Marie Gatton Phillips Elementary School in Sacramento recently received a significant donation from a former graduate and community member, James Reynolds. Principal Jeff Jones said the gesture has been uplifting in the midst of a difficult school year.

Jones said he received a phone call several weeks ago from Reynolds’ sister saying he would like to make a donation of $20,000 to the school. Reynolds was a graduate of the school around the year 195 when it was still a high school and he wanted to give back to the school, according to Jones.

“She said $20,000. You could have knocked me over with a feather,” Jones said. “It’s been a crazy year already, but it certainly was a lift for us, that’s for sure.”

According to Jones, Reynolds passed away shortly after writing the check for the school. He had made donations to the Sacramento school multiple times in the past as well, he said, by paying for students’ lunches and helping to purchase new technology equipment. The donations, however, were always anonymous. “...after his passing … the family, they think it’s okay that he get some recognition that he so richly deserves,” Jones said.

Reynolds’ daughter, Debbie Reynolds-Gillette, said that her father had a soft spot for the school and talked about how his teachers impacted his life. She said he remembered going to school and not having a lot of money and wanted to help other students to make sure they were taken care of with the necessary resources to learn and excel in school.

Jones said that while it is still undecided how the money will be used, he hopes to upgrade the school’s technology equipment and possibly renovate or upgrade the playground as well, which he said is starting to show some wear and tear with regular use by both students and the community.

Jones said he is grateful people like Reynolds are still in the world.

“It really is amazing that things like this still happen,” he said. “I think it’s great that there are people like Mr. Reynolds still in the world who think about our children and their education and it’s just fantastic that there are people like that that are so generous and kind.”

Christie Netherton,, 270-691-7360

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