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St. Simon School helps first-responders feel ‘warm and fuzzy’

St. Louis County Police Officer Steve Boyer had fun with a couple St. Simon the Apostle students playing "red-light, green-light" as they walked on the school parking lot.

He was there on a breezy, chilly morning Oct. 11 for the school's breakfast for local first-responders — bagels, donuts, biscuits and gravy, burritos, fruit, juice and coffee. Boyer, who is partial to long john donuts, said he received a "warm fuzzy on a cold morning."

A pairshioner at Holy Spirit Parish in Maryland Heights, Boyer said the gesture was very welcome. "Sometimes there's not a whole lot of appreciation for public service," he said. "People take it for granted."

Students took turns staffing the food tables lined up along the parking lot and greeting their guests. Colin Torretta, a sixth-grader at St. Simon, handed the public servants a magnet with a First Responder's Prayer. He said he wanted the men and women to know that "we're praying for them and God's watching them and making sure they're safe."

Karin Hiatt, principal of St. Simon, was pleased to see the turnout of first-responders. The school first held a breakfast last fall after St. Louis County Police Officer Blake Snyder was shot and killed after responding to a disturbance call on Arno Drive near St. Simon. The breakfast was nothing fancy but well-attended, Hiatt said. Parent volunteers again helped organize the breakfast with donations from Giuseppi's Catering, Social Bar & Grill and individuals.

Romona Kaminski, assistant chief of the Fenton Fire Protection District who has two children at St. Simon School, said firefighters and paramedics respond to 911 calls for help "on people's worst days," so "it's great to just come and socialize, see people and enjoy the atmosphere. We like seeing kids and hanging out with them. We love being part of the community in good times and bad."

Brad Wideman, a firefighter/paramedic with the Mehlville Fire Protection District who tells children to ask their parents to check smoke-detector batteries, said being in the community is "a reminder that we do what we do to protect people."

"Especially in our turbulent times, it's good just to see people still have an appreciation of people who work as firefighters and medics," Wideman said.

Lt. Brad Kelling of the St. Louis County Police Department said it's easy for officers to feel as if they're doing a thankless job and that everyone is against them. When a school takes the time to serve breakfast, it's a big boost, he said.

A member of a Methodist church, Kelling said officers are urged to get support from churches, friends and family.

He called their job "a calling" and noted that "we're in a tough spot in law enforcement right now with a lot of negative criticisms. We're trying to make the best of the situation and trying to make it better. But it takes time. Working with the community and seeing the support out there is very important."

Will Shorey, an eighth-grader, pointed out the posters students made welcoming the guests and recognizing those who donated food. The first-responders, he said, "do a whole lot and don't get enough thank-yous."

Another eighth-grader, Luke Pierson, said he wanted to initiate a conversation with the guests. "They're just people like you and me, but they've done great things for us," he said. 

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