Holiday Baskets are on their way | AspenTimes.com

Holiday Baskets are on their way

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Clarence Blackwell doublechecks Holiday Baskets — giant bags of gifts, actually — Monday at Christ Episcopal Church in Aspen. Some 250 families from Aspen to El Jebel will receive an assortment of holiday presents this year, along with City Market gift cards, through the long-running program.

ASPEN – The pews at Christ Episcopal Church in Aspen were filled with presents, not parishioners, on Monday.

Brightly wrapped packages spilled into the aisles as volunteers checked and double-checked lists to make sure gifts for each member of some 250 families were ready for delivery. In all, about 1,000 kids, teens, parents and senior citizens will receive a Christmas present this year through the Holiday Baskets program.

Holiday Baskets – actually, the gifts (except for the shiny, new bicycles) are delivered in giant, transparent plastic bags – has been delivering holiday gifts and food to people in need from Aspen to El Jebel for about 35 years.

“It says something about the community,” said Bob Cook, a member of Christ Episcopal Church, who was helping out Monday as volunteers readied the packages for delivery Tuesday and Wednesday.

The program is an interfaith effort coordinated by Christ Episcopal but involving various local parishes, including the Aspen Jewish congregation. The generosity, however, extends beyond the doorsteps of local churches.

Area schools, businesses and other groups also “adopt” families referred to the program. Adopting a family means purchasing gifts for each family member, including parents. It’s not an inexpensive commitment.

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“We always give something to the parents – most kids want their parents to get a present, too,” said Anne Blackwell, who’s coordinating the program for the fifth time.

This year, the Aspen High School Outreach Service Club adopted three families and collected donations to buy gift cards. Some middle school classes adopt families, as well, and one second-grade Aspen class holds an annual bake sale; it took in about $900 this year – enough to adopt two families, according to Blackwell.

A Kids for Kids group is raising money to buy a laptop computer for a teen mother who is continuing school and will graduate in the spring, she said.

Not every family referred to the program is adopted, but all of them are taken care of, thanks to the gift trees that pop up around town as the holidays approach. Tags hung on the trees specify gifts; individuals and groups grab a tag (or several), purchase the item on each tag and turn it in. Volunteers wrap all the purchases.

This year, 550 gift tags were distributed, and Blackwell said she believes they all were picked up. There were gift trees at schools, fire departments, local government offices and other locations. In addition, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association collects contributions of toys and money.

Along with the baskets, each family receives City Market gift cards for food purchases – a $20,000 expenditure covered by cash contributions.

“It’s just great how everyone gets in on it,” Blackwell said. “The community is absolutely amazing.”

janet@aspentimes.com

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