The loud chatter of several hundred Friends University volunteers organizing and assembling toys filled the Salvation Army’s holiday distribution site Monday, which several volunteers described as being like Santa’s workshop.
Friends closed Monday afternoon so its faculty and staff could volunteer at the school’s 20th annual Salvation Army service day.
“It’s a major commitment for the university to give back to the community and help those who are less fortunate,” said Gisele McMinimy, director of communication for Friends.
“It’s a great day, and it’s amazing to see what the facility looks like before we get there and what gets done after we leave. You can definitely see a physical difference in the facility.”
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The toy distribution will take place Thursday and Friday at the former Big Dog Motorcycles Facility, 1520 E. Douglas. Volunteers on Monday helped prepare by organizing toys so they go to the correct children, assembling bikes and other large items, and decorating the space for the distribution.
Janell White, program assistant at Friends’ graduate school, said she has attended the service day since it began in 1993.
“I think it’s a wonderful experience we get from knowing we’re helping the less fortunate,” White said. “We’re all working together for the same purpose, and that’s to make a better Christmas for kids who wouldn’t have one.”
Ed Roberts said the service day with Friends began when he and another Friends staff member left the university to work for the Salvation Army. Roberts, director of Gift Planning at the Salvation Army of Western Missouri, said that they wanted to involve the school after learning more about the charity.
“It’s great to see that it’s still working strong after 20 years,” Roberts said.
Roberts recalled one year he was working the distribution day and saw a woman he knew. She told Roberts that she never expected to need the help, but her husband had had a stroke and she had recently been laid off.
“She was a Friends alumnus, just like me, getting help out here, and she was able to go through and get toys for her children,” Roberts said.
“People’s lives are going to be changed just by the gifts they pick up on this Thursday. It makes a big impact.”