Garden City Community College students, employees, as well as community members played the part of Santa on Thursday as they donated toys toward less fortunate children in as part of the annual Fill a Ford Toy Drive.

“It amazes me every year. There’s times it seems like it’s not going to happen, but it always does,” Cindy VenJohn, who teaches agriculture at GCCC and coordinated the toy drive, said on Thursday. “The pickup gets more full every year, and we hope that continues.”

GCCC’s Collegiate Farm Bureau, Block and Bridle Club and Burtis Motors, Inc., teamed up for the toy drive, which is in its fifth year. All the toys donated will be given to the local Salvation Army for children in need, VenJohn said.

A new Ford F-150 truck was parked at the John Collins Vocational Building parking lot on GCCC’s campus throughout the day for people to drop off their donations. Students, GCCC employees and community members alike donated new, unwrapped toys of all sizes and shapes. Everything from games and action figures, to stuffed animals and small stocking stuffers filled the bed of the truck.

Collection boxes were stationed in each of the college’s buildings throughout the week. VenJohn said the toy drive initially started off as just students and college employees in the John Deere building participating, but has grown campus-wide over the years.

“We hope that people will remember that there are a lot of children that don’t have toys and help us help the Salvation Army,” she said. “Adults being without is one thing, but children without toys at Christmas is another. We just don’t want that to happen.”

VenJohn said the group’s efforts were recognized by the State Farm Bureau, and a story of the Fill a Ford Toy Drive will be featured in the December edition of Kansas Living magazine.

“I think it’s a group story about service projects, and we were chosen as one of those,” she said. “Our idea (Fill a Ford) is now being used state-wide. We’re the first ones that did it with toys.”

Jennifer Gerber, county coordinator for Finney County Farm Bureau and liaison for GCCC’s Collegiate Farm Bureau, the county and state, said on Thursday that the Fill a Ford toy drive displays a “great” partnership for the community.

“It is truly the community that benefits from this,” Gerber said. “But also, it’s a great thing for the students to know that on their own they are helping out the community.”

Lt. Joyce Curran with the Salvation Army said that the toys donated by GCCC go toward the 400-plus children in Finney County who benefit from the Angel Tree Project, a toy drive that collects presents for children who may not receive gifts because of various financial reasons.

“It enables us to fill those Angel Tree tags that have not been taken … It is an incredible thing,” Curran said of the GCCC toy drive.“It enables a Christmas for the families that can’t afford to give their children a merry Christmas. It puts that light back into the children’s eyes. The wonder and surprise (of opening presents) is the light, and I’d love to see all of these kids have that.”

VenJohn said those people who are interested in donating, but who were not available to make it on Thursday, they can still donate on Saturday during the Broncbusters’ women’s and men’s home basketball games against Hutchinson Community College starting. The women's game starts at 6 p.m., with the men's game to follow.

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com.