Inspiring Okeechobee: Inspiring people are everywhere

OKEECHOBEE — Since school began this year, Facebook has been inundated with stories of people who have gone out of their way to make life a little better for others in some way. Instead of the expected complaints about confusion surrounding picking children up at school or bus schedules, the stories were praises for jobs well done.

The first week of school is always frightening, especially for the younger students, and apparently, we have some very kind and caring school resource officers in Okeechobee who know how to help these children through the rough patches. Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Higgins was praised for taking the time to befriend little Trey. His mom, Stephanie Emerson said he had a rough morning, and if it weren’t for his friend and mentor, she wasn’t sure how the day would have turned out.

School Resource Officer Tim Higgins is a friend and mentor to Trey. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News

“This is why my little one wants to be a police officer. I am so beyond thankful that he has a great mentor in Deputy Higgins, and that Deputy Higgins goes above and beyond for the students,” she said. “Thank you so much Deputy Higgins for all you do, for not only my son but for all the students at the school.”

Deputy William Hill is another school resource officer who was mentioned during the first week of school. Jessica Felkins said, “We absolutely love Officer Hill. He’s amazing, and our kids love him at North,” Joy Ashby said. “Even during open house, he made it a point to stop and speak to every student, even the older ones that went to different schools. He is great with all kids. My girls love him.”

Children in Mrs. Cook’s class at North Elementary were busy the other morning making thank you notes for Deputy Sheriff William Hill. They wanted to show their appreciation and thank him for keeping them safe. Deputy Hill stated, “This is absolutely the best award I’ve ever received!!!” Special to the Lake Okeechobee News

Okeechobee Christian Academy has a new school resource officer this year and they have a new school zone, complete with a sign and blinking light. They sent out a huge thank you to Okeechobee City Hall, Okeechobee City Police and Okeechobee City Fire Department for helping to make their school zone a very visible presence during drop off time. Some of their children have to cross U.S. 441, and it has always been a hazardous situation. The school was very grateful for the added safety the school zone provides. OCPD and OCFD were present at the school zone with signs telling everyone to slow down.

Even the Okeechobee City Fire Department came out to lend a hand on the first day of school. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News

Osceola Middle School received a donation of $2,000 worth of tools from the Okeechobee Home Depot. The donation was for their Ag program and was presented to Mr. Trimble’s Ag class. “Their generosity and support of our students is greatly appreciated,” said Lonnie Steiert.

School bus driver Pamela Barton, who drives a route out on the Prairie, was caught doing something nice enough that the person who saw her thought it was worth telling others about. After weeks of rain, the roads out on the Prairie had lots of puddles, and rather than unload all the young children into those puddles, Ms. Barton got off the bus herself and stood in the puddles, helping each child off the bus so they would not have to wade through the puddles. When she realized she was being praised on Facebook, she had this to say, “I can name several other amazing drivers who would have done the same. I honesty can not take all the glory here, I was just the one who was lucky enough to be caught in my act of kindness. So many of us drivers all feel the same love and concern for our bus babies so I feel like I’m being selfish and don’t want to hog all the glory. Being a bus driver is a mentally strenuous and sometimes nerve racking career path, but it most certainly is one of the most rewarding as well. There is a mutual consensus that we drivers are considered the ‘bottom of the totem pole’ by many. We don’t make a whole lot of money, and it can be very trying at times, and yes, under appreciated. Yet every single one of us continue to stick it out, because at the end of the day we love our little dysfunctional transportation family. We love these kids as our own, and we have the joy of knowing in our own way that we are helping to shape the minds of our future generations and bring hope to the world until the good Lord comes again. I can not thank Naomi enough for her very own act of kindness! You didn’t have to go out of your way to not just brighten my day and lighten my heart in a tremendous way, you brought positivity into some dark times, and by doing so showed hope for humanity. If more people thought like you do, I think people would be able to see that there is so much more good in the world than what they thought.”

And last but not least, Okeechobee High School shared a story about one of its students, Rece Smith, who found a wallet. He turned the wallet in, and when it was returned to the owner, not one dollar of the $180 that had been inside was missing. According to the posters on that thread, Rece has a reputation for being helpful and no one was surprised that he was honest enough to return the wallet.

High school student Rece Smith found a wallet containing $180 and turned it in. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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