Holiday Exchange Market in Steamboat still in need of donations

Laura Trabka

— The organizers of Routt County United Way’s annual Holiday Wishes program revamped the event in the form of the Holiday Exchange Market this year, but the new event now is having trouble getting donations.

United Way Programs Assistant Patti Bollenbacher said 167 families have signed up to participate, which include 514 people, and of that number, 224 are children.

But the number of donations is nowhere near where it needs to be to help everyone have a merry Christmas.

“These numbers are lower than last year, so we think some people just haven’t gotten the information,” Bollenbacher said.

According to the website for the Holiday Exchange Market, 48 winter coats for children have been donated of 122 that are needed. The same goes for adults, where the number is significantly lower at 15 coats donated of the 203 needed.

The deadline for donations was Thursday, but now organizers said that deadline has been extended to Wednesday.

The list for those in need also may grow after the deadline for clients to sign up has been extended, as well.

“Since it’s a new program, we want to make sure that anyone who is needy gets an opportunity to participate,” Bollenbacher said.

Previously for the Holiday Wishes program, participating human services agencies identified families in need who requested types of holiday gifts they were most interested in — such as clothing, food and toys — and then sponsors were solicited to “adopt” families and purchase their selected gifts anonymously, working through the various agencies to distribute presents.

United Way Executive Director Kate Nowak said last month that the new event hopefully will offer participants more dignity and participating organizations less hassle, while still offering the public a chance to give to those in need.

Gift participants are required to either volunteer somewhere in the community for two hours or make a $10 donation to the market in order to participate.

LIFT-UP of Routt County Executive Director Laura Schmidt said that so far, their clients have been receptive to the new format.

“The people who used to adopt families are really liking this idea because it gives these clients a chance to give back, and they get to actually pick out what they want instead of hoping that they get the right item,” Schmidt said.

She added that many of the organizers knew that the marketplace may struggle to get donations at first.

“Since it’s the first year, we knew it would be tough to get the donations, but the idea is to give the clients choice instead of just selecting for them,” she said. “The more donations we have, the more choices they have. (People can) get online and donate, or volunteer if you can.”

The marketplace, which will run from Dec. 12 to 15 at Colorado Mountain College, will exclusively offer toys, clothing and gift cards for groceries, and supporters no longer will be able to adopt a real, specific family, but they still can set out to purchase a family’s worth of gifts, Nowak said.

This weekend, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and the Young Professionals Network will help collect donations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Walmart.

Additional drop boxes are available at 14 locations throughout Steamboat. Bollenbacher added that $25 food cards should be dropped off at United Way’s office in Steamboat rather than one of the drop boxes.

Drop-off locations are listed on the website, where people also can find more information about how to get involved with the Holiday Exchange Market and get a list of items still needed.

To reach Laura Trabka, call 970-870-1368, email or follow her on Twitter @Lmazade

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.