Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Nick Brings Books, Surprises; Volunteer Jacksonville, Businesses, Volunteers Helped

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Nick Brings Books, Surprises; Volunteer Jacksonville, Businesses, Volunteers Helped

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Times-Union staff writer

When they spotted the gold tinsel strewn along the walkways, students at Timucuan Elementary School speculated their custodian was going to be pretty mad. After all, he was going to have to clean it up.

Some picked up a piece to make a hair garland or twine around their finger. But they were oblivious to the meaning behind the tinsel path leading to their classes.

Ten-year-old Darion Oliver was one of the first inside his fifth-grade classroom and soon discovered the "secret" -- a gift-wrapped package on his desk. He began shaking it and smelling it but was told he couldn't open it until his classmates came inside.

So he stood by the door and yelled, "Presents are here. Presents are here."

That's all it took. The classroom soon filled, and students opened their gifts to find a mini pool table toy and three books, Mucha Lucha, Peter Pan and The New Secrets of Saint Nicholas.

About 700 students at the Westside school received gifts Friday as part of Volunteer Jacksonville's "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" to promote literacy and celebrate the spirit of giving.

"We are excited and happy to have these gifts and thankful for them," said Darion, flashing a beaming smile.

Timucuan was one of 18 elementary schools selected because a high percentage of their students are on the free or reduced lunch program. Other Westside participants were Oak Hill and Gregory Drive. About 800 volunteers and 76 business sponsors were involved in the countywide effort.

Meanwhile, students filing into Carolyn Germain's first-grade class at Timucuan had looks of awe on their faces as they spotted brightly colored backpacks on their desks filled with toys and books.

"Wow, a pencil. Awesome," one little boy exclaimed.

"I've been needing to shave for 1,000 years," another boy joked as he looked at an Archie Junior Shaver kit. …

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