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Christmas Wish gives and gives

Madeleine OsbergerSnowmass correspondent

For a few short moments this holiday season, The Christmas Wish Foundation is coming out of the proverbial closet.The 20-year-old organization that quietly performs its good deeds is going public to emphasize the great needs that people in this valley are experiencing.According to founder and executive director Barbara Bakios-Wickes, Christmas Wish has received 80 wishes during the past few weeks. The wishes are anything from “automobile repair, help with surgery and bus passes to tutoring and dental work. We never know what we’re going to get,” Bakios-Wickes said.One needy group that seems to really have multiplied this season is single mothers.”People are very unaware how many single mothers are raising children in this valley. It’s almost an epidemic of fathers walking out the door,” she said.This year in particular, the requests by single mothers appear to be over-the-top. “There could truly be two separate foundations in this area,” one for single moms and one just to address dental needs, she added.Foundation member George Hart said Christmas Wish helps provide some protection for people who might otherwise fall through the gaps.Sometimes “bad things happen to good people,” Hart said, stressing that Christmas Wish assists those who might get overlooked by other benevolent organizations. Bakios-Wickes noted that the vast majority of those they help are the working poor.Yes, in this valley of plenty, there’s just no shortage of folks who work one, two or even three jobs but still can’t make ends meet.Joy of givingThe local Christmas Wish Foundation was started in 1984 by Bakios-Wickes and her husband Steve Wickes, who were inspired by a similar program in New Zealand. Steve was a vice president of the Aspen Rotary Club at the time and he got the club interested in the program.Throughout the years, it’s believed Christmas Wish has helped approximately 4,000 people in the Roaring Fork Valley. Yet in many cases, the receivers don’t even know that Christmas Wish has fulfilled their requests.Volunteers such as George Hart help satisfy the wish by either finding the funding or getting the request donated. “I’ve really enjoyed trying to locate different gifts for people and delivering them,” he said. One gift that stands out was a special wheelchair that lifts the person out of the seated position.”It made him mobile again,” said Hart, recalling the recipient’s “smile, appreciation and gratitude.”Another time, Hart “got to be Santa” for a family who otherwise couldn’t have celebrated Christmas. “It’s terrific to be able to give back,” he said.Christmas Wish has also provided the occasional rent payment, grocery gift card and even funding for a doctor’s visit. Mortgage assistance isn’t unheard of, nor is an upgraded computer.Anonymity of the recipients is an important part of Christmas Wish. But if people are too quiet about their needs, isn’t there a risk of getting overlooked?Well, yes, but board and committee members work hard at checking, and double checking, those whose needs may not be so obvious.”Barb does a fabulous job of finding people,” Hart said. And sometimes, there’s so much need that one need not look far to find a worthy recipient.Donations can sometimes be hard to find, however. The foundation’s main funding mechanism was established through the Martens Foundation, named for the late Ernst and Wilma Martens.”They wanted their money to make a difference in people’s lives,” Bakios-Wickes said. Several thousand gifts later, there’s no disputing that this couple has made an impact on the lives of many people.So for this brief window of time, the foundation is stepping out of the box, if you will.”On our 20th anniversary, we’d like people to know about us,” Bakios-Wickes said.Those interested in contributing can send checks to: The Christmas Wish Foundation, P.O. Box 2800, Aspen, 81612.


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