BISMARCK, ND - It's quite a task to get more than 650 students through the lunch line in about two hours, and clean up between shifts. Without the help of some retired volunteers, Lincoln Elementary would be in a real bind.
On top of the staff at Lincoln Elementary, students have another group of people to rely on at lunchtime.
Four members of the community spend their days at the school helping the kids load up their trays with the day's choices, grabbing utensils or just seeing how the day is going for the children.
Luther Bell wears many hats at Lincoln Elementary.
“Cleaning tables, sweeping floors, helping kids, antagonizing kids, joking with the kids, having a great time,” Bell said.
Bell started volunteering when the school opened six years ago and now the kids refer to him as "grandpa". He's one of four retired volunteers helping the students while they're trying to eat their midday meal.
“I've been blessed in so many ways in my lifetime and I just felt like I needed to give back, “volunteer Ron Kinzler said.
Kinzler helps the students put trays away at the end of the meal, while Ruth Praska goes through wiping up the tables and floors. Both have grandkids in the fifth grade this year.
“They're active, they're busy but they bring you joy every day,” Praska said. “You never know what one of them is going to say.”
They say they were just as excited for that first day as the kids were.
“Summer gets to be a long time and it's just neat to get back to school again just like with the kids to get back into a routine,” Kinzler said.
They also say they enjoy watching the students go from kindergarten to the leaders of the school.
“The poor little people didn't even know how to open their milk I felt so sorry for them,” Praska said.
“It's just fun to see them as they mature and they grow in their skills,” Kinzler said.
While the volunteers try and help the students along each day, the best they can.
Kinzler and Praska say with their grandkids leaving next year, they're not sure if they'll be back. Bell says he's hoping to start spending time in the classroom with the first graders, helping them learn to read.