The visit was sponsored by Southeastern Freight Lines (SFL), whose account manager, Jacob Armstrong, also happens to be the son of one of the school’s two Pre-K teachers.
Jacob mentioned to his coworkers what his mom, Tonia Armstrong, does for a living and that enrollment in the program is based on income. As a result, the company decided to treat MCES’ 37 Pre-K students to an early Christmas.
SFL employees purchased gifts for all 20 students in Tonia’s class as well as the 17 in Valerie Miller’s class.
Santa delivered the presents to both classrooms on Dec. 14, and the bounty was much more than anyone expected.
“They got coats, shoes, outfits, underwear, socks and a toy,” Tonia told the Times News. “Each kid got all of this. They didn’t just buy one gift. They went way beyond what anyone expected. One little girl got a watch, stuffed animals and books.”
The teachers wrote down each student’s clothing and shoe sizes, what kind of toys they like, and SFL used the information to make “angels,” which were placed on an angel tree.
Each employee picked a student from the tree and bought presents for that specific child.
That’s one reason the children didn’t open presents at school.
Another is that while every SFL employee went overboard with their purchases, some went way overboard and didn’t want any of the children to experience gift envy. Also, some parents might have wanted the presents for their children to open on Christmas morning.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they spent thousands of dollars overall,” Tonia said. “They just kept bringing the presents in. Every child went home with like three and four boxes. One of mine had 10 boxes and one of Mrs. Miller’s had 14 boxes.
“The kids had a ball, and it was emotional because we’ve never had anyone do something this big. We were expecting each child to get one present, and it was way beyond that. We were just like, ‘Wow!’ Our parents were thrilled. I was getting texts through the night and emails about how grateful they were.”