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SALT LAKE CITY — Christmas came early for the students at Lincoln Elementary School on Thursday.
The bright-eyed students opened present after present from generous donors who wanted to help make their Christmas special.
"Ninety-five percent of the families that have children in the school are below the poverty line, so they may not have Christmas without it, and every kid should have Christmas!" exclaimed Sara Parker with Utah Central Credit Union.
Donations come through members of the community from ornaments personally made by the children that had been hanging on Christmas trees at Utah Central Credit Union branches.
"I don't think you can describe the energy when the kids start tearing them open," Parker said of the gifts.
The students were able to ask for, and receive, items they both wanted and needed.
Kristi, a fifth grader, said she needed a coat.
"It's my favorite color — blue!" she said after unwrapping the gift.
She also got a new pair of boots, and a big box of waffles for breakfast — all of which she asked for.
Many of the other children were also given coats, boots, gloves, underwear, socks and other necessities.
Many of the children are refugees and come from all over the world, like Africa, South America and Central America. For many, this is the first time they have seen snow, so they don't often have warm clothing.
Every one of the children at the elementary school received gifts — most six or seven gifts.
Santa's helpers were also seen Thursday at the post office opening letters and writing back to the thousands of girls and boys who mailed Christmas lists to the North Pole. Several post office employees across Utah and throughout the country volunteer their time to help Santa respond to the many letters.
One little boy cut and pasted all his wants — pictures of a telescope and toys filled the four-page list. Others drew pictures, colored pictures and added stickers to decorate the letters to the jolly guy.
One child asked for a job to earn money and buy presents for kids who have cancer.
"It's really heart warming to see a lot of the kids, what they write," said Michelle Trim, an employee at the post office on Redwood Road near 2100 South.
That one post office received about 4,500 letters this year, and employees say they try to help Santa reply to all of the letters that have return address on them.