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Our View: Give thanks, donations

Thursday is a day for us to take time out from the bustle of work and school to reflect on the many reasons we have to give thanks. For most of us, that means appreciating family, good health and the comfort of a warm home and a good meal. It’s also a time for us to remember that we have neighbors, even here in Ski Town USA, who don’t enjoy the same comforts and could use a helping hand.

Recent events have brought Herb Allair, Steamboat Springs’ only full-time homeless resident, into the spotlight. His situation forces us to think about how well we handle a social issue — and one real face behind it — in a town that, by most respects, seems affluent and unencumbered by the problems typical of larger cities.

But just because Allair is in the public eye — apart from the media attention he has received, his tall frame, striking beard and large backpack stand out as he makes his way across town — does not mean he is the only resident of Routt County who has to worry about where his next meal will come from or his next night’s shelter will be.

In fact, there are scores of families in Routt County that are teetering on the brink of homelessness — people who are struggling to pay the rent, keep the heat and electricity on, and put food on the table.

One indication of the number of people in that situation is the annual enrollment in Routt County United Way’s Christmas Wishes program, which helps struggling families during the holiday season. Last year, 180 families were enrolled in the program; this year, 125 are signed up already, referred by schools, doctors and human-service agencies. And, as United Way Executive Director Millie Beall noted, many more families probably are in need of similar help but are too embarrassed or proud to ask for it.

Through the program, businesses and individuals will volunteer to purchase Christmas gifts requested by those families. And although a mother in need may request a toy for her child so that the little one can enjoy opening a present, she’s just as likely to ask for snow boots and warm coats for the family — basic necessities that may be too expensive for her to provide.

“The reality is, we have a hidden population of people who are just squeaking through,” Beall said. “They are the service industry, and the vibrancy of our economy depends on them. We have to provide for those families who provide for us.”

In this season of giving, at the end of a year that has been better economically than many in the recent past, we should take a moment to look at what each of us can do to provide for our neighbors and co-workers.

If you haven’t contributed yet, think about calling Routt County United Way at 879-5605 to make a charitable contribution or adopt a family or individual for the holidays. That United Way already has raised 86 percent of its goal of $450,000 for 2004 is admirable and speaks highly of our community’s giving nature. Let’s keep it going.


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