Christmas in July helps those in need

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— Santa Claus has traded in his wheels.

Instead of using his trademark sleigh, Santa will now bring gifts to families in his new method of transportation -- a red Ford Escape.

For the third year, Routt County United Way has partnered with Steamboat Motors for the annual "Christmas in July" program. Organizers hope the red truck that sits in the Steamboat Motors showroom will soon be filled with gifts for families in need of assistance. "The community is very, very generous in and around Christmas time," John Centner of Steamboat Motors said. But after the holiday season passes, he added, people tend to forget about those in need.

The families, however, don't forget. They still need help.

The goal of Christmas in July is to extend the holiday goodwill throughout the entire year. Centner and United Way Executive Director Millie Beall hope that the mid-summer drive, six months after Christmas, will raise public awareness about the level of assistance needed in the community.

Christmas Wishes, which is the Christmas drive held in December, provided more than 185 families with gifts to brighten their holiday season. Last year's Christmas in July reached about 75 families.

Volunteers will shuttle donated household necessities from the collection boxes placed at City Market, Safeway, and Curve Market to Steamboat Motors each day with the goal of filling the bed of the truck.

"They literally do fill the truck," Beall said. Centner said he has another vehicle ready and waiting if needed.

Volunteers will gather at Steamboat Motors Monday to sort and distribute the bags of items.

Christmas in July also creates need-specific kits. Twenty bags containing diapers, wipes, infant formula and other baby needs are given to new parent families. For school-aged children and their families, back-to-school bags filled with school supplies are distributed. Beall said the most-needed items are basic toiletries, such as toothpaste, soap and shampoo. Families are identified through Routt County United Way's member agencies.

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