QUINCY -- Kamryn Flachs-Hill pulled on a pair of rubber gloves, ready to get to work at Horizons Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry.
Students at St. James Lutheran School celebrated Lutheran Education Week on Tuesday by giving back to the community.
On the day designated to "Love Your Neighbor," students volunteered at Horizons, dropped off a donation for the food pantry at the Lutheran Church of St. John and visited with residents at Good Samaritan Home and the Illinois Veterans Home -- and invited area emergency personnel to stop by the school at 900 S. 17th for cookies and lemonade as a way to say thank you for their service.
"Giving back to the community is more important for us because they need more help than we do," said Kamryn, a sixth-grader. "Helping out for the community really shows other people that no matter what, they can succeed."
Principal Nathan Landskroener said the day's activities help students appreciate the ways their lives have been blessed.
"I'm hoping it's going to bring some awareness to our students that there are people that are in unfortunate circumstances in their lives and also that there are things they can do to help other people," Landskroener said.
Sixth-grade teacher Johnna Fuqua said, "We want the kids to be able to experience what it means to reach out to the community around you, not just live in it and survive in it but to actually be a part of it.
"We're hoping the kids see this as a real valuable experience and that it inspires them to continue to find ways to help others."
Sixth-graders Teriss Farran, Hailey McKinney and Grace Marner helped wipe down tables while other classmates stocked the dessert table, carried trays and helped with the dishes.
"It means a lot to us. We get to give back," Terriss said.
Hailey said, "A verse in the Bible says ‘love your neighbor as yourself.' That's why we're helping out. It just kind of gives me joy to know that I'm doing something for the community and helping out people who need help."
Horizons Executive Director Sarah Stephens said getting the students involved helps develop a heart for service in the next generation.
"It's great to have young kids out doing service work and to have fun while doing it," she said. "We love having as many kids come and help us as they can."
The celebration of Lutheran Education Week, and its theme of "Real. Present. God" kicked off with Pajama Day and a pillow fight on Monday and continues with Red, White and Blue Day on Wednesday, Game Day on Thursday and Crazy Day on Friday. Special activities each day and afternoon treats tied to the theme added to the fun for the school's 149 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Landskroener said, "Our students really look forward to this week. They start talking about it months ago. It's a fun time for students, a fun time for faculty.
"We celebrate our school and Lutheran schools around the world that serve over 200,000 students."
The week wraps up with the school's annual Spring Fling event at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Quincy Senior and Family Center, 639 York. The event features a masquerade ball-themed dinner and live auction. Tickets are $30 per person and are available by calling the school at 217-222-8267.