By Greg Ritchie
ELKHART – For over 40 years local churches in the Elkhart area have held an annual luncheon for Elkhart Independent School District (EISD.) All are welcome – from teachers and administrators – to maintenance and bus drivers. The meal was held this Monday, Aug. 8 at First Baptist Church in Elkhart.
The area churches all work together to feed almost 200 staff who look forward to the event every year. Some churches provide the main courses, others side dishes and drinks. Stockman’s Cafe set up the massive dessert table.
Elkhart First Baptist preacher Jason Hoffman said it’s a way to show the school district how much their work means to the community.
“It’s an opportunity to appreciate the folks who are molding the next generation,” Hoffman said. “We want the school to know that we are for them. Not just the children, not just the teachers, but the entire staff.
Arriving at the church, Pastor Hoffman was joined by Randy Blanton of the Family of Faith Church in Elkhart. They greeted the EISD employees as they came for lunch. The teachers and employees were welcomed in groups throughout the day so there would be plenty of time for them to eat and enjoy.
Further inside, Pastor Carmen Rickle from First United Methodist Church was busy greeting those arriving on the other side of the church.
“Hello! Hello! How are you? I haven’t seen you since last year,” Rickle exclaimed to the first group to come for the luncheon.
“This lunch shows the school that we are invested in them,” Rickle explained. “We know our teachers have a tough job but that we are here to be in partnership with them.”
Members from Pastor David Franklin’s First Congregational Methodist Church provided the side dishes this year. The group of churches decided years ago to spread the load given how many mouths they would need to feed.
As EISD employees filed inside, the food could be smelled in the hallways. Long tables were already filled with chatting teachers. There was plenty of good food, shop talk and letting off steam to be dealt with before students return to the district Thursday, Aug. 11.
The homemade food was varied and served with care by the volunteers from the various churches.
Margaret Barnett teaches second grade at Elkhart Elementary School. She has been an educator for 18 years. She had already finished her lunch and was talking school with a group of fellow teachers.
“This lunch is something we love and absolutely look forward to every year,” Barnett said. “We feel the love of the community and the churches. Through this lunch we know that they support us throughout the year.”
Asked if the teachers are ready for school to start, Barnett replied, “Oh yes we have been working for weeks!”
Greg Ritchie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org