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Madison grandmother spreads love to La Follette students through lunches

Debbie Olson prepares lunches for a group of La Follette High school students each school day and her best ingredient is love.

“It makes me feel that my love is being received, and my kindness is being received,” said Debbie, who is affectionately called “Grandma Debbie” by the kids. "That is what it's about is just starting small and close to home with little acts of kindness.”



Debbie’s kindness is served to a crowd of hungry teenagers at her home each school day. Yet, her house wasn’t always filled with students. Four years ago, her eldest grandson Camron Yahnke started his freshman year at La Follette High. The school is walking distance from her home, so, Debbie invited him over for lunch.

“I made him a grilled cheese sandwich,” she remembers. “And then the next day, he asked if his friend Justin could come. And then it just grew from there. Just kids that he's played basketball with started coming and other friends and classmates and it snowballed from there.”


The size of the crowd depends on the menu. Grandma Debbie’s hot ham and cheese sliders, baked ziti and chicken wings are some of their favorites. On these days, Debbie recalls feeding about 35 kids during one lunch break. Though, she says it’s usually around 20. She doesn’t know ahead of time how many students will be arriving so she says she always tries to prepare enough for everybody just in case. She looks forward to their visit every day.

“I love being a fly on the wall and listening to their conversations about how their day is going,” Debbie said. “I just have the satisfaction that they have a safe place to go among friends where they know that they're being cared for and that they can be comfortable and be themselves.”

The kids call their group the “Lunch Crew.” The students value Debbie's generosity and are taking away major life lessons about being kind to others. "She's kind of like a second grandma to all of us, really," Anthony D'Amour said. “She’s always supporting us and goes out of her way. Just the kindness of her heart to just cook for all of us, you can just tell that she cares about us.”


This content was originally published by WKOW on January 13, 2022. To view the full story on their website, please click here.

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