Zion, Belleville, student is Leader of the year

Anna Spelbring, an eighth-grader at Zion Lutheran School, Belleville, has been named Lutheran Student Christian Leader of the Year by the St. Louis-based Lutheran Elementary School Association (LESA). The award, which includes a $500 scholarship underwritten by the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, recognizes Lutheran elementary school students who demonstrate courage, compassion, leadership, academic achievement and a commitment to their community.

Anna, 14, was selected for serving her faith and her community through Anna Bakes for World Vision. She started the charity baking project to sponsor a child in El Salvador through World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization. Anna learned about World Vision at a Christian music concert she attended with her family. “They had a speaker at the concert,” said Anna, who was 10 at the time. “I was really moved. I thought, wow, this is really cool.” After the concert, Anna looked through photos of children in need with her younger sister. They were struck by the photo of a little boy named Marvin who lives in El Salvador. Anna decided she would sponsor Marvin for $40 a month, even though she had no idea where she would get the money. “We had to figure out how to pay for it!” Anna said, laughing.

She found a solution in her favorite pastime. “Baking has always been my number one favorite hobby,” Anna said. She started by selling treats to teachers, staff and members at Zion Lutheran Church, where her father, Rev. Chris Spelbring, is the associate pastor. Anna and her mother, Faith, started a Facebook page, called Anna Bakes for World Vision, where she accepts orders, shares photos and gives video updates on what she’s baking and how much she’s raising each month. As her sales and baking production have increased, she’s added new charities to the mix, including Open Door Ministries and Zion Lutheran Church’s Honduras Mission. Anna says her specialties are snickerdoodles and coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate.

“Anna handles all of the communications, transactions and baking all on her own,” said Ananda Baron, Zion principal, who nominated Anna for the award. “Her kindness and servant heart have set her apart as a leader in her classroom, and that leadership extends to our entire student body and school.”

Anna is vice-president of Zion’s Student Council. In her nomination form, Baron praised the teen for finding “creative ways to connect our community of students” during the pandemic by helping to organize events like Favorite Candy Tournament, a Christmas door decorating contest and dress-down days for chapel offerings. Anna also helped organize a March food drive that collected 7,000 non-perishable food items for the Belleville Community Interfaith Food Pantry, and a Zion community outreach ministry that provided backpacks for kids in need.

“I feel extremely blessed to attend Zion,” said Anna, who plays basketball for Zion and flute in the school’s orchestra. “I feel free to be myself here.”

Anna received her award online on April 17 during LESA’s annual Cooking for Kids Virtual Tribute Dinner-Auction. The event, which includes an online auction, was livestreamed at LESAstl.org due to COVID-19 precautions. Proceeds from the event support scholarships and educational resources for students of all faiths at 35 Lutheran schools in the St. Louis area and southern Illinois. Cooking for Kids is LESA’s largest annual fundraising effort to support and sustain the future of Lutheran Christian education in the St. Louis metro area. An LCMS Recognized Service Organization, LESA represents 31 elementary schools, four high schools and three related agencies. For more information visit LESAstl.org.