Spirit of GivingBy NIKKI SMITH,
Nine students from the Petal School District received their presents early as they took part in the district police department’s annual Shop with Panther Police.
The program began three years ago at the suggestion of Petal School District Chief of Police Gavin Guy.
This year, each of the five schools competed to raise money for Shop with Panther Police.
There is not a final count even still, as people are still donating to the cause. More than $5,000 was donated by Petal Primary School alone.
Primary School students were rewarded with a pajama day, including a movie and hot chocolate.
Because of the record-breaking total of donations, the police department was able to select nine children in the district to take shopping.
“I was able to take seventh-grader Ethan Lindsey,” said Chief Gavin Guy. “It’s a humbling experience and a great reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. There is truly no greater feeling.”
Guy recalls his first interaction with Lindsey.
“When I met Ethan Lindsey and explained to him how much he had to spend, he grabbed me and hugged me and said, ‘I am so blessed. Thank you, and thank you, God.’”
Along with Chief Guy, Officers Clay Johnson, Sheffield, Christy Carona, John Myers, Chaplain Howell, Superintendent Dr. Matt Dillon, Chief Operations Officer Andy Schoggin and Chief Financial Officer William Wheat helped students during their shopping spree.
A few even brought along their wives and children to help out.
“We have the best school district and the best community to rally and support this program,” Guy said. “Our students that we took shopping with Panther Police bought presents for themselves, their siblings, parents. They bought clothes, toys, school supplies and groceries. Also, we had one student who bought his best friend a birthday present along with a birthday card. That’s what it is about is to share and give to others.”
The officers were also able to purchase gifts for an additional nine students and delivered them to the schools on Tuesday.
“It was great to take more children this year with the help of the Petal school district staff, faculty, students and their families,” Guy said. “We were able to raise enough to double the amount of children this year. We went from four kids to nine this year. I was just amazed and very thankful for the support. I also want to say the Petal School Police Department did an outstanding job.”
Guy said the goal for next year is to take at least 12 to 15 children.
“I believe with the support from the Petal School District, this will be another successful year,” he said.
“I want to thank our Petal School District Family, our Petal Panther Mascot senior Hunter Simon, Dr. Dillon, Andy Schoggin, William Wheat, Trisha Daughdrill, our officers wives, our students and families and WalMart for all pitching in to make this year a success,” Guy said. “Thanks to everyone and Merry Christmas.”