Students Collect Gifts for Katrina Victims

They holidays won't be the same for hurricane victims. Many are still trying to find places to live and everyday things. So holiday gifts aren't at the top of the list.

But some Savannah-Chatham school children are trying to change that, and learning an important lesson in the process. They're giving children and parents affected by Hurricane Katrina a Christmas they'll never forget, by bringing them a little extra cheer they might not have had.

These Thunderbolt Elementary School students could be considered Santa's little helpers. Shoes, clothes and plenty of toys are being collected for children in D'Iberville, Mississippi, just one of the many areas hit hard by Katrina.

It's giving kids there a Christmas they most likely wouldn't have had. "It makes me feel wonderful because I am doing something that God would like me to do," said student Anthony Martin. "And I'm sharing with people who don't have anything."

The project is the brainchild of Thunderbolt Elementary School teacher Jill Lepo-Wieniewitz, and has evolved to include two other schools: Southwest Middle and May Howard Elementary. The gifts will be wrapped, packed into a trailer, and then driven to Mississippi in time for Christmas Day.

"The generosity of the kids and parents has been unbelievable," said Lepo-Wieniewitz. "We have a huge trailer that will be packed to the hilt to go to the area."

And students are making sure no child goes without a gift this holiday season. Some are even giving up their own presents so others may enjoy Christmas Day. "We know that a kid less fortunate than us would be happy just to have something we would normally take for granted," said student Drew Whitlow.

"It makes me feel good inside because I know we've done something that people normally not have the courage to do," said fellow student Abbey Beeler.

Teaching students the true meaning of the holiday season.

The students will collect toys through the end of the week.

Reported by: Melanie Ruberti,