For the past decade, the First United Methodist Church on Kirkman street has held it's annual Back to School Blessing to honor and pray for all of the 4,900 Calcasieu Parish School board employees as they embark upon the new school year and to also Bless the Backpacks of any school children who bring theirs in to the Sunday worship services. This year was no exception.

"The job that these people are doing is the most important job in the world, said Reverend Weldon Bares on Sunday following the morning service. "No matter if they are teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers or bus drivers; they are involved in the lives of children and this church believes in and prays for them as they begin this new school year."

The church went above and beyond the Blessing this year, and held a reception for CPSB employees after worship services where they were treated to fresh coffee, snacks and a chance for fellowship – as well as the gift of an insulated lunch box.

"Our membership has grown," explained Melonie Himel, director of programs & events for the church. "We wanted a way to ensure that we showed our gratitude to anyone who works in the school system so we added this reception and free gift to our program this year."

Mark Steward, principal of Combre-Fondel Elementary school, has absolutely felt the gratitude of the church. About to begin his second year on the job, Steward said that just last year, volunteers from the church approached him with offers of assistance with everything from badly needed supplies to extra personnel support – things that his struggling school has desperately needed.

"I think this is awesome," Steward said of the reception. "My wife and I received such a warm welcome from every church member when we walked in this morning. It's great to know that we are appreciated and that there are people out there that do care about how we're doing." Steward's school had been steadily declining until the church reached out to him. "This church has already been a blessing to my students and staff" he said.

As parishioners happily talked amongst themselves enjoying the reception, Calcasieu Parish School Board superintendent Karl Bruchhaus mingled among them, clearly basking in the glow of Rev. Bares positive message and offering his own for the upcoming school year. "The affect that one person can have on the life of a child is profound," he said. "Receiving these positive messages reinforces our ability to do good in the lives of the children."

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