Helping others, together

It’s that time of year, — when charitable souls in Pagosa Country pour forth help for neighbors in need. It is a year that could be one of the toughest in recent memory, with national and local economies reeling from one blow after another; there are people out of work or who are just getting by. It is a year when need will almost certainly grow, and the ability to meet it will likely shrink. The holidays are on the horizon and the overall ability to give might be constrained.

One of the best tests of the level of need in this community is that Operation Helping Hand —the oldest, biggest, best organized local holiday charitable effort — reports a record high number of requests for help from the Thanksgiving program (in operation, along with the OHH Christmas program, since 1989). That number was tallied a week ago, with time remaining to sign up for assistance. Organizers expect at least 100 families to request assistance for Thanksgiving.

Operation Helping Hand, working in conjunction with the Archuleta County Department of Human Services, draws on a large number of community resources — individuals and organizations — for assistance during the holidays, providing food boxes at Thanksgiving and food, clothing and toys at Christmas.

Among the groups that assist each year are both City Market stores, the Chamber of Commerce, the Extension Office, the county Solid Waste Office, the Mounted Rangers. Kiwanis, Pagosa Dental, Community United Methodist Church, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, Pagosa Fire Protection District, 1st Southwest Bank, the Pagosa Springs Area Assoc. of Realtors, Pagosah Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Hart Construction, Centerpoint Church, the four district school buildings, Pagosa Springs Area Christian Educators, Pagosa Springs Outdoor Club, Coldwell Banker-The Pagosa Group, The Hill Group, Jeepers Creepers, The Movie Gallery, Pagosa Springs Rotary Club, Sisson Library, National Wild Turkey Federation-Pagosa chapter, ALCO, 4-H, Boy Scout Troop 807, Pagosa Piecemakers, Archuleta County Seniors Inc., AAA Propane, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, LPEA, CenturyTel, Pagosa Outreach Connection, Grace Evangelical Church, Restoration Fellowship, Bank of the San Juans, Pagosa Springs Police Department, Colorado Dream Homes, Ponderosa Home Center and the U.S. Marine Corps. The effort aims primarily at helping children and seniors in the community.

Last year, at Christmas, Operation Helping Hand volunteers passed out gifts to 256 families, including 924 people. Donations of gifts, food and cash allowed for food boxes, and 2,397 holiday gifts for children and seniors.

The biggest need at the moment’— food for the Thanksgiving food box program. As of today, there are only two donation buckets of food on hand, and minimal donations for purchase of food. Then, there will be a need for donations for the Christmas program. While many in the community undertake separate food and toy drives, this year it is imperative to cooperate and consolidate efforts, to focus supplies and energies, and avoid what, sadly, can occur when information is not coordinated. There are, unfortunately, those who will scam charitable programs, thus depriving children and others from receiving help during the holidays. One way to prevent this is through participation in the Helping Hand program, with its connection with the Department of Human Services. It is a unified effort that can best serve truly needy residents of the community, in particular in a time of pinched resources.

Those who wish to donate to Operation Helping Hand can do so by making donations in the name of the organization to account No. 6240417424 at Wells Fargo Bank or account No. 20014379 at Bank of the San Juans. Donations can also be mailed to P.O. Box 1083, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147.

Residents in need of food for Thanksgiving can sign up by 4 p.m. today, Nov. 13, at the Department of Human Services, at Town Hall. Those needing assistance with food, clothing or toys for Christmas can sign up at the office by the end of the day Dec. 4.

And the rest of us can cooperate and pool our time and materials to help our fellow Pagosans.

Karl Isberg