MILTON — Some local residents got a surprise at Hardee’s restaurant when they were stopped by Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Clay Smith.


He was not issuing citations, quite the opposite. He was paying it forward.


On Tuesday morning, Smith was thanking citizens in the drive through and giving them a $10 gift card.


“It’s something I wanted to do,” Smith said.


The gesture was genuine and so was the surprise from the drivers.


“There have been many times when I’m working that I stop somewhere to eat and someone will pay for my meal,” Smith said.


The kindness from strangers comes in many forms. Some people remain anonymous, others introduce themselves. Often times restaurants will pick up the check.


“It just seems like, for the most part, the people that live here are warm and generous,” Smith said.


The more Smith thought about the generosity from the public the more he wanted to say thank you.


He went to Sheriff Bob Johnson for permission to carry out his pay it forward plan and Johnson approved.


Smith bought the gift cards and with permission from Hardee’s management set his plan in motion.


Smith walked up to cars in the drive through and told them the story behind the gift they were about to receive.


“I think that’s awesome, I think it’s great,” Angela Perry said after hearing the story and receiving her card.


Debbie Lyles has a son in law enforcement and said it was very nice of Smith to pay it forward.


“That’s unbelievable,” Charity Bailey said. “It’s awesome, we just moved here and can’t believe how kind people are around here.”


When Smith was down to his last card he decided he would give it to one of the regulars that comes in for breakfast.


“That’s something isn’t it? You don’t see that everyday,” Malcolm Polk responded after receiving a thank you and a gift card from Smith.