Holiday Exchange Market offers chance to share in giving spirit | SteamboatToday.com

Holiday Exchange Market offers chance to share in giving spirit

Gaylan Hellyer, Lisa Hara and Bret Marx unload toys for the Routt County United Way’s Holiday Exchange Market at the State Farm Insurance offices of Debbie Aragon last year. The toys were gathered by the Routt Powder Riders, a local snowmobiling club. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Cole Hewitt, chief financial officer at Yampa Valley Bank in Steamboat Springs, offers his time, effort and money each year to help make sure those in need enjoy a happy holiday season.

Hewitt is hoping others in Routt County will share his giving spirit this week by supporting the Routt County United Way's Holiday Exchange Market.

"Until Wednesday, when we dig down into the inventory and break it up and kind of get it sorted, we are not really going to know what we are short of," Hewitt said. "But the need, annually, has always outpaced the inventory."

How to help

Mitten boards are located throughout Routt County, and wish list items are marked on the mittens. Those who would like to participate should pick up a mitten, shop for the item and drop it off at the mitten board location or the United Way office, 443 Oak St., in downtown Steamboat Springs by Wednesday, Dec. 12.

Mitten boards can be found at the Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church, Holy Name Catholic Church, St Paul's Episcopal Church, Soda Creek Elementary School, Strawberry Park Elementary School, Alpine Bank, Yampa Valley Bank, Wells Fargo, Mountain Valley Bank, Vectra Bank, Bank of the West, Bank of the San Juans, Colorado Group Realty, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center cafeteria, Routt County United Way office, Northwest Colorado Health, Select Super in Oak Creek, Oak Creek Post Office, South Routt Elementary School in Yampa, Clark Store, Wild Goose Coffee at the Granary in Hayden and Hayden Mercantile.

Call 970-879-5605 or email office@routtcountyunitedway.org for more information.

Routt County United Way Executive Director Kate Nowak is also encouraging people to find one of the many mitten boards around town and sign up to purchase toys and other items that are listed.

People can also stop by the United Way offices at 443 Oak St. to make a donation. That money will be used to fill the gaps when the exchange is set up.

"The mitten boards are up all over town," Nowak said. "This year, we are specifically looking for winter coats or winter boots for children, and for adults, we are doing hats and gloves."

She said the effort needs toys, items for teenagers and $25 gift cards for food. Currently, there are 600 individuals signed up for the Holiday Exchange Market, and United Way has only received about 200 gift cards that can be used for food.

"Last year, we were able to serve all the families, and that is amazing," Nowak said. "We try to give a couple of small toys and a large toy to a child if we have enough inventory."

The market uses a two-way giving model that requires those who receive items through the market to volunteer or to make a $10 donation for a family with two adults or a $20 donation for larger families.

The success of the event depends on donations, and with the Wednesday, Dec. 12 deadline quickly approaching, Nowak and Hewitt want to remind people they can still give.

"The Holiday Exchange Market is one of our biggest events of the season, besides Thanksgiving," Nowak said. "Thanksgiving is one day."

While United Way plays a leading role in the market, the event is supported by many community organizations, including the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, Young Professionals Network, Integrated Community, Routt County Department of Human Services, LiftUp of Routt County and local churches.

Families must be referred to market by community organizations, nonprofits and the school system.

"The largest number of client referrals come from LiftUp, Department of Human Services and Integrated Community because they work with the largest number of families," said Amber DeLay, who runs the Holiday Exchange Market program. "But there is a list of over 30 agencies that help us refer families."

DeLay expects the number of individuals to grow in the coming days as those in need look for help. She said a boost in donations would help the market meet its end goal of providing joy this holiday season.

The market will be held on Dec. 15 at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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