BY MIKE JAMES
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS When Bryan Tackett learned his house was on fire Wednesday, he tore out of Russell-Mc-Dowell Intermediate School in his police cruiser with barely a word of explanation.
When staffers at Russell- McDowell and the other Russell schools heard about the fire about an hour later, they flew just as quickly into action, organizing over the next 24 hours a district-wide relief and benefit campaign for Tackett and his family, who lost virtually everything in the fire.
Tackett, a Flatwoods police officer, is the district’s school resource officer and since taking the position last year has made an indelible impression on staff and students alike.
The explanation for the viral response is simple, according to Russell-McDowell principal Pamela Wright: “It’s because we love him,” she said. “He means so much to our school district. When he was hired there could not have been a better choice. He is here for us and our kids.”
Tackett’s daughter is a Russell- McDowell fifth-grader and his son is in second grade at Russell Primary.
Donors from the district and community alike immediately bombarded the school with offers of money, furniture and accommodations.
An hour and a half after getting the news, faculty met and roughed out a plan. The central strategy was to make sure the family got what it needed without unnecessary duplications or things they don’t need right away, like furniture, so the concentration was on obtaining gift cards.
Each building is to be a hub for donations in the appropriate categories:
_ Russell Primary for clothing gift cards usable at local stores,
_ Russell-McDowell and Russell Middle for food gift cards good at local groceries and restaurants,
_ Russell High and Russell Area Technology Center for Walmart and Visa gift cards.
Russell-McDowell also turned its already-scheduled 5K Monster Dash Oct. 28 into a benefit and will donate race T-shirt sale proceeds to the family.
Band and orchestra members agreed to donate proceeds for their upcoming concert to the Tacketts. The gesture was doubly significant because concerts usually are fundraisers for band and orchestra activities.
“He needs it more than we do,” said cellist Olivia Martin.
“We can do all the fundraisers in the world later to help ourselves,” saxophonist Wesley Moore said.
Students at Russell-McDowell want to chip in too, said counselor Jalina Wheeler. “Kids come talk to me multiple times a day asking how they can help,” she said.
Resource officers are sworn police and sheriff’s deputies who are stationed at a school district for safety, security and crime prevention; they also serve as the public face of their departments and work to build rapport and relationships with students.
Teachers and students alike say Tackett does all that and more. He teaches DARE — Drug Abuse Resistance Education — classes, directs traffic after school and mentors children, among other things.
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