Donors needed for Wishes program

United Way holiday drive seeks 40 people willing to 'adopt' local families

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— This holiday season, Routt County United Way's Christmas Wishes program aims to provide gifts for nearly 180 needy local families and individuals who might not otherwise receive anything during the holidays.

"We want to try to meet all of the needs that are out there," United Way Executive Director Kelly Stanford said. "We always try to do that."

Although the Christmas Wishes program has many returning donors, United Way still needs to match about 40 individuals and families with benefactors, Stanford said.

United Way works with a variety of referring agencies, including Routt County Department of Human Services, LIFT-UP of Routt County, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, schools, churches and other community organizations.

"If people are worried about how they're going to provide a Christmas for their kids, we refer them to the program," said Kevin Haynes, office manager for the county's Human Services department.

Wish forms are gathered from needy families and individuals and then matched to donors who have agreed to adopt those in need for the holidays, Stanford said.

Although many Christmas Wishes families simply want to be able to give gifts to their children, other program participants have a "less-than-conventional" wish list, such as critical care, home repairs or major medical bills, Stanford said.

Haynes and his wife have been a donor family - once for a family with a teenage son in Steamboat Springs, and once for a family with small children in South Routt, he said.

"Their eyes just got wide as we were carrying in the presents," Haynes said. "It was good for my kids to see that not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and be on the giving end of things."

People who may not be able to adopt a family this holiday season because of time or financial constraints are welcome to make cash donations to the Christmas Wishes program, and United Way's team of "volunteer elves" will take care of buying, wrapping and delivering Christmas gifts, Stanford said.

From Monday through Dec. 7, Steamboat Restaurant Group's Rex Brice will donate 1 percent of sales at his three restaurants - Mazzola's Italian Restaurant, Big House Burgers and Rex's American Grill & Bar - to Christmas Wishes, Stanford said.

To volunteer to adopt an individual or family in the Christmas Wishes program, or to donate, call the United Way office at 879-5605.

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