Pinellas Lunch Pals program is changing lives

Program has grown to more than 80 Pinellas schools

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - Mt. Vernon Elementary 4th grader Davion Garcia Ramos and his Lunch Pals mentor, Ron Diner, talk about everything. They formed a friendship three years ago. 

"Today, we're talking about the storm and it's disconcerting for Davion because he has family in Puerto Rico and they haven't been able to reach their family," Diner said. 

Ramos is glad to work through it with Diner. "It makes me feel like I'm feeling through emotions but trying to get back up on my feet," Ramos said. 

The Lunch Pals program started at Mt. Vernon Elementary School. Diner, who works at Raymond James Financial, had a big hand in helping it grow to more than 50 businesses and community partners mentoring in more than 80 Pinellas County schools. 

They meet for 30 minutes once a week. 

"It's a small amount of time to take out of your day but to a kid, it might be the brightest spot in their entire week," Community Liaison Sabrina Adams said. 

Ramos said he used to have trouble reading.

"It was kind of tough sounding out words," he said.

Reading with Diner for the last 3 years has helped.

"We'll read a chapter and if we find a word we don't know, we have a notebook. We look it up and find a definition," Diner said. 

Diner hopes he'll continue to be Ramos' "lunch pal" when he's in middle school next year. Ramos shares that hope.

"I will remember him for the rest of my life. He wasn't just my reader buddy, but my friend... a true friend," Ramos said. 

Get involved in Lunch Pals: www.lunchpals.org

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