STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Work by thousands of volunteers and donors culminated Saturday morning in the distribution of clothing, food vouchers and toys to more than 500 families throughout La Plata County. This is the 27th year for the countywide Project Merry Christmas.
“It’s a community effort,” said Tauni Gosche, board president for the project. “It’s huge.”
Gosche said vehicles from Durango Fire & Rescue Authority picked up packages and vouchers to deliver in their districts about 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
Even before this weekend’s deliveries, residents and visitors to the county had the opportunity to help in a variety of ways, she said.
Among the ways to contribute were an angel tree at the Durango Mall that allowed people to sponsor clothing for needy families.
Walmart hosted an angel tree for toy donations. In addition, a wrapping booth at the mall used proceeds to help fund the food vouchers.
Gosche has been involved with Project Merry Christmas for 12 years, starting at the urging of her mother-in-law, Faye O’Shea, who is the board treasurer. But the project started in 1985 when a group of women wanted to serve people in the county who had needs, she said.
That first group of women went through the schools, social services and senior connections to find people in need. Using those same methods, Project Merry Christmas came up this year with 501 families in Durango, Bayfield, Breen, Ignacio, Hesperus and elsewhere in the county, Gosche said.
The group starts distributing forms in October to find the needy families. The group also starts approaching businesses that can do a “full adoption” of a family, providing clothing, toys and food vouchers, or they can do a limited adoption for vouchers only, Gosche said.
Various businesses and groups help in other ways.
For instance, she said, Four Corners Broadcasting hosted Saturday blanket collections at various sites around the county.
Durango Cyclery loaned space for the group DEVO to rebuild or build children’s bicycles to be distributed by the project. DEVO is a junior cycling development program.
Other groups participating were Boy Scouts Troop 501, other public-safety agencies, the National Guard Armory and many others.
In addition to Gosche and O’Shea, Project Merry Christmas board members include Cathy Crum, vice president; Anna Marie Bishop, secretary; and Kaye Weis, Dusty McDougall, Diane Andrews, Barbara Geysel and Susie Patalan.