When Glen Rose Elementary students entered the school's gymnasium Wednesday morning, they knew something special was about to happen.
Long tables were set up around the gym and piled with an array of goodies - candy, cookies, Cracker Jacks. And lining one wall were photos of men the second graders did not know but could readily recognize a members of the United States military.
Physical Education Teacher Marci Simmons explained the assignment - the students were going to form an assembly line and fill bags with the treats. Once a student had placed their designated goody into the bag, they would pass it to the next person in line. When the bags reached the end of the last station, finishing touches - small pieces of Christmas decor and a holiday cards the students had created with the help of first graders - would be put inside the bags.
"This is to remind them of home and what Christmas is like here," Simmons said.
The care packages - 150 of them - were being prepared to send to Kuwait, far from the children's Somervell County homes.
But just where did the money to purchase enough holiday cheer for so many men and women with the United States Air Force come from? Santa, of course.
Actually, the funds for the project came from one of Mr. Claus' helpers, an anonymous donor.
"I will never tell,"Principal Debbie Morris said. "But it warms my heart. When I learned about the donation, I cried. My son was a Marine, so this is something very dear to my heart. It means a lot."
The project was brought to the campus by P.E. Aide Julie Watson following a Facebook appeal by her brother, Senior Airman Jeremy Watson.
"If you ever wanted to get involved and donate to the troops serving overseas, here's a great opportunity," Airman Watson wrote on Nov. 23, adding his squadron wanted to throw the best Christmas party possible. "This is a great chance to get involved with the deployed airmen and know that your contributions directly affected our moral and attitude and helped make this holiday season away from family enjoyable."
Airman Watson knows about missing family time Christmas. Julie said her brother has spent three of the last four holiday seasons serving away from loved ones.
Wanting to lend a hand, she spoke with co-workers. All they had was $250 and knew assembling gifts and sending packages to Kuwait would cost more.
Then the Christmas miracle - the anonymous donation - was delivered to the campus.
The educators worked together to purchase the supplies and get the project ready so the little elves could assemble the packages.
Morris made it complete by explaining the importance of the project to the students. She said the lesson was more than the usual reading, writing and arithmetic - it was about community service and serving their fellow men. But not just any men - those who are serving far away from their families so the students could be free to go to school and celebrate with their own families.
"Community service starts in elementary school and goes all the way to being as old as Mrs. Morris," she said.
Once the care packs were complete, Librarian Jean Otto ushered students to a video station, where they recorded special messages that will be sent along with the goodie bags.
"What will you tell them?" Otto asked.
"Thank you for your service," one boy said.
"You're the best," another student replied.
"And a very Merry Christmas," said a third.
"This part of being a good citizen," Morris said. "You are giving part of your heart and service to others. This should make your hearts feel good."