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By Mark Boxley


NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — When Jamie Dessert and her three children drove by the courthouse in New Smyrna Beach after a long day of cleaning up after Hurricane Matthew, they were upset by the amount of damage they saw.

“My heart was moved,” Dessert told Channel 9. “Here was the workplace for people who serve and protect our community on a daily basis, covered in debris.”

She kept driving though, until her 7-year-old son Emerson spoke up.

“He said, ‘Mom, we should turn around and clean it up. We need to take care of it,’” she said.

So Dessert pulled back around to the courthouse and the four of them got out.

“We parked in front of the courthouse and pulled one branch at a time,” she said. “As the pile got bigger and bigger, we discussed the potential of getting into trouble for stacking them in the wrong place.”

As they continued to work, a Volusia County sheriff’s deputy saw what they were doing and walked up to them and the growing pile of branches.

Dessert was touched by what her children told the deputy when she asked what they were doing.

“They told her their little hearts about how we love our city and we want to take care of the police officers because they take care of us,” she said.

The deputy gave each boy a dollar and drove off, only to come back a few minutes later with a request.

“About five minutes later, she pulled back up, got out, came back over and proceeded to tell us that she had been on the phone with her husband and they both thought this was one of the sweetest things, and she wanted to take their picture,” Dessert said.

The four had already talked about that and had decided they weren’t going to take any pictures, “because it is the right thing to do, not because we gain anything from it,” she said.

But they agreed and the deputy took a picture, which was later posted to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, where residents and non-residents alike praised the children for their random act of kindness.

For Dessert, it was a touching display of love from Emerson, Callan, 6, and Beckett, 4.

“We had amazing conversations under those trees as we pulled tree limbs and debris,” she said. “It genuinely was the hardest I had seen them work since we had been helping others.

“It was really beautiful to see how much their hearts were overjoyed to not just serve their community, but to serve the police officers. It was incredible.”

They kept going, even when it started raining, and that’s when she saw how a simple act like picking up branches in front of the courthouse could affect the community and the people who live there.

“All of a sudden, a random man waiting at the bus station walks over and says, ‘Since you all are going to keep doing it in the rain, I figured I would come help,’” Dessert said. “We finished up, I had my little men walk over and shake his hand and thank him for helping us.

“As we were driving away, the boys and I had a wonderful talk about how amazing it is that we were able to help, and because of our decision to act, it motivated other to act. That’s what we want.”