Tuesday marks the first full day back to class for Eau Claire elementary school kids, and at one school, there were two familiar faces there to greet them.
Jerry and Helen Finch never thought they'd make a career out of helping kids cross the street.
“It never crossed my mind then," says Jerry.
Jerry, a retired truck driver, and Korean and Vietnam War veteran, became a crossing guard full-time about five years ago. He did it partly for something to do, but also to help others.
“I think it’s mainly just to watch the kids grow up a little bit,” he adds. “I never seen mine grow up too much, because i was always on the road."
Then his wife Helen, who is also retired, decided to get involved.
“To get out into traffic is a big concern, and it's a little tough knowing if you can do it or not," Helen admits.
After finding she was up to the challenge, Helen says it's been very rewarding watching the students grow up from her post at the corner of Birch and Balcom streets.
“Oh, it's a wonderful experience. It's really a lot of fun,” she says. “They're just sweet kids and every year they're just so happy to see you. They're so excited to go to school."
Down the block at the corner of Birch and Germania, Jerry says he's overwhelmed by the kids' appreciation.
“They send you Christmas cards and Easter cards, and candy, and I don't know what to give back!" says Jerry.
But both he and Helen know they've already given the best gift they can to the families at Longfellow Elementary School, by keeping the kids out of harm's way.
“I just like to make sure they get across the street safe," says Helen.
And they'd like to remind others that safety in school zones is everyone's job.
“Slow down, just slow down!” urges Helen. “These kids’ lives are at stake!"
Jerry and Helen have several grown grandchildren, but say they care for the kids at Longfellow like family.
That's why they say it's important for drivers to obey the 15 mile-an-hour speed limit near schools.