It was a windy walk for the South Breeze Elementary fourth graders as they stepped off of the school bus and made their way along Main Street. Each student clutched a toy in their hands — not to play with themselves, but to give to other children.
The toys that had lined the hallway of South Breeze Elementary were donated by families to take to the Salvation Army.
After walking a few blocks, the fourth-grade students stepped into a large, unfinished room at New Jerusalem Mission. The children looked around at rows of bicycles, shelves lined with stuffed animals and garbage bags filled to the brim with games and goodies.
"This is the Salvation Army workshop," explained Barbara Lee, director of the Harvey County Salvation Army. "New Jerusalem Mission allows us to come here every year and prepare toys and gifts for families here in Harvey County."
Lee told the students that those items were $15,000 worth of gifts brought in from the Toy Run.
The fourth graders added to the pile, placing their donations into large cardboard boxes marked "games," "boys," "girls," and "baby."
"What happens next is all of these toys, all of these gifts that you have brought, have to be inventoried," Lee explained.
The students were given the chance to ask questions — like how many people the Salvation Army assists.
"Last month, we served 942 people," Lee said. "That's how many people came to our doors."
Lee gave the children other facts about the nonprofit organization.
"Did you know that the Salvation Army, here in Newton, Kansas, is the largest food bank in Kansas," Lee asked the students.
"No," the fourth graders chorused in reply.
"We're looking to receive 30,000 pounds of food in our food bank by the end of the year and $30,000 to help families with their homes — utilities, rent, all kinds of stuff," Lee said.
When the students left the room, their hands were empty, but they were still smiling — as was Lee.
"You guys come and visit us every year and it makes us as happy as can be, because it lets us know that you care about other young people and trying to make sure that everybody has a happy Christmas," Lee said.