Giving Thanks: Local businesses carry out "11th Commandment"

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

As children lined up in the cafeteria of Clara Byrd Baker Elementary School, another line extended from the door of a tiny office room upstairs.

Educators shuffled through the room, scooping lettuce, cheese, sour cream, salsa onto warm tortillas piled high with chicken or tuna from Fat Tuna Grill.

Bob Smolko ladled steaming she-crab soup into Styrofoam cups for teachers to grab to complete the meal.

Smolko, who delivers free lunch to Williamsburg-James City County school teachers every other Thursday, believes this act is the 11th Commandment: "Honor Thy Educator."

"It wasn't on the original tablets," he says.

Looking for a way to thank teachers, Smolko, his wife Peggie and Keith Freeland came up with the idea — the Smolkos are realtors with Re/Max All American and work often with Freeland, a market leader at Movement Mortgage. They delivered the first meal to Warhill High School in August 2015.

With help from Chef Ken Brown of Fat Tuna Grill, who prepares and provides the food, the "Honor Thy Educator" program has continued and grown, though it remains an out-of-pocket endeavor for those involved. The team has delivered to most of the local public schools, as well as Walsingham Academy, showing up for a Thursday lunch period with food and drinks in tow.

"One of reasons we do it on Thursdays is because Thanksgiving's on a Thursday," Smolko said.

He said the current goal is to visit each local school at least twice a year, though he hopes the visits increase. The 11th Commandment team also hopes to continue carrying out the 12th Commandment, "Honor Thy First Responders," delivering meals to local safety officials when possible.

Interestingly, the idea has grown beyond Williamsburg.

Smolko presented the concept to thousands of realtors at a Tom Ferry Success Summit this past August in Las Vegas and said he received response from people across the country, and in other countries, hoping to start similar programs in their own communities.

"It's just getting those educators thanked, as well as ours," he said.

Smolko stressed the 11th Commandment initiative has never been about generating recognition or business. It's simply a way to thank those in oftentimes thankless jobs.

"Oh, it brightens my day and encourages me, because it makes me feel like people are supporting teachers," said Stacy Freeman, a gifted resource teacher at Clara Byrd Baker who grabbed a plate last Thursday.

"It's nice to kind of get some recognition and some lovin' on," she said.

That's what it's all about, Smolko said.

"The whole day is just to say thank you."

For more information, contact Bob Smolko at BobSmolko@gmail.com.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

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