Remembering Melissa Jenkins one year later - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Remembering Melissa Jenkins one year later

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A single pink ribbon stands out against a of backdrop of melting snow at the Creamery Restaurant in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

"She always wrote my menu up," said the restaurant's Marion Cairns.

One year after Melissa Jenkins was kidnapped and brutally murdered, her co-workers are still coping with the loss. "It wasn't just like she worked here for 11 years, I've known her since she was a baby. She was part of the family," Cairns said.

On this anniversary of sadness, Marion Cairns is trying to fill the restaurant with happier memories -- hoping family and friends will come celebrate the life she lived. "She was a worker, and found time to have fun too. I will give her credit for that," she said.

Jenkins juggled motherhood, four shifts a week at the restaurant and a full-time job at St. Johnsbury Academy, where she was a science teacher, dorm advisor and basketball coach.

"One of the hardest things we ever did was clean her room," said St. Johnsbury Academy Headmaster Tom Lovett. Lovett described Jenkins as a vivacious teacher who pushed students to focus on their strengths. Compassion guided her actions and she lived by the mantra -- love those the most who need it the most -- a phrase now known on campus as Melissa's Challenge.

But getting kids to understand the concept in the wake of her horrific death hasn't been easy. "There's no explaining what happened. We need to feel outraged. We need to feel sad, angry and frustrated," Lovett said. "It's been a full year of trying to help them to gradually understand something that really transformed this school community."

On Friday students and staff plan to paint the town pink in honor of Melissa. And on Saturday 800 people are expected to pack Fuller Hall for a celebration of Jenkins life.
"It's still fresh. It's still mourning. There's still grief. There's still pain, but we're trying to find a way forward," Lovett said.

The community is praying for justice, but focusing on healing -- living out Melissa's message that in the end, love wins.

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