Volunteers with Routt County United Way’s Holiday Wishes campaign prepare several of the gifts that will go to some of the 1,089 residents served by the program.

Photo by John F. Russell

Volunteers with Routt County United Way’s Holiday Wishes campaign prepare several of the gifts that will go to some of the 1,089 residents served by the program.

Donations fulfill Holiday Wishes for 1,089 Routt County residents

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— So-called “layaway angels” are grabbing headlines across the country this holiday season, but it was the generosity of a single “angel donor” as well as hundreds of others that is making a big difference for dozens of Routt County families this Christmas.

A second-home owner here who is a longtime supporter of Routt County United Way cut a check for $10,000 last week, allowing the United Way’s Holiday Wishes program to purchase gifts for 85 families who had signed up for the program but had not yet been matched with sponsors.

With those last 85 families taken care of, the Holiday Wishes program was this year able to serve a record 367 local families — 1,089 people, or 5 percent of the county’s total population — with approximately $82,000 in gifts ranging from essentials like boots and jackets to fun items like children’s toys and games.

“It speaks to the generous heart and spirit of the community,” said Kelly Stanford, executive director of Routt County United Way. “I think we all know how difficult the current economic situation is, and people feel compelled to help in whatever way they can.”

Families are referred to the Holiday Wishes program through local health and human services agencies like the Routt County Department of Human Services, LIFT-UP of Routt County, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, Comunidad Integrada and local schools. Those families then make a list of several items they need or would like to have as Christmas presents, usually totaling between $75 and $80 per person. Community groups then volunteer to adopt one or more families, taking their lists and purchasing and gift-wrapping the items. The gifts are given to each family’s referral agency to be picked up or delivered to the needy households.

Of the 1,089 residents served by the Holiday Wishes program this year, 522 were children. Approximately 130 donor groups — including Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, the Young Professionals Network, the Steamboat Restaurant Group and SmartWool — stepped up to purchase the gifts, up from 93 last year and 71 in 2009. Stanford estimated that 750 people volunteered or donated money and/or gifts to the program this year.

“There are those who are in the position to be a large donor, and there are those who really want to help someone else and it might be a bit of a stretch for their family, but they find a way to do it,” Stanford said. “The Holiday Wishes program speaks to both groups, and I think it really speaks to the generosity of people here.”

Stanford said some donors asked to help residents tackle special circumstances in their lives, such as needed car repairs, replacement of a convection oven and the purchase of an air purifier. A late monetary donation received this week will allow United Way to take care of critical needs for other families, as well.

Gifts for 16 local families filled a room at the county’s Department of Human Services office Thursday. It was in stark contrast to the situation just one week ago, said Vickie Clark, the department’s director.

“We were in a panic a week ago,” she said. “We all just had faith, and sure enough, as usual, the community has come through with great generosity. It’s just fabulous.”

To reach Brent Boyer, call 970-871-4221 or email bboyer@SteamboatToday.com

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