HUNTSVILLE, Ala.--Excited chatter filled the room. Speculation on what was in each bag and box. Even the most well-behaved child had a devious sparkle in his eye as he waited for his present. It may have been five days early, but it was Christmas time.
One-hundred and eighteen first-graders at Morris P8 received nearly 500 gifts Dec. 20 from employees at the Army Contracting Command this holiday season, a tradition started in 2014 when the command decided to partake in the program. Morris, their Adopt-a-School partner for many years, was the natural fit.
Each year ACC takes on more students as the school grows, and each year its employees continue to give. Just last year, there were only 83 students, so gifts have probably increased by 100 or more as well.
"I'm proud to be part of such a giving organization," said Maj. Gen. Paul Pardew, ACC commanding general. "I never doubt ACC is going to come out and support, especially during this time of year."
While the students made their typical wish-lists of desired presents, favorite colors and cartoon characters, employees were asked to give this year in a slightly different manner.
In order to keep the presents in a similar price and total size range for the children, organizers asked employees to buy for the students "something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read."
"The idea behind this 'rule of four' was to give each sponsor a good idea of how to make their angel's holiday bright without going overboard," said Dawn Keller, one of the event organizers and a business and acquisition specialist for ACC.
On the day of the event, giving the gifts to the children can be an uplifting experience for everyone involved, from the children to the parents to the teachers.
"I'm excited about getting my gift," said Braeden, age 7. "I bet it's going to be something amazing."
Patty Boyd, Morris principal for the past four years, showed her own excitement as she thanked ACC for the generosity.
"Every year, their employees open their hearts to these children and it really helps some of these parents who may not be able to afford a big Christmas. This is really special to both the children and to us (teachers and parents)," Boyd said.
Of course, it's ACC employees and leadership who likely enjoy it the most. After all, giving is the best gift there is.
"I encourage everyone to come out here for this event; I know I'm not going to miss it. I make sure my staff clears my calendar. It's just one of my favorite things, to spend time with the kids and give back during the holidays…it doesn't get any better than this," Pardew said.