Having a gymnasium full of students singing “Happy Birthday” to him wasn’t Deputy Donald Franklin’s only surprise Tuesday morning.
The Garrison-Pilcher Elementary school resource officer also was admittedly taken by surprise when he was honored by Sonny’s BBQ as part of the company’s “Random Acts of Barbecue.”
Franklin was nominated by six members of the G-P staff.
“He didn’t have a clue,” said Garrison-Pilcher Principal Sharonda Wilson.
The staff lured Franklin to the gym on the pretense that it was a disciplinary assembly. So he got together his notes to speak about safety.
“I had no idea about it,” he said. “I was totally shocked.”
Call it the icing on the barbecue for Franklin, who turned 33 Tuesday.
“He walks around the school often to make sure we’re protected, to make sure we’re safe and to make sure this is an awesome learning environment,” Wilson said of Franklin. “I thank him for taking care of every student, staff member, teacher and any individual who walks in this door.”
For this round of Random Acts of Barbecue, Sonny’s honored law enforcement officers. From there, Sonny’s marketing personnel go through the nominations and put together a short list.
The number of nominations and what those nominators said of him stood out. What they look for are compelling stories and for someone who is doing something to change the community and going outside the bounds of their assignment.
“Deputy Franklin was a prime example of that,” said Taylor Chatelain of Sonny’s. “When see Deputy Donald Franklin not once, not twice, not three times but six times, you know this man has made his mark in the community and with the people he works with. He doesn’t do it for recognition. He does it because he loves these kids.”
Misty Taylor, who wrote one of the nominations, said Franklin goes above and beyond for all the students and staff. “You see him the halls with students, letting them be junior deputies. He’s a positive role model altogether. You ask him to do something and he does it with a smile on his face. It’s very seldom you don’t see him smiling.
“We just thank you, Deputy Franklin, for all you do for us.”
In her nomination letter, Taylor pointed out the Dine With a Deputy program Franklin started to help kids who may have a behavior issue or are struggling with school.
“As if that's not enough, he also has offered every teacher an incentive for the students,” Taylor wrote. "Those that meet certain goals get to spend an afternoon exploring his car, looking all inside, sitting in the seats, turning the lights on, and so much more. Then there is the deputy for the day where kids that may be having some behavior issues spend time with him versus getting a punishment. He talks with them, lets them walk the halls with him, and some even go as far as writing tickets to the teachers and staff at times. It is a very cute thing to watch. He has changed so many lives and touched many students.
“No matter what life throws at him, he rises to the occasion,” Taylor wrote in her nomination of Franklin.
Franklin was a patrol deputy and asked his sergeant — who had been his SRO in high school — about becoming a school resource officer.
“It's awesome,” Franklin said. “I enjoy it. I get to watch them grow up as well.”
Editor Pat Donahue can be reached at (229) 226-2400 ext. 1806.