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The awesome presence of the amazing Mr. K
He is an elder in his church. He's an active community volunteer with his group, Men of Vision - building wheelchair ramps, helping struggling families with bills, supporting youth sports activities. But, Kirk Kennedy's greatest joy is just being there for his two, three and four-year-olds at T. R. Jackson.
This is Kirk Kennedy, "Mr. K", a celebrated presence on the campus of T. R. Jackson Pre-K for 23 years. To understand what endears him to everyone here, it helps to know that he was raised by older parents and grandparents. He says he's "old school" and was taught to love everybody, treat everybody right and to help others.
Daven Perry is on the Jackson Pre-K Parent Council.
"His job is custodian but he does so much more than that. He talks with students and he listens to them, just befriends them. He's such a wonderful person," Kennedy said. "That's something I pray about every morning. I say, 'Lord, help me to be able to do whatever it is; the task, the job, working with the children or whatever it is.'"
There are the building maintenance and cleaning but most important is the father-figure time and attention given to the children.
Rod Gracey, the school's Environmental and Safety Specialist see it firsthand.
"He knows every child by name. He has most of them a nickname. He knows our parents," he said.
And knowing and calling the names of all 280 children is important to him. Mr. K says it's just some more of that home training.
"I was taught as a young child that everybody is somebody. It doesn't matter your age; doesn't matter your color. Everybody is somebody," he said.
He's friendly. He's funny. He can help make things a little better on a bad day.
These are the things not listed under the duties of the custodian but who's keeping track. All that he does makes him a hero in the eyes of the children.
Kennedy says, "It's not written in the job description but I have things that I add into the job description. I have to make sure I show these children love each and every day."
Four-year-old Presgon Demanss watches him in awe.
"He helps us at fire drills. He kills ants and bugs. When people throw up, he cleans it up," he said.
Gracey says he admires the consistency and dedication Mr. K brings to these children.
"He comes every day with the same positive attitude. He just brings sunshine all over our campus," he said.
Perry says his presence in a comfort to the parents; knowing those extra hands and eyes are there for their children.
"Such a big heart. So kindhearted. You know, Mr. Kennedy, these are his kids. He cares for them as though they are his own," she said.
Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by Nemours Children's Specialty Care.