From unicorns to mermaids, from Minecraft to coloring books, from robots to science kits. From the creative to the simple, the more extravagant to the little surprises, every single bag and box was making the first-graders at Morris K-8 excited about what they saw.
The gifts, totaled at an estimated 500 between the 107 first-grade students, were delivered Dec. 16 as part of the Angel Tree partnership that the Army Contracting Command participates in every year with Morris. As ACC’s Adopt-a-School partner, the command supports Morris in multiple ways throughout the year, such as Read Across America in the spring, a back to school drive in the fall, and regular reading mentorship throughout the school year.
“This is not a one-time deal,” Patty Boyd, Morris principal, said. “ACC supports the school and our events regularly. They are such a blessing to us.”
Maj. Gen. Paul Pardew, ACC commander, echoed the sentiment that this is an ongoing endeavor as he explained how the relationship between the command and the school is important to ACC.
“We appreciate the support we receive from them; (and) we want to give back to our community because this is where we live,” Pardew said.
ACC employees seem to get more involved each year overall. The program started with just a handful of volunteers, according to Dawn Keller, one of those early few who is now the co-administrator of the program and a business and acquisition specialist at ACC.
“To this day, I am always astounded by the generosity of the ACC family, who never fails to disappoint!” Keller said. “We have never had a year in which 100 percent of the little angels were not sponsored. Usually we have more donors than students.”
Again this year, employees were asked to give “something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.” This gives the students not just toys for the holidays, but also well-rounded presents of educational gifts, clothing and books. All children supplied their favorite colors, characters, toys and clothing sizes on their cards to help the donors shop.
This year, besides ACC Soldiers and civilians handing out presents, the students had a gift of their own. Once all of the first-graders were seated, before they received their gifts, their teachers led them in two rounds of Jingle Bells performed just for their visitors. The nearly 30 ACC visitors there were touched, as they are by the entire day.
“Honestly, this is the best day of the work year,” Pardew said.