The holidays are over and the wrapping paper has been thrown out along with the Christmas tree. However, pleasant surprises are still in store for Summit County residents in need of financial aid.On Thursday, it was announced that the Summit County Cares holiday campaign exceeded its goal of raising $50,000.Because of donations from the Breckenridge Restaurant Association, Grand Lodge on Peak 7, Father Dyer United Methodist Church and others, $56,000 will go toward helping more than 800 people who may face emergencies such as eviction, disconnection of heat and electricity or illness.Summit County Cares, the largest emergency assistance fund in the county, exclusively benefits clients of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, a Dillon-based nonprofit that runs a thrift store, food bank and financial aid center on a $1.5 million annual budget.Anita Overmyer, the development director of FIRC, said that 100 percent of the money donated to The Summit Foundation, which organizes the holiday campaign, will go toward area families - not administrative overhead costs.The aim of FIRC is to offer assistance for one-time crises. The majority of people who receive assistance from FIRC happen to be at a difficult point in their life and use the assistance to move on to a more-stable lifestyle. Rent assistance, for example, is given only once each year and only twice every five years.In 2012, more than 181 households received rent or mortgage assistance and about 1,800 individuals visited the food bank. Overmyer said that Summit County Cares started in 2008, when the economic downturn eliminated much of the governmental and national foundation funding FIRC had relied on in the past. Since then, the campaign has grown exponentially."Out of the five years we've been doing this, this is the most money we've raised. I think it's growing every year," she said. "More people are hearing about it. It's about giving where you live and helping neighbors in need."Overmyer has been there herself. In 2008, she became a casualty of the downturn when she was laid off from a marketing position at an area ski resort. "I can understand how quickly things can change," she said. "I was fortunate to get another great job, but I understand how hard it can be."Many of FIRC's clients are the people who make Summit County run - the ski lift operators, the waitresses and retail clerks who might work two other jobs to make ends meet.They're not a picture of poverty, Overmyer said. Usually, they're just waiting until enough snow falls for the resorts to bump up their hours and paychecks."Despite the resort atmosphere, not everyone is well off here," she said. "The high cost of living does really make it difficult for people. They're living paycheck to paycheck. They have to start making decisions on what bills to pay." The busiest times of the year for FIRC are the offseason months -April, May, June, September, October and November, Overmyer said.In November, 26 households in the county were given rent or mortgage assistance, which is the highest it's been since 2009. Five households received utilities aid during that same time. "November was really hard for a lot of people," she said. "The lack of snow caused employers to hold off getting everyone up to 40 hours. Once that initial snow hit in mid-December, people were starting to get their hours."FIRC is seeing lower numbers right now, but in November about 45 people would show up on Tuesdays and Thursday to receive groceries from the food bank, which is now flush with goods."Holiday donations were really fantastic," Overmyer said. "It's looking better now than it has in a long time."
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