Help your neighbors, all year long

We are lucky to have so many organizations and people in our community that support assistance programs such as Operation Helping Hand, the Rotary coat drive, family adoptions through various churches, the food pantries and many more efforts throughout the holiday season.

The Chamber would like to build on this, but would like to expand efforts throughout the year — thus, we have designed the Twelve Months of Christmas.

The program involves the Chamber and any business or individual that would like to participate. It runs in similar fashion to other family adoption programs, with a few twists. Each month, a family will be chosen to be a program recipient. Families can identify what their needs are: food, clothing, school supplies, emergency needs, household goods, etc. Family names can be submitted to the Chamber through churches, Human Services, businesses or even residents. You will need to complete a form listing why the family should be adopted, and what their needs are. One family will be chosen a month.

Perhaps as a business owner you know someone who had to be let go from their job or whose hours were cut back. Perhaps through your church or service organization you know of an individual or family that would not want to ask for help, but could use some extra assistance. We ask that you contact the Chamber so we can add them to the list of candidates.

Businesses can participate in many ways. While we know times are tough and every dollar counts, perhaps if you are marking down or marking out items such as clothing, shoes or other goods, instead of marking it out — donate it. Perhaps you can offer a gift certificate for a meal, or your business could offer a credit for the family to shop for needed supplies. Depending on the season, could school supplies be donated? The possibilities are great and the donations needed.

As a business owner or manager, you can contact the Chamber to notify us about what you would like to donate. Your business will be given credit unless you would like to remain anonymous. You can also donate any amount of money, as there is a “pool” of funds being set aside so a grocery gift card can be distributed each month. As a resident or a business owner you can donate non-perishable food items to be included in the monthly giveaway.

To nominate a family, simply fill out a form that we have available here at the Chamber. If there is an emergency, state the needs and the month in which you wish the family to be helped. Families will be considered on a needs and emergency basis.

We want to continue the giving all year long. After the holidays are over, needs do not diminish and we want to continue to help families that may be experiencing a temporary setback. We know the food pantries are getting hit hard, Loaves and Fishes numbers increase every week, and emergency needs are rising. We hope we will receive names of people to assist and hope that our efforts, while they may not help the masses, will help one family a month throughout 2009. Contact me at the Chamber at 264-2360 for more information on how you can nominate a family in need or if you wish to participate as an individual or business donor in the Twelve Months of Christmas.

Wolf Creek Whiteout

Inevitably, several times each winter, Wolf Creek Pass closes for avalanche control or due to severe weather conditions. At the Visitor Center, lodging establishments and businesses, we often hear from Pagosa visitors that they are not happy about the closures. This season, we hope to change many of our visitors’ attitudes about this inconvenience with the Wolf Creek Whiteout program! Here’s how it works.

When we learn the pass is closed, typically in the morning, the Chamber will kick into high gear and organize a set of pre-planned activities we have designed and organized with other businesses. When the Wolf Creek Whiteout is announced, it is imperative your business lets your guests or customers know about the programs offered, and that they don’t need to get mad and can enjoy Pagosa one more day, or several more hours, until the pass reopens. Activities such as a snow sculpting contests, snow shoe tours, “snolf” and sledding will be arranged and prizes will be offered. Businesses all over town will also offer discounts and pre-planned indoor and outdoor activities to our “stranded” visitors. All participating businesses will have a “Wolf Creek Whiteout” laminated poster they will post in their store so that people know of the special activities. All lodging facilities, restaurants and businesses will be alerted via e-mail, radio and other sources announcing the Whiteout is in effect.

And this is where the businesses come in.

This program will not be successful unless you let your customers know of the events. A schedule will be sent out shortly to all businesses so they will have an idea of the various events that will be going on when the pass closes. We are in the process of finalizing the list of participating businesses. If you think you can offer a discount or quickly put on an activity that will entertain our visitors, contact the Chamber so we can add you to the list and have a poster available for your business.

