Numbers for Summit County Adopt an Angel program continue to climb
Visit summitangel.com to find a full list of participating businesses and drop-off locations. The deadline for donations is Dec. 9. FIRC also accepts financial donations, which will be used to buy any remaining gifts after Dec. 9. Adopt an Angel gifts will be given away at the Silverthorne Pavilion on Dec. 14.
In its earliest days, Adopt an Angel was a passion project for the Silverthorne Police Department.
A gift would be dropped off, and Misty Higby, a 13-year veteran at the department, said officers would feverishly wrap the gifts in between calls. From there, they would personally drop them off at a family’s house, and stay to talk with them, an experience that was meant to tell families the town was there to support them, Higby said.
“When I first started it was more close knit for the town of Silverthorne,” she said. “But then after a time we realized it wasn’t just Silverthorne that needed help, it was really the whole county.”
Adopt an Angel started in 1994, and has come a long way from the days of hand-delivering presents to families. It expanded to serve all of Summit when the program began to serve between 300 and 330 children a year, Higby said.
But in 2015 that number doubled, and the program was suddenly helping more than 600 children.
“Something changed, a lot of people came up and the numbers were just drastically bigger,” Higby said. “It was just shocking for us.”
The numbers have continued to grow as the final count for children utilizing the program this year topped 900, a 33 percent increase from 2015.
The jump led to the Silverthorne Police Department passing the torch over to the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) to take over managing the program this year. Although to police department continues to work with the program, Adopt an Angel had simply outgrown the department’s resources.
Tamara Drangstveit, the executive director at FIRC, said the continuing boost in families applying for the program is in part because of the rising population in Summit County and the increase in the cost of living. But one of the biggest contributors this year was the delay in winter jobs for seasonal workers in the county.
“When we have a late snow season and folks don’t get a lot of hours right around Thanksgiving, it definitely makes it even more challenging for them,” Drangstveit said. “Many families do work seasonally and they have to plan for the slow seasons and when those slow seasons are longer than they’ve anticipated there’s really no where to go.”
Last year, Higby said that she reached out to “anyone and everyone” to ensure that Adopt an Angel could still successfully help all the families that had applied. She was even able to reach out to contacts in Denver to get donations.
“Without the businesses and the community members out here, there is no way we could have made it last year,” Higby said.
Drangstveit said that FIRC is similarly reaching out to try and spread the word for this year, and added that partnerships with businesses like Breckenridge Grand Vacations are helping to expand programming. The organization has received some donations, but the program is finishing soon.
Trees were put up in businesses throughout the county at the end of November with children in the program represented through ornaments. Gifts can be purchased for each child, but donations must be received by Dec. 9 and presents will be given away at an event in the Silverthorne Pavilion on Dec. 14.
“It’s intense, it’s more than it was last year and we just need to do whatever we can to make sure that we can afford these kids the opportunity to have a wonderful Christmas, and not just the kids, the parents too,” Higby said.
Drangstveit said that the benefit of living in Summit County is that the people here are particularly generous. For Higby, her 13 years in the police force at Silverthorne have shown her the true heart of the community.
“Everybody jumps in to help each other. Where I grew up, down in the Denver-Metro area, that did not happen. It is unique to this community and it’s utterly amazing,” Higby said. “This community never ceases to fail in that they always are here to help. Always.”
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