county school system.

Since 1990, Messina has owned and operated Automotive Scientific (ASI) in Rogersville, which reverse engineers and rebuilds automotive electronic parts to be used in many automotive components.

“Having been in business almost 30 years, we wanted to think outside of the box as to ways to give back to our community,” Messina said. “My staff and I feel very blessed, and we simply wanted to pass that same feeling along to the community we work and live in. We would love for our donation to be an example to other businesses in our area to rally and give during this time of year. It would be fantastic.”

Messina added, “Honestly, we just wanted to give back to the community that has supported us all these years. We are hoping that our donation will act as an example, a catalyst of sorts, for other businesses in our area to contribute to local needs, of which there are many.”

Messina initially approached the school system in October about wiping out student cafeteria debt. 

The balance of student meal debt in October was $12,974.82, which affected 850 students from 10 of the 18 schools in Hawkins County.

At that time there were 34 students at or above $100 in debt, 10 at $150 or more, and the highest debt was $228.

Messina made donations totaling $15,000 this holiday season. He also contributed $2,000 to the nonprofit Four Square Inc., which is the umbrella organization for the People Loving People annual free Thanksgiving dinner in Rogersville.

Because Messina is currently in Florida, he asked Four Square Inc. co-founders Dr. Blaine Jones and Mark DeWitte to present the check for $13,000 Thursday to Director of Schools Matt Hixson and Child Nutrition Director Mandy Kenner to cover the student cafeteria debt.

“We were initially shocked and then just overwhelmed with the generosity of Mr. Messina and his company, Automotive Scientific,” Kenner said. “No. 1, whoever thinks of helping in such a way and No. 2, who follows through with it.”

Hixson noted that with this donation all students had a “clean slate” on their cafeteria bills as of October when Messina initially approached the school system about the donation.

Since then, an additional $3,000 in student cafeteria debt has been incurred, which remains in place.

No child in the Hawkins County school system goes without lunch, regardless of whether they can pay that day, Hixson noted.

“We are beyond thankful to receive such a generous donation to assist with wiping out school lunch debt,” Hixson said. “As we all know, our school breakfast and lunch programs are critical components of our students’ success in school. I am consistently amazed at the level of love and generosity the community extends to our students and families in Hawkins County. Automotive Scientific Incorporated, Four Square Inc. and People Serving People are true examples of the generosity exhibited in this community. Thanks to these businesses and organizations for this donation and for all they do.”