Piñon’s program, dubbed Christmas for Kids, has been going on for more than 10 years. Families can apply at the organization’s headquarters to receive gifts, and if they qualify based on income and expenses, Piñon will pair them with a business, nonprofit or individual sponsor. Last year, community sponsors provided gifts to 415 children in Montezuma County.
“It’s really phenomenal how everyone comes together to support the families that need a little extra help,” youth program director Kelli Jackson said.
Some of the organizations that sponsor children every year include the Cortez Fire District, the Elks Lodge, the Kiwanis Club and the Salvation Army, which will be adopting families through Piñon this year. Piñon itself also sponsors 60 to 150 kids every year, and numerous individuals throughout the county also donate gifts and money.
Christmas for Kids is a big project, so different volunteers and sponsors take over different parts of it. Jackson said that from Dec. 19 to about Dec. 23, the Piñon office transforms into “Santa’s Workshop” as volunteers sort, wrap and address gifts. The Fire Department and Elks Lodge help to deliver the gifts just before Christmas. Several businesses, like The Journal, set up “angel trees” with children’s wish lists on them, to encourage their customers to donate. Keesee Motor Co. and Love on a Hanger usually hold toy drives for the project during the first few weeks of December. Colorado Title and Closing Services donates wrapping paper and tape. Jackson emphasized that Christmas for Kids is “the community’s project,” but Piñon coordinates the various organizations’ efforts.
Evie Russell, of the Cortez Salvation Army, said this town is one of the most generous she’s ever seen, especially around the Christmas season. Even though the Salvation Army is not involved in organizing Christmas for Kids this year, as they have been in the past, she still encouraged people to donate to the program through Piñon.
“Christmas may not seem like a big deal to some people, but to those kids it is,” she said.
Not many people have signed up to be part of the program, but Jackson said donations typically pick up around Dec. 12. Families can apply to receive gifts at the Cortez Piñon Project headquarters through Dec. 16, which is also the deadline for sponsors to donate. Jackson said she hopes to have the gifts and delivery plans “all wrapped up” by Dec. 23.
She said that even though several organizations come back to sponsor children every year, anyone is welcome to become a sponsor, as well as to volunteer or donate. She said they especially need sponsors in December, as the project draws closer to “the finish line.” As for donations, she said gifts for teens are always welcome, since older children tend to be more difficult and more expensive to shop for. Russell also said there is a need for warm clothes and blankets for kids of all ages.
“Our goal is to make sure every family that needs a little extra support gets what they need,” Jackson said.