Last weekend, public safety agencies participated in a food drive. Since 2003, the drive has provided toys, food and assistance to thousands of children, as well as providing assistance to food pantries in Johnson County. Participating were members of Johnson County Fire District #1, Gardner Police Department, Johnson County Med-Act and students from the Gardner Edgerton School District. The drive is organized by Johnson County Public Safety Toy and Food Drive. Photo courtesy of JCFD#1

This past weekend at the Johnson County Public Safety Toy and Food Drive, enough toys were collected to fill 24 bins, with each bin holding approx. 64 cubic feet of toys. 
“We also collected 100s of sports balls, 100s of boxed games, and 100s of Hot Wheels cars,” said Sgt. Steve Benz, Gardner Police Department public information officer. “ In addition, we received donations of well over $12,000 in cash and thousands in gift cards.  Johnson County residents were incredibly generous this year, as they are every year when it comes to this event.  “ 
This was the 16th year GPD participated in the JCPSTFD .  Beginning in 2003 with one Walmart store in East Olathe, the program has now grown to include five Walmart stores – two in Olathe, one in south Overland Park, one in Gardner and now one in western Shawnee.  Employees from Gardner PD, Shawnee PD, Overland Park PD, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson County Med Act, Johnson County Fire District #1, Olathe Fire Department and Shawnee Fire Department all work through the weekend the week before Thanksgiving to collect toys and food from customers we solicit at these Walmart stores. 
At the same time, families in need across Johnson County apply to be part of the program via an online application.  All of the collected toys are transported to a central site where they are sorted by age group.  The food is stocked and divided into equal parts to be provided to local food pantries.  Once a final list of program participant families is completed, toys are gathered for each specific family and are then distributed to that family just before Christmas, when they come to our distribution site and see Santa and Mrs. Claus. 
Last year we provided toys for 224 families,” Benz said. “We hope to exceed that this year. ” 
“This program is successful because the people involved all care very much about those they serve and protect,” he said. “It is also successful because of the generosity of citizens that appreciate what we do, and who want to help us provide for those that are in need, especially at Christmas time.”