COVINGTON - The community continues to show its support for the Newton County Sheriff's Office.
Before Friday night's football game between the Eastside Eagles and Alcovy Tigers, the schools honored the NCSO by bringing about 100 officers onto the field at Homer Sharp Stadium and presenting Sheriff Ezell Brown with checks totaling $1,400 - $700 from each school's ticket sales.
"Very rarely do we get to join together as a single community and honor our heroes," Eastside High School Athletic Director Jeff Cher said during the presentation. "Our heroes in law enforcement ... put themselves on the line on a daily basis. We want to take an opportunity to say, "thank you," not as an Alcovy family and not as an Eastside family, but as Newton County citizens who want to live in a better community."
The money will go to fund Level III bulletproof vests, which cost between $579 and $752.76 each for 166 officers with the NCSO to give them better protection.
Marshall and Dawn Atha asked for community donations after their son, Wesley, an NCSO deputy, and Deputy James Trent were injured by gunfire from a resident inside a home during a suicide call in early August.
"We are very impressed" by the community, said Dawn Atha. "(The school donation) was unexpected and very appreciated."
Atha and Trent also served as honorary co-captains during the game.
Before Friday's donation, the fund had collected about $12,000 so far. The estimated total cost of the project is expected to be more than $113,000.
"I'm most fortunate to be serving in a community such as the great Newton County," Brown said. "I thank the citizens for being so supportive to the sheriff's department. The only way I know to repay the community is to continue to provide good service and training to improve this department."
Also at the game, the fund collected $721 by raffling off a University of Georgia football that was signed by 49 players and two coaches.
Dawn Atha also plans to later raffle a handmade quilt that someone donated.
Donations to the fund can be made by check payable to the Newton County Sheriff's Office and earmarked for Safety Vests and Equipment. They can be mailed to the NCSO in care of April Jones, 15151 Alcovy Road, Covington, GA 30014.