Practice Christmas giving in July

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Residents who want to help those in need in the community have a great opportunity to do so this week during Routt County United Way's annual Christmas in July project.

"The families we have in the community who are in need are not just in need during the Christmas holidays, when there is so much giving, but they are in need all year round," said Millie Beall, executive director of the local United Way. "So once a year, we try to help them with basic needs through the Christmas in July program."

Residents can drop off items between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. today through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Steamboat Motors. Steamboat Motors is a co-sponsor of the event, and the dealership places a Dodge truck in its showroom as a collection site for the items. The goal is to fill the bed of the truck with items, something that has been accomplished in the three previous years of the program.

Collection boxes also will be available at City Market and Safeway.

While the drive is called Christmas in July, toys are not a focus. Rather, the effort is aimed at helping families, primarily children, with basic needs. Toiletries such as toothbrushes, soap, shampoo and cleaning supplies are encouraged. There also is an effort to assist expectant and new mothers with diapers, wipes and similar items.

One of the big pushes is to provide children with back-to-school supplies such as backpacks, notebook paper, pencils, binders, markers, highlighters, scissors, glue and folders.

"We are talking about basic-need items and back-to-school supplies," Beall said. "There are numerous families who cannot afford the lists of school supplies that are given to them. Our effort is geared at gathering those supplies so that these students can arrive at school prepared to learn."

Specific school supply lists are available through the school districts. Also, the United Way accepts cash donations for the Christmas in July program. Beall uses such donations to purchase supplies for distribution.

Anyone wishing to make a cash donation should call the United Way at 879-5605.

The United Way works with agencies such as the Department of Social Services, the Visiting Nurse Association, LIFT-UP, Partners of Routt County and local school districts to identify children and families in need of the items donated during Christmas in July.

The project is similar to the Christmas Wishes and Toys-for-Tots models.

Beall said past participants in the program have given nothing but positive feedback. The drives often are used as an opportunity for parents to teach their children about sharing, she said.

Beall said John Centner of Steamboat Motors does a wonderful job promoting Christmas in July and encouraging participation.

"This is a great way to help meet the needs of our community, not just at Christmas but throughout the year," Centner said. "Steamboat Motors is proud to be part of such a worthwhile endeavor."

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