Higley Mike Thomason, Amy Kaylor, Trevor Barrett, Josh Goldberg, Stephanie Boughton, Jason Erickson, Amy Valdez and Sterling Barrett

Attending the check presentation by Barrett Financial Group were, from left, Higley Mike Thomason, Amy Kaylor, Trevor Barrett, Josh Goldberg, Stephanie Boughton, Jason Erickson, Amy Valdez and Sterling Barrett.

It’s been 18 years since Trevor Barrett opened the Gilbert mortgage company that bears his name.

In that time, Barrett Financial Group has grown from a one-man shop to a company with 250 loan officers who have originated $4 billion in loans in serving homeowners in Arizona and seven other states.

Last month, Barrett added “angel” to his resume and those of his loan officers when his company paid off a $50,000 tab the Higley Unified School District faced as a result of unpaid school lunches.

The district maintains an “angel fund” for people who want to donate money to defray the cost of the unpaid lunches and loan officer John Hegglin told his coworkers he had been donating to the fund for delinquent cafeteria accounts for three years, Barrett spokeswoman Alexandra Hill said.

Hegglin then invited other loan officers and Barrett to join him and “people loved the idea, so they began to brainstorm ideas on how to make it happen,” Hill said.

Barrett and some of his employees then met with Higley Superintendent Dr. Mike Thomason, who “described the invisible poverty that has been taking place in our community,” Hill said.

“Every year the school district racks up thousands of dollars of debt from unpaid cafeteria meals and this year is no different as they are continuing to provide meals to students amidst the COVID chaos,” Hill said.

Another loan officer suggested trading in “Power Points” earned by employees who write loans.

The “Power Points” are awarded by United Wholesale Mortgage to the loan officers when they use its services and are then exchanged for cash bonuses or other prizes.

“Every year, the district racks up thousands of dollars in debt from unpaid meals and this year is no different,” Barrett said. “In response, we have collaborated with UWM to allow us to trade in Partner Points in return for a charitable donation on behalf of each of our loan officers. With our donation, the school district can pay off their entire cafeteria fund debt.”

After presenting the check for $50,000 to Thomason on April 24, Higley spokeswoman Michelle Reese said the donation cleared the balances on hundreds of students’ accounts.

And it came at a time when the district has been distributing 3,000 of free breakfast-lunch packs a day to anyone under 18 five days a week since schools were closed March 15.

Reese said district officials were gratified that Barrett employees sacrificed their bonuses “at this unprecedented time in history” and praised the company for its support.

 “When students in Higley seek to purchase a cafeteria meal, they are allowed to do so, even when they have a balance,” she said. “The district works with families to try help those in need, directing them to federal free and reduced-lunch meal programs.”

“But unpaid meals can mean unexpected debt for the district and a need to redirect precious dollars to pay off those sums,” she added.

Thomason was grateful to Barrett Financial Group, stating “This donation will take a stress off Higley families, which is much needed any time but especially right now. It will also allow the district to move forward without meal service debt as we start looking at next school year.”

Higley’s free meal distribution durign the closure is not needs-based and families do not have to attend Higley schools to qualify. HUSD also offered to deliver meals to community non-profits to support children 18 and under.

Hill said UWM told Barrett his firm was the first mortgage brokerage to ever do something like this with the Partner Points.

“We love helping those around us and we plan to assist other school districts in our area in the future,” she added.