Santa Brings An Early Christmas To One Long Beach School

Trying to tell a second grader that Santa Claus has had a tough year just isn't going to fly, even in a hurricane devastated city like Long Beach.

St. Thomas Elementary school teacher Carol Armbrester certainly couldn't stomach that notion. That's why she made it her mission to make sure every second grader in her hurricane displaced school would receive a personal visit and a present from the jolly old elf himself.

"We want Santa. We want santa here," screamed a large group of students.

And on Friday Santa delivered at St. Thomas St. Paul Elementary School in Long Beach.

Have you been being a good girl this year," Santa asked one second grade girl.

Santa may have remembered everyone at the school, but he came two days early, thanks to the work of second grade teacher and Santa's helper Carol Armbrester.

"Many of the students in my class and Cindy's and Mary Ann's class didn't have good luck during Kartina," Armbrester said. "And I began to write around November, call people to help with Christmas."

She eventually found her own little helper in the form of her brother Robert Gambrell Jr,. Vice President of Roberts Morton Engineering Corporation in Birmingham.

"They were already helping with Long Beach and so he said he'd be glad to do this for the children."

Together they helped Santa provide a gift for every second grader at St. Thomas-St. Paul Elementary. It's a gesture that Carol says means so much to these youngsters who've endured such extraordinary circumstances this year.

"After Katrina, you know, they need a happy memory. They need to have this first Christmas to mean everything to them. They need to know that love came down this Christmas."