Christmas with dignity, thanks to Basalt church | AspenTimes.com

Christmas with dignity, thanks to Basalt church

BASALT ” Forty-one midvalley families in need of charitable help are experiencing Christmas with dignity Tuesday.

The Basalt Community United Methodist Church used its own special spin as a host in the U.S. Marine Corp.’s Toys for Tots program. Part of the program is universal ” religious and civic organization team with businesses to collect new toys for families facing tough times. The program is designed to make sure as many children as possible receive something for Christmas.

The Basalt Community United Methodist Church has been a midvalley host for the program for roughly eight years. The Rev. Marie Gasau introduced a special touch after the first year.

Gasau didn’t want the recipient families to receive their gifts in a way that could shame the parents or ruin the mysterious joy of Christmas for the kids. She recalled a friend’s story about growing up underprivileged. The friend’s dad wept in shame while receiving holiday aid because he felt it demonstrated his inability to provide for his family.

Gasau took the story to heart and altered the local version of Toys for Tots. Toys and other presents were collected Friday in the basement of the church at Holland Hills. Items like the Raptor Rampage Hot Wheels Track Set, Spider Man Action Pal and Liberty Bear Beanie Baby stuck out among the colorful rows.

The piles were separated from a party room where the recipient families gathered Saturday. That way, Gasau explained, the parents could sneak into the toy room while the kids were kept busy with Santa Claus and various activities in the party room.

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All children in the recipient families provided a list of toys they really, really wanted. “In some cases, toys are exactly what they asked for,” Gasau said.

Two girls, for example, asked for ponies. They will get the next best thing. Two wooden rocking horses were hand-crafted by a person performing community service for a jail sentence.

When exact requests could be met, the toys were wrapped by members of the congregation with the recipients’ names. The parents were able to select an additional item or two from the remaining toys, then members of the congregation helped them wrap the presents.

Gasau said most of the families, who were referred to the church by Eagle County Health and Human Services and the Basalt Family Resource Center, cannot afford babysitters. The parents had no choice but to bring the kids with them to pick up the gifts.

The whole experience would be ruined, she said, if the kids saw the toys being brought home, then hidden before reappearing for Christmas. Selecting and transporting wrapped presents makes it more of a shopping experience. It gives parents the opportunity to surprise their kids.

“There’s so much dignity in the way we’re doing it,” Gasau said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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