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ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) – There’s a special greeter at Julian Newman Elementary School in Athens. He’s 76 years old and has been a staple at the school for years.

A woman whose grandchildren go to school there wanted us to Pay it Forward to him. So, the self-professed “night owl” Clarissa McClain got up bright and early to surprise Hugo Bates.

For dozens of kids and their parents at Julian Newman Elementary School, the day begins with a smile, greeting, and small treat.

Bates is full of joy and so are his pockets, which are packed with gum and candy that he hands out to parents as they are doing their daily drop off at the school.

WHNT NEWS 19 gave him something else to add to those pockets – $319.

“I appreciate that and I’ll tell you what I’ll do with it,” say Bates. “I’ll make sure that one way or another, these children receive this.”

The gummy goodness is his way of brightening a person’s day and someone wanted to make his day.

“He always has a jolly smile for them,” says Becky Sides, who has grandchildren that attend Julian Newman Elementary. She’s convinced Mr. Bates makes coming to school easier.

“Sometimes children don’t want to come to school,” explains Sides. “Sometimes they get up and don’t feel good. They want to stay home and play or whatever. When he opens the door, he has a smile for them, sometimes he even says a little song to them. He always says for them to have a good day.”

Everyone sure is glad the encouragement, and the goodies, he’s been handing out for years will continue. Giving out gum in the mornings isn’t all Mr. Bates does. He also helps out with the school’s band and sports teams. The principal and several teachers were excited to see him receive a Pay it Forward.