TELLURIDE – Every holiday season, hundreds of individuals and families in San Miguel, Montrose and Dolores counties lack sufficient resources to afford Christmas gifts, school supplies – even prescription copays.
For more than three decades, Angel Baskets, the Telluride-headquartered nonprofit, has connected thousands of residents of the three counties with donated goods and services.
“The old saying ‘it takes a village’ – well it’s very true,” said Angel Baskets Boardmember and longtime volunteer Camille Price. “Whether we provide financial assistance, books or goods...we’re all part of the same community. This is the community helping the community.”
Angel Baskets grew from providing eight financially strapped Telluride families with food, toys and clothes in its first year to distributing these goods and more to nearly 600 individuals, including 200 families (and their children) across the region. Gifts are boxed and wrapped by Angel Basket volunteers, and delivered a few days before Christmas.
The nonprofit really began to grow in 2008, when it stepped in to offer other goods and services to ease local economic fallout caused by the Great Recession.
“Angel Baskets can react quickly,” said Angel Baskets organizer Nancy Talmey. “In 2008, we saw a great number of people” who didn’t have enough food, as well as “an increase in requests for necessities like clothing and personal items.”
As a result, Angel Baskets expanded its holiday gift program to stocking food banks in Telluride, Norwood and Dove Creek/Egnar, offering food to more than 500 people every month. Due to demand and to limited funds, the nonprofit limits families to once-a-month visits.
The nonprofit also began helping the elderly with its pharmacy program, providing financial assistance to low-income seniors who cannot afford their prescription medication copays. Schoolchildren from low-income families also benefit through Angel Basket’s School Supply Program, which gives 350 children in the Norwood, Nucla/Naturita, Telluride and Paradox Valley schools a mix of backpacks, gym shoes and school supplies.
In turn, Angel Baskets receives gratitude from its beneficiaries.
“One letter we received from someone we helped said that her children would have had no presents to open on Christmas, had it not been for Angel Baskets,” said Price. Another was from a gentleman who had faced an awful choice: turn the heat off in his trailer or have enough food to eat.
Angel Baskets organizers say that minimal overhead has been key to its rapid growth. Seventy percent of the organization’s funding comes from private donations; the other 30 percent comes from grants and commercial donations.
Multiple commercial entities chip in each year. Telluride realtors, for example, provided Angel Baskets with 35 brand-new children’s bicycles earlier this winter. Telluride Sports partnered with Angel Baskets in 2013, matching half of what customers agreed to donate (in addition to an item’s total purchase price) to the nonprofit. Local governments and taxing districts also played a role, with the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village sponsoring the Toys for Tickets program that allows parking tickets to be paid for with new toys given to the Angel Baskets Holiday Program. Similarly, Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library hosts Food for Fines early in the holiday season, allowing patrons to pay for fines with non-perishable food items.
Price said Angel Baskets will be always be there for those in need. “We always hope that one day people won’t need our help or assistance, but we’re a growing organization and we are here to help,” she said.
Those wishing to donate or volunteer for the nonprofit can contact Talmey at 970/708-0647; for more information, visit tellurideangelbaskets.org.