Ways to give to those in need in the Yampa Valley this holiday season | SteamboatToday.com

Ways to give to those in need in the Yampa Valley this holiday season

Ollie Dingle watches as Santa reads his letter at Discovery Learning Center in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

With snow falling and boughs and lights being hung on Lincoln Ave., it’s undoubtedly the season of giving. 

Each holiday season, Routt County rallies to provide ample ways to give to those in need and this year is looking to be no different. 

One opportunity for people is Steamboat Secret Santa, a grassroots program started by a couple of Steamboat moms in 2019 that is bigger than ever. 

In 2019, Jamie Lamb and Mel Cellucci helped about two dozen families and their program has since grown exponentially. 

In 2022, so has their team. 

Equipped with nine people, including four administrators, four translators and an IT expert, Steamboat Secret Santas is prepared to help more families than ever. 

“We have a whole crew. I’m really excited,” Lam said. “We have a real website.”

With the expansion of staff comes an ability to help more people or just better help the same amount of people. 

The biggest change in the program is the edition of multiple translators and having the text on the website translate to spanish. In past years, just one woman was balancing all the translating, which was a hefty task. 

“Almost 50%, if not more, of the recipients are spanish-speaking only,” Lamb said. “The first few years we were google translating things. … When we send the information if they have any questions they go through the translator, when it comes time for gift delivery, they can utilize the translator to ensure the recipient is home. There’s a lot more detailed wishlists because we’re not trying to translate things so they’re making it super simple.”

Through sign-up sheets at SteamboatSecretSantas.com, families in need are paired with those willing to donate, so they too can get gifts for the holidays. 

The deadline to sign up is Wednesday, Nov. 23 and gifts are delivered by Dec. 18.

“We’re only open (to sign-ups) for two weeks this year,” Lamb said. “We did that because the sign-up period is so bonkers, but really it’s a lot of repeat people. Everybody kind of knows about it.”

Financial commitment varies depending on how many family members there are in a Secret Santas match and participating this year isn’t a commitment to participate next year. 

Another locally created effort, Routt County Reindeer, is back as well. Ash Kempton is facilitating the collection of hats, mittens and winter socks. 

Kempton started the effort in 2020 and in 2021, she reached even more people. 

Kempton makes helping easy, assigning packs of gloves, hats and socks into an Amazon wish list titled Routt County Reindeer 2022.

Like Kempton, the Routt County United Way is focusing on helping people acquire the essentials through its Food Card Drive. 

The United Way is collecting grocery store gift cards in increments of $25, or donations. A single person gets $25, while two get $50 and a family of four or more gets $100. 

“We are hoping to community will be extra generous this year because of inflation and food costs that maybe we can give them a little bit more,” said United Way Executive Director Kate Nowak.

Nowak said the gift cards allow recipients to have a little more autonomy during the holidays, which she hopes people appreciate. 

“What we like to do at the holidays is give them the choice,” she said. “We know everybody has to eat. That money they would have spent on groceries, they can choose a gift of choice for their kid or they can pay a bill or whatever it is that they need to do during this time of year that’s so tough.”

Making the effort extend a little further, Mountain Valley Bank is offering a $7,500 match program. Donations of cards or money can be brought to Routt County United Way at 443 Oak St. in Steamboat Springs, or people may contact Jen Bruen, community@RouttCountyUnitedWay.org or at 970-879-5606 ext. 102.

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