Inside, three women bustle around rows of tall cardboard boxes, the corners of holiday gift-wrapped presents barely visible above their rims. The boxes stretch from wall-to-wall inside this regional holiday charity organization’s donated headquarters, located this year on Telluride’s main street, in the expansive storefront that used to house the Telluride Panhandler. The number of boxes for Angel Baskets, as organization has been known since its inception 30 years ago – is astounding, especially considering that each of these boxes goes to a regional family that would have otherwise gone without gifts this year, if it weren’t for the volunteers and supporters who make this program possible.
The three women, longtime Angel Baskets volunteers Nancy Talmey, Jane Hardman and Marilyn Branch, halt their gift-wrapping, item-tagging and paperwork-filing for a moment when the front door jingles open, ushering in a threesome of yoga-mat carrying women.
“We’d like to volunteer,” one of the women explains, and after they’re told they can return whenever they have time, Talmey explains that this kind of altruism exemplifies what Angel Baskets has come to represent during the last three decades.
“It is truly a community effort,” Talmey says, speaking of the 30-some longtime, year-round Angel Baskets volunteers, just part of the organization’s army of other volunteers, when counting the merchants, business owners and families that give, year after year, to Angel Baskets.
The list of groups, organizations and individuals that make the Angel Baskets magic happen are too numerous to recount, Talmey says; suffice it to say that she and Hardman have a hard time thinking of a local Telluride business that doesn’t give, in some way or another, during the holidays.
“I’ve worked for other nonprofits, and this one is such an easy sell,” Hardman says of soliciting donations for Angel Baskets over the last eight years. “I mean, who wants to think about a child not having a present to open, or food to eat, on Christmas?”
Talmey, a ten-year Angel Baskets stalwart, reports that the group will deliver an Angel Basket (complete with food, clothing, gifts and toys) to at least 200 families this holiday season. Last winter, the organization increased its number of deliveries by 28 percent; she doesn’t yet know what this year’s final count will be, since applications for the program are still being collected.
As the women explain it, Angel Baskets are far more than charitable gifts of necessary items. In addition to the practical items, like sheets and towels, or winter coats and boots, the organization is dedicated to making sure each member of each family receives at least one “bonus item,” a true gift – like toys for kids and clothes for adults.
Every family or individual that receives an Angel Basket “truly needs our help,” Talmey says, explaining that every recipient is verified by Social Services as needing assistance.
And it seems that whatever Angel Baskets needs for one of its families, it gets, thanks to the outpouring of support the group receives from the community. Grocers donate food, realtors buy bicycles, merchants donate boots, clothes and toys and some businesses donate a percentage of profits from the sale of certain items. The towns of Telluride and Mountain Village offer Toys for Tickets programs, enabling people to pay their parking tickets with a toy of equal or greater value than their parking fine; the Telluride Foundation is another generous supporter and restaurants jump in to help by donating lunches for volunteers.
Even kids do what they can, with Cub Scouts and Girl Scout troops wrapping presents at headquarters, while one local youngster, 10-year-old Jaden Evans, thought up his own fundraiser and managed to purchase three bikes after riding his own and collecting per-mile donations for Angel Baskets. “We’re the direct link between the people who want to help, and the people who need the help,” Talmey says.
It’s because of the community’s overwhelming support that Angel baskets has been able to expand its reach in recent years, developing new programs to provide food and clothing throughout the year, while expanding its service area to include all of San Miguel County as well as the west end of Montrose County. The programs now includes the original holiday program; three regional food banks (in Telluride, Norwood, and Dove Creek/Egnar); school supplies, backpacks and gym shoes and gift certificates for seniors’ prescription co-pays and other necessities.
Giving to Angel Baskets takes many forms. The traditional mode is to stop by headquarters and pick up an angel, or descriptions of gifts requested by an Angel Basket Family. All donations are due by Monday, Dec. 12, and there are still plenty of angels left.
Volunteers are also welcome to stop by anytime, to wrap presents and sort items. Hours of operation are 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Drivers are also needed to deliver the baskets, which takes place on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Donors can also drop off checks or cash at Headquarters; or, visit the organization’s website at www.tellurideangelbaskets.org to donate via PayPal.
For more information about the Angel Baskets program, call 970/708-0647.