Programs teach more than benefit of giving |

Programs teach more than benefit of giving

Toys for Tots, Christmas Wishes offer invaluable learning experiences

Meredith Geldmeier

— In the showroom of Steamboat Motors, a glossy, red Ford truck awaits prospective buyers. However, the contents of the pickup make it far more valuable than its price tag this Christmas.

Steamboat Motors is the headquarters for Toys for Tots, a program that provides toys for children in underprivileged families during the holiday season. Nationally, Ford Motor Co. and the U.S. Marine Corps sponsor the Toys for Tots program.

Steamboat Motors established a local version of the program in 1996.

In Steamboat, Toys for Tots works in conjunction with the United Way’s Christmas Wishes program.

The Christmas Wishes program identifies needy families and compiles a list of their Christmas wishes. Items collected by Toys for Tots are then distributed to families on the Christmas Wishes list.

Steamboat Motors General Manager John Centner said the partnership has been “phenomenally successful” in satisfying the wishes and needs of numerous families.

“It’s a great way of merging the two (programs),” said Millie Beall, United Way director.

Through the United Way, Christmas Wishes forms are distributed to local organizations such as the Department of Social Services, Visiting Nurse Association, Horizons and South Routt Community Center. Beall circulates letters to churches and other organizations describing the program and urging locals to participate.

This year, Beall received requests to assist families before she had even written her letter.

“It’s just awesome. I mean, this community is so cool,” Beall said. ” Almost everyone that gets involved just gets a great, great feeling.”

Community members “adopt” a family for the holidays and receive a list of the family’s needs. Toys for Tots helps meet those needs, and Christmas Wishes provides a means of distribution for Toys for Tots.

Centner described Steamboat as a giving community. Last year, contributions to Toys for Tots filled the truck bed three times. This year, Toys for Tots is aiming for four truckloads.

“I can’t even describe how successful this program has been,” Centner said.

Besides stuffing the stockings of many happy children, Toys for Tots also emphasizes the spirit of giving.

“I feel many of the youth are learning, and the parents are teaching their kids to give, and that’s just invaluable in life,” Centner said.

Nine-year-old Chloe Banning displayed such generosity. For her birthday party recently, the fourth-grader at Soda Creek Elementary asked her guests to bring gifts for Toys for Tots rather than for her.

“I though it would be a nice thing to do,” she said.

Twenty-five children brought donations to the party, and many gave more than one toy.

Chloe said the experience taught her “just to think about other people (more) than thinking about yourself.”

Toys for Tots will accept new, unwrapped toys through Dec. 17 at Steamboat Motors, 2310 Lincoln Ave.

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