How to support those in need in Routt County during the season of giving |

How to support those in need in Routt County during the season of giving

Ash Kempton's house has been filling up with bags full of toys, books and gloves as part of the Routt County Reindeer toy drive she created to support students at the Boys & Girls Club and the Steamboat Springs Early Childhood Center. (Ash Kempton/Courtesy)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It truly is the season of giving in Routt County.

Not only did Yampa Valley Gives Day bring in record donations, but people across the area are finding ways to support those in need during the holidays. Already, the holidays bring out the best in people looking for ways to help, but with the knowledge that the pandemic has put more strain on families, Routt County residents are going above and beyond to support their community.

Routt County Reindeer

Routt County Reindeer, Ash Kempton

With the United Way of Routt County focusing on collecting essentials for families in need this year, Steamboat Springs resident Ash Kempton decided to create a project to help others. Kempton dubbed it Routt County Reindeer, and she’s collecting a toy, book and pair of mittens for nearly 200 kids at the Boys & Girls Club and the Steamboat Springs Early Childhood Center.

“We live somewhere with inclement weather, and so many kids are also home more hours than they ever were before,” Kempton said. “If I can bring a book to them, so they have a little more time for literacy, and then if they have really nice mittens, they’re probably going to be a little more apt to go outside.”

Kempton has been blown away by the amount of support she’s received in this new endeavor, as her house has been piling up with the bags ahead of delivery. Bags of mittens have been showing up at her doorstep. She’s even had to start warning givers she’s nearly met the goal of 200 bags. She still needs mittens for children 7 to 10 years old.

To help those wanting to give, she created an Amazon wishlist that ships purchases to her house, but with holiday shipping, that may not be the best option anymore. If people want to help and deliver presents to Kempton’s at-home workshop, they can reach her at

“Someone messaged me and said, ’I can’t help a ton, but I’ve received a lot of help earlier this year, and this would be a great way for me to give back,’” Kempton said. “It kind of chokes me up thinking about that. We’ve been pretty solid through COVID, but we’ve all been through really tough times in the past, so they get it. I think that simply being able to purchase a $10 toy or book, you know you are providing joy to someone who needs it.”

Steamboat Springs Secret Santa

For the second straight year, Jamie Lamb and Mel Cellucci are organizing Steamboat Secret Santas, a program that allows people to sponsor an individual or family in need from Routt County.

Last year, the program helped 21 families and 40 children. This year, it grew almost exponentially, as Lamb has a spreadsheet of recipients that is pages long.

The giving side has increased even more than the need side, so much so, that Lamb has told some people she may not be able to find them a match.

“It’s gotten pretty wild,” Lamb said, “but it’s really wonderful knowing that so many people can not stress about giving their family presents when they’re already dealing with so much other stuff. I think it’s a really important year.”

Families or individuals in need of a little joy can apply through Tuesday on Steamboat Secret Santas Facebook page or email For families who speak Spanish, Juanita Rastello has been serving as an interpreter.

Then, the families provide a wish list and are paired with a family looking to support. Givers can remain anonymous or communicate with the family in need if they so choose.

The group also will need help delivering presents, if people wish to provide aid that way.

Lamb was touched by one individual who reached out asking for a few things. When the person received their wrapped presents, they reached back out to Lamb.

“I am in tears of happiness,” Lamb read. “These presents are wrapped so lovely. I haven’t had a present in years. Please tell my Secret Santa thank you. I’m going to enjoy looking at the loveliness of the wrapping and wait to open Christmas Day.”

Not Fade Away Food Drive

Sean Regan, owner of Old Town Pub, felt he was getting plenty of help from the community and wanted to return that aid. So, he created the Not Fade Away Food Drive, named after a line in a Grateful Dead song, and uses donations to offer free meals to those who need it.

“People can come through whenever. We hope that people aren’t too proud to pick up a little help. It doesn’t mean someone has to be flat broke and at the end,” Regan said. “It can just be, times are tough and there’s different things you need to do. We’re not asking questions on who comes in. We want it to go to people who could use it.”

People also can come by and collect meal vouchers for others in need, no questions asked. To donate to the cause, pop by or call Old Town Pub.

The program will run through the holidays but maybe longer depending on how long donations sustain it.

“The love is real, not fade away,” Regan said.

Steamboat Sotheby’s Mickey’s Fund Toy Drive

Sotheby’s Realty is hosting a drive for new, unwrapped toys to benefit Mickey’s Fund. Donations can be dropped off before Monday. Mickey’s Fund is a program created by local Moose Barrows in memory of his son. The toys are given to inpatient and outpatient families at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

We are helping support Children's Colorado by accepting brand new, unwrapped toy donations at the Steamboat Sotheby's…

Posted by Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty on Monday, December 7, 2020

United Way’s Giving Guide

Rather than channel its efforts into the Holiday Exchange, Routt County United Way has created a gift giving guide focusing on funding essentials for families in need.

The guide offers three areas where people can give, including early childhood education, youth success and financial stability. Donors also can request that donations be used in the area of greatest need.

United Way also is seeking donations of food gift cards, in $25 denominations, to help ease the burden of the holidays for families in need. She said those wanting to help out can purchase the cards at any grocery store in Routt County and place them in the secure drop box at the United Way office at 443 Oak St.

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