“I want to be just like you,” a boy told Hinesville firefighter Alex Mason at Frank Long Elementary School on Wednesday.
Mason, in uniform and wearing his helmet, high-fived first- and second-graders as they entered the cafeteria.
The little firefighter wannabe was one of many school children who were greeted by Mason and other unfamiliar, but welcome, faces this week. In observance of National School Lunch Week, local police officers and firefighters served meals to students in Liberty County schools Wednesday through Friday.
Liberty County school nutrition director Dr. Chris Reddick said guest servers have volunteered for the annual observance for eight years. The Liberty County School System participated in the School Lunch Across the USA campaign sponsored by the non-profit School Nutrition Association, the Milk Processors Education Program (MilkPEP) and McCormick for Chefs.
Frank Long Elementary Assistant Principal Vivian Gilliard was pleased with the program.
“It’s nice to see them involved in the school,” Gilliard said. “It seems to be going well. The children are enjoying it.”
Gilliard said Hinesville firefighters visited the school a few weeks ago to deliver a fire safety lesson and displayed a fire truck. Students learned how and when they should call 911 and “got a kick out of turning on the siren,” she said.
“This is a good follow-up to that,” Gilliard said.
“We work for the community,” firefighter Robert Kitchings said.
He said he and his fellow firefighters try to do as much fire safety outreach in the schools as possible. He said the guest server program allows students to see firefighters and police officers “In a relaxed environment,” rather than only seeing first responders in action during a crisis.
Hinesville Police Officer Greg Lachowsky joined firefighters. Wearing a hair net and plastic apron, he was instructed by Reddick and the school’s nutrition program manager on the proper technique for building tacos. Two of the hungry students who passed through the lunch line were his children.
“They don’t know I’m here,” Lachowsky said before students filed into the lunchroom. “Any chance I get to see them I take it.”