SILVERTHORNE - On first glance, the inside of the Silverthorne Pavilion could have been confused with Santa's workshop Thursday morning.
Dolls, bikes, books, balls, children's clothing, coats and boxes of toys were piled in almost every available space, under a canopy of sparkling Christmas lights. Around the mezzanine, volunteers wearing Santa hats fervently wrapped presents as classic Christmas carols rang through the room.
But it's not Christmas Eve at the North Pole, it's Summit County emergency responders' annual Adopt an Angel gift giveaway, a long-standing tradition that ensures kids from low-income families have presents to open on Christmas morning.
"This is our shopping factory," Silverthorne police chief Mark Hanschmidt said. "Our toy factory as we like to call it. Parents come through, they pick out what they want for their kids."
Most of the gifts are donated by members of the community, who select ornaments from Christmas trees around the county and then purchase toys, clothes, books and other items for children of the age and gender noted on their ornament.
One individual donated approximately 40 scooters and 15 brand new children's bicycles to be given away this year.
On Wednesday, firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel from across the county went to Walmart and loaded up shopping carts with $5,000 worth of toys and gifts to fill in the gaps for age groups that didn't have enough items donated.
"This, to all of us, makes it feel like Christmas," said Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Lipsher, as he helped carry a sack full of gifts.
For the recipients, the giveaway is overwhelming, said one mother who volunteered for Adopt an Angel before her family fell on hard times and she found herself on the receiving end of the program. Emergency officials provided her with gifts for her two elementary-aged children again this year as she dealt with an impending divorce.
"They have amazing hearts," she said. "It just fills you up. I can't tell you how much gratitude I have for these guys."
Adopt an Angel offers gifts to roughly 700-800 children, from newborns to teenagers, who have been referred to the program through social services, schools, law enforcement or local agencies like the Family and Intercultural Resource Center.
This year, to avoid the long lines of the past, parents were assigned a specific time to come and shop through the piles of toys, clothes, books and other gifts to find presents for the kids. Each parent got to select one large and one small gift per child.
"How it's running this year is just awesome," said Lee Williams, a local mom who has received gifts for the youngest of her six children for the last several years. "It's definitely an awesome program. It helps big time."