Does your restaurant have space so you could have a story time or coloring contest, with hot chocolate? As an example, one of our stores, Pagosa Pottery, will host a special pottery day for our displaced visitors. Perhaps the family wants to be involved in building a snow sculpture or a tour around Reservoir Hill on snowshoes; or we could encourage our visitors to soak if not for the first time, then again and at a special “Whiteout Rate.”

Many of our visitors are upset when the pass closes because they are on a schedule and need to get to their next destination. We understand their frustration, but we would like to minimize their inconvenience. We would like to show people how hospitable Pagosa Springs is, that we empathize with their frustration and want to make their inconvenience as minimal and friendly as possible.

If you would like to participate in the Wolf Creek Whiteout, contact Autumn at the Chamber and let her know what discount or activity your business would like to offer. We will be getting the event information out to the community very soon so we can be prepared. Obviously, should the weather be extremely severe in town where it affects the safety of the participants of the Wolf Creek Whiteout, we will announce variations of the program when we send out the Wolf Creek Whiteout notification. Communication is essential. Contact the Chamber if you want to participate then, when the pass does close, let your customers know about this special day.

We want to send our visitors home saying, “You can’t believe what Pagosa Springs did when Wolf Creek Pass was closed. I had the best time!”

Citizen and Volunteer of the Year

This is also the time of year to nominate a neighbor, co-worker, fellow church member, or community organization for either Volunteer or Citizen of the Year awards.

These yearly honors are awarded to an individual, couple or organization that gives selflessly and for the betterment of the community.

In the Citizen of the Year category, the nominee must have lived in Pagosa for at least three years and must have made an impact on the community in at least one of four categories: economic, lifestyle, philanthropic or cultural. The nominee must be active in the community in a way not related to their work or business. They must also demonstrate integrity and leadership qualities and have contributed in a special way to the community with measurable results.

The Volunteer of the Year can also be an individual, couple or organization. They must have given time, money or both with great humility, expecting nothing in return. They have unselfishly volunteered time outside of the workplace for community events. There is no restriction on length of residency for the Volunteer category.

Nomination forms for both categories were inserted in the last newsletter; you may pick them up at the Chamber, or we can fax you a form. Nomination forms must be back to the chamber by Friday, Jan. 2, so the winners can be chosen and announced at the annual meeting Saturday, Jan. 24, at Winslow on the Shire. The nominees are chosen by a committee and judged on merit, not by the number of nominations received for that person or group.

We hope to receive a number of nomination forms as this award ceremony is one of the highlights of the Chamber annual meeting. We ask members of our community to take the time to nominate fellow Pagosa residents or organizations who contribute to the vibrancy and lifeblood of our community. For information, contact the Chamber.

Information, please

We are grateful for the snow just before our busy holiday season. Sandy with the Visitor Center is calling around for restaurant and religious service information for the holidays. This information is important; we post it in our outdoor kiosk and have it available for our diplomats to refer to and to pass out to visitors. Please respond quickly with the necessary information, as we look forward to promoting your businesses during this holiday time. We want to get people out and about in Pagosa and show them a great time.

Membership News

We welcome one new member this week located in the Mountain Run Shopping Center. Quiznos comes to Pagosa offering delicious regular and grilled subs, soups and all the other great accompaniments including chips, cookies and drinks. Quiznos offers great specials and value and also consider them for your meeting or office catering. Call 731-4100 to order out or stop by 565 Village Drive.

Renewals this week include: San Juan Veterinary Hospital; Civil Design Team; Great Divide Title; Action Fire & Safety; Bruce Spruce Ranch; DIG Enterprises; and Howlin’ Wolf Music.

Our non-profits this week include the Music Boosters and the American Avalanche Association. We also have John Ramberg renewing as a friend of the Chamber.

We look forward to hearing from the community, especially from businesses about the Twelve Months of Christmas and the Wolf Creek Whiteout. If you have any suggestions, contact us so that we can incorporate your suggestions prior to the programs being rolled out.