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Echoes of caring: Nonprofit helps area residents meet basic needs during the holidays

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By Vicky Gits

When it’s giving season in Evergreen, a lot of people think of Evergreen Christian Outreach, a local nonprofit that since 1986 has been distributing food and clothing assistance to hundreds of area families each month.

EChO is mainly a food bank, but families in need can also obtain clothing, household items, and Christmas and birthday gifts for kids.

The office and food bank are at the campus of the Church of the Transfiguration on Highway 74 east of downtown Evergreen. EChO is supported by churches all over Evergreen.

The need compared to a year ago is leveling out, but signs of relief or an improving economy are not on the near horizon, said Kristi Sigal, the group’s executive director.

“If anything, people are just more weary,” she said. “They have been without work for eight to 14 months, and they are tired of not being useful and of not being able to do what they were trained to do. A year ago, things were bad, but not for this long.

“They have done everything they thought they would never have to do,” Sigal said. “They are willing to do anything as long as it’s a paycheck, but it’s just not there.”

Almost everything that goes in and out of EChO is a function of the generosity of the people and merchants of Evergreen.

Last year about $5,000 in food grants came from The Denver Foundation and Jefferson County, but those grants won’t be available in 2010. About $300,000 of EChO’s income consisted of donated food, clothing, contributions and other items.

The organization makes money by selling used clothes and household items at a shop in the Evergreen North shopping center. The resale store brings in about $1,000 to $2,000 a day.

The list of households helped was 245 as of October, an increase of nearly 50 percent from 165 in October 2008. Total visits for three months (July-September 2009) were 1,676, compared to 1,153 in 2008 (July-September), an increase of 45 percent.

“We are seeing a lot of moms and some dads come in who are saying they just can’t afford to Christmas this year,” Sigal said.

To help with gift needs, EChO stocks its own Santa’s workshop called St. Nick’s, a room full of toys and age-appropriate items set up like a department store (Dec. 14-17). The deadline to drop off gifts is Thursday, Dec. 10.

One way of giving isn’t better than any other, Sigal says. The important thing is to do whatever makes you feel connected. Some people love to shop, and others love to write checks. One volunteer is especially good at stocking shelves. One donor just loves shopping and bargain hunting.

Top 10 Ways to Give

… to Evergreen Christian Outreach at Christmas.

For information, call 303-670-1796 or e-mail echo80439@juno.com, The website is www.evergreenchristianoutreach.org.

1. Send a check made out to Evergreen Christian Outreach, P.O. Box 1515, Evergreen, CO 80437.

2. Donate money in someone’s name for a Christmas gift. (Gift cards are available at the front desk.)

3. Give a gift card from Safeway, Home Depot, Walmart or King Soopers.

4. Buy presents for under the “Angel Trees” stationed at Evergreen National Bank (downtown and Bergen Park), Curves and King Soopers.

5. Drop off food. Food bank needs: canned tuna, canned stew, canned chili, peanut butter, Pasta Roni, spaghetti sauce, pork and beans, soup, juice, coffee, mayonnaise, corn, pasta, milk, margarine, eggs, toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry detergent, dishwashing soap, shampoo, disposable razors and personal hygiene items.

6. Drop off a gift. St. Nick’s Christmas shop is open Dec. 14-17. Most-needed items (drop off by Thursday, Dec. 10) include infant goods, gifts for teens (radios, hockey sticks, Ugg-type boots, jewelry, curling irons, hair dryers, hoodies, pajamas, slippers); gifts for women (slow cooker pots, electric roasters, frying pans, sets of dishes, silverware and glasses, robes, pajamas, gift cards to Kohl’s, Target, Barnes & Noble, Borders); gifts for men (watches, power tools, fleece jackets and insulated flannel, electric grills and hot plates, one-piece winter work suits, work gloves); for everyone (socks, underwear, candy, sleds and skates).

7. Drop off clothing and housewares at St. Raphael’s: adult winter coats, snow boots, socks, men’s work boots, hats and gloves, plus-size clothing, kitchen gadgets, cookware, coffee makers, king bedding, queen bedding.

8. EChO Resale Shop: Clean out your closet and bring usable materials to the shop at Evergreen North near Chow Down. For donation hours, visit www.evergreenchristianoutreach.org or call the resale shop at 303-679-8280. No large appliances.

9. Become a volunteer. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Most work one three-hour shift every other week. Helpers are needed in the shops, the food bank and the front desk. Become a driver, pick up food in Denver and deliver.

10. Adopt a special family. Contact Kristi Sigal at the office for arrangements.