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An unlikely Santa

SUMMIT COVE – It’s somewhat ironic: A downturn in the economy means more families are in need of assistance from government human services offices, but the downturn also forced budget cutbacks that left those agencies less able to give that assistance.So when Summit Cove resident Robin Christianson learned Summit County’s Social Services staff had to abandon its traditional Secret Santa and Adopt-A-Family holiday gift programs, he decided that wasn’t acceptable. With a red and white suit on order and his beard growing out, Christianson is going to play Santa.With guidance from the county staff, as well as veteran toy drive organizers from the Silverthorne Police Department, Christianson has organized the Dillon Valley Children’s Gift Fund. Christianson hopes to collect, wrap and deliver gifts to 300 to 400 children in Dillon Valley and Summit Cove.Christianson said it’s a big project, but it’s worth the sweat.”I kind of jumped into it before I really knew what I was getting into,” he said. “I started talking to all these people about how to do it, and I was a little overwhelmed. But I figure just by trying, I’m succeeding.”The project is especially satisfying, Christianson said, because the county’s service agencies have helped him so much in the past. The father of three daughters moved his family to Summit County from Denver after his wife died three years ago. Originally, he worked as a snowcat mechanic at Breckenridge, but an injury and a series of back surgeries left him unable to work. Although he has done accounting work in between operations, Christianson said he hasn’t worked full time in three years.”I’ve got the time, and I feel like I need to pay something back with this,” he said. “It’s sort of atonement. I haven’t always been the best person or neighbor.”Christianson is placing holiday trees and drop boxes at Frisco’s Wal-Mart and Copy Copy stores, and at Dillon’s City Market and Bed Bath & Beyond (pending corporate approval). Forms accompanying the boxes allow adults to request a gift for a child or provide the age and name of a child who needs a gift. The forms also are printed in Spanish. Christianson said he will leave the boxes out until a few days before Dec. 25.Christianson said the gifts don’t have to be extravagant – he suggests under $25, and children older than 15 might appreciate a gift certificate. The gifts should be returned with the child’s information to the trees at the above stores. Christianson said Mountain Mentors staff will help him wrap all the gifts.Cash donations to help the toy drive can be made to the Dillon Valley Children’s Gift Fund at any FirstBank location in the county.”I really hail his efforts,” said Verna Pottle, administrative assistant at the Silverthorne Police Department. “It’s a very noble thing he’s taking on.”Pottle organizes a similar effort in Silverthorne. This year marks the police department’s seventh annual Adopt-An-Angel program. Pottle puts up trees decorated with ornaments bearing the names of children in need of gifts at Silverthorne’s town hall and four factory outlet stores. Gifts for Silverthorne children should be given unwrapped to the police department by Dec. 16. Officers will deliver the gifts door-to-door around the Christmas holiday.”When we first started, we had 65 kids,” Pottle said. “Last year, we had just over 300. It’s great that Summit County is such a generous place.”Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.


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