Volunteers from Friends University rivaled the elves from Santa’s workshop on Monday.
The university campus shut down for the afternoon as about 250 students, alumni, faculty and staff members unloaded, sorted, assembled and wrapped gifts during the 21st annual Salvation Army Service Day with Friends University.
The Salvation Army collects gifts for needy Sedgwick County families through the Angel Tree program, with drop-offs at Wal-Mart and Towne East and Towne West malls. Roughly 65 businesses have also donated items to the organization.
Volunteers from Friends picked up more than half of the donations, about 4,500 gifts, and delivered them Monday to the Salvation Army distribution center on East Douglas.
“Everything really that we needed, the program has sort of worked its way these past 20 years to this, and more,” said Major Carole Caddy, officer for program development at the Salvation Army.
The gifts will be distributed to 3,700 Sedgwick County families. Families who applied for gifts this Christmas from the Salvation Army were assigned pick-up times for Thursday or Friday.
“I personally do it because it makes me feel better about the holiday season,” Friends sophomore Shelby Lewis said as she sorted bags of toys. “And Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I’d rather make somebody else happy than worry about myself.”
At the assembly center in the back of the warehouse, volunteers assembled bikes, basketball goals, kitchen sets and more. Tony Lubbers, Steven Eaves and James Barrett of Friends screwed nuts and bolts on a black No Rules bike with 18-inch wheels and green, skateboarding aliens on the side.
“I mean, with these bikes, you can just imagine kids riding these on Christmas morning,” said Eaves, the Fine Arts Division chair at Friends. “Some families might not even have tools in their house. … We can brighten up somebody’s Christmas a little bit with a bike that’s already put together.”
The three agreed that there’s “institutional pride” in participating in the day’s work. Friends contributed about 1,000 volunteer hours Monday, Caddy said.
Friends president T.J. Arant, dressed in a red sweater, carried boxes throughout the day. This was his third year of participating in the Service Day.
“It’s something people look forward to all year,” Arant said. “We get way more back than we give. Everybody knows that.”