Service Award Honors Churches

Dr. April Howard (second from left), superintendent of Jackson County Schools, smiles with the most recent winners of the school system’s Excellence in Service awards. From left are Bob Habeck, operations pastor at Southside Church, and Renee Cook and John Ryan of Hope Crossings Church.

Dr. April Howard (second from left), superintendent of Jackson County Schools, smiles with the most recent winners of the school system’s Excellence in Service awards. From left are Bob Habeck, operations pastor at Southside Church, and Renee Cook and John Ryan of Hope Crossings Church.

The congregations and staff members of two local churches were honored for their support of the students and staff of the Jackson County School System March 12. Southside Church and Hope Crossings Church were presented Excellence in Service awards at the monthly meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education.

Marlana Meehan, a fourth-grade teacher at South Jackson Elementary School, nominated Southside Church, noting that SJES forged a close relationship more than 10 years ago when the Southside Backpack Program was created under Pam Johns’ administration.

The program, which provides food for children at risk of food insufficiency when they are away from school, “has continued to grow and serve many of our financially struggling families over the years,” Meehan wrote in her nomination. She pointed out that the church relies on donations and volunteer time from the congregation to meet the demand.

“Southside has also provided extra holiday dinners and made sure our families have assistance for holidays … (and) supported and uplifted the staff and administration during special events, the move to the former site of Kings Bridge Middle School, and in several other capacities.”

Bob Habeck, Southside’s operations pastor, accepted the award for the church and its congregation.

Hope Crossings was nominated by JCSS support staffer Cheryl Hall for its relationship with North Jackson Elementary School.

“It’s a great feeling when you know all you have to do is shoot an email and within the same day or next morning your needs are met,” Hall wrote. “I can only imagine what the world would be like if we had more people serving our community so freely.”

Hall works in the school clinic and often identifies special needs where, she said, “Hope Crossings steps in and provides.” And it doesn’t stop in the clinic.

“They provide us with a special prayer for our school, staff, and children at the beginning of every school year, along with a delicious luncheon and gift basket for the needs of our school children to begin the year. They show up early some mornings, not just leaving items, but actually serving the staff donuts, hot chocolate, and coffee. They send staff birthday cards and bring goodie baskets on special occasions for encouragement.

“This church body will be blessed for the loving, caring, serving hearts they have showed our school community year after year,” she wrote.

Pastor Chris Stephens, John Ryan, and Renee Cook accepted the award for the church and its congregation.

The awards were presented by Dr. Selena Blankenship, JCSS human resources director. Honorees are chosen by a committee of personnel from across the district, and Blankenship said anyone can nominate “a deserving individual or group,” which highlights the “unsung heroes who serve the students and staff of the school system,” often without recognition of any kind.

The nomination form is available online at www.bit.ly/JCSS_ESA; nominators must provide their names and email addresses for verification purposes, but they may choose to remain anonymous when the winners are announced.

School system employees, volunteers, or community partners will be considered “for going above and beyond in service to our school community,” she said.

Nominations should range from 150-300 words and should be submitted by the 25th of each month. The award is presented monthly, and nominations remain active during the school year in which they were submitted.

JCSS serves more than 7,700 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in 10 schools throughout Jackson County.