Benton Elementary burglary becomes a blessing

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Photo by Lt. Bill Davis, Bossier Sheriff’s Office | Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington presents $500 to Amy Gates, Assistant Principal of Benton Elementary School, which represents 10 times the amount of money stolen from the school in a recent burglary. (l-r) Benton Police Chief Charles Pilkinton, Benton Mayor Wayne Cathcart, Rep. Jeff Thompson and Assistant District Attorney, First Assistant, Lane Pittard (representing DA Schuyler Marvin) donated the money to the school in a Nov. 10 ceremony in the school gymnasium.

When a burglar broke into Benton Elementary School last month and stole money that was collected from selling candy and snacks, the students lost more than $50.

On Nov. 10, ten times that amount was donated back to the school by local and state officials to support the students and let them know that they are safe and that this community cares for them.

La. Representative and Judge-Elect Jeff Thompson spearheaded a group effort with other officials, including Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington, District Attorney Schuyler Marvin, Benton Mayor Wayne Cathcart and Benton Police Chief Charles Pilkinton, who gave $500 back to the students in a ceremony Monday afternoon in the school gym.

Photo by Lt. Bill Davis, Bossier Sheriff's Office | (L to R) Benton Mayor Wayne Cathcart, Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington, Rep. Jeff Thompson, Benton Police Chief Charles Pilkinton and Assistant District Attorney Lane Pittard meet with students at Benton Elementary School Monday afternoon.
Photo by Lt. Bill Davis, Bossier Sheriff’s Office | (L to R) Benton Mayor Wayne Cathcart, Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington, Rep. Jeff Thompson, Benton Police Chief Charles Pilkinton and Assistant District Attorney Lane Pittard meet with students at Benton Elementary School Monday afternoon.

“One thing that’s good to know going forward is that the adults in this community care about you,” said Thompson.  “You’re going to be safe, and school is going to be fun.  We are on your side, and we care about you.”

Sheriff Whittington said, “It’s a good cause.  We’re not going to let this slow you down or let you be traumatized by this.”

Students had been raising money through their “Tiger Treats” fundraising campaign.  About two weeks ago, a burglar broke in and stole some of that money.  Juan Cruz Smith, 18, was arrested Nov. 7 by Bossier Sheriff’s Office deputies and charged with simple burglary and booked into the Bossier Maximum Security Facility with a $30,000 bond.

Amy Gates, Assistant Principal of Benton Elementary School, said following the burglary that this event could make them bitter or better. “We chose better,” she said.

“From every bad thing, something good can happen, and we do have something good coming from this,” Gates said.  “We know how supported and loved we are by the people standing behind me (five officials who gave $500) and how they are here to protect us.

She had a positive message for the students regarding the lost money.

“When he stole the money, he stole from you,” she said.  “From this, we have started something new at our school called the HEROES Fund, which stands for Heroes Educating and Rewarding Opportunities for Every Student.”

The $500 donated by Sheriff Whittington and the other officials begins the fund, and they challenged anyone else to help build it.

(Story courtesy of Lt. Bill Davis, Public Information Officer for the Bossier Sheriff’s Office)