FORT RILEY — Major General Paul Funk II, commanding general of Fort Riley and the 1st Infantry Division, is now one of Santa’s elves.
Fort Riley began ringing in the holiday season Wednesday by kicking off this year’s Operation Santa Claus.
Operation Santa Claus collects toys for soldiers and their families in the time leading up to the Christmas season. Soldiers and volunteers from Fort Riley and the Association of the United States Army sort gifts from toy cars to basketballs to dolls to board games.
Volunteers collected $85,000 worth of toys and helped more than 700 military families last year and have already inventoried more than 1,000 toys so far this year.
“It’s a great thing for families in need to get toys to support their families,” said Pvt. Andre King, a volunteer with the organization this year.
The operation has been in place at Fort Riley for almost 30 years and some soldier volunteers look at it as an opportunity to give back to other soldiers.
“In this season of giving, I appreciate everything you do to support our troops,” said Funk in a speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday.
Operation Santa Claus is still collecting toys at several drop-off locations at Fort Riley and throughout the surrounding area. Volunteers request new, unwrapped toys in the $15 to $20 price range for children 2 to 16 years old.
Those interested in more information or wishing to volunteer can call 785-239-6944 or 785-239-2771.
Until Christmas, Operation Santa Claus headquarters is full of toys waiting for children and King said volunteers are getting ready for the holiday.
“I’ve learned what the holiday really is and about giving back to the community,” he said.