Santa’s helpers still helping in Eagle County |

Santa’s helpers still helping in Eagle County

Randy Wyrickrwyrick@vaildaily.comVail, CO Colorado
CVR Toy Drive DT 10-29-11

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – You don’t ask how Santa got in the house, you’re just glad he did.For 17 years, the Eagle Masonic Lodge and the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District have been some of Santa’s most energetic helpers.Sometimes, especially during Christmas, folks need Santa’s helpers to reach out with a helping hand.”They don’t need charity. They just need a little help,” said Jon Asper, chief of the Eagle fire department.It started almost two decades ago. The Colorado Army National Guard’s HAATS folks were working with some local families and saw the need. They’re action-oriented and it didn’t take them long to stuff some toys into trucks and helicopters – which they used because they were fresh out of sleighs pulled by reindeer.It grew from year to year. The HAATS folks were doing this in their spare time – and they don’t have any more spare time than you do. So they wandered over to the Eagle fire department and asked Asper for a little help. He was happy to give it.The fire fighters and HAATS folks worked together, then the Eagle fire department took it over and emergency service workers from all over got on board. Asper got the Eagle Masonic Lodge involved, and the thing expanded to include the Masons and the Salvation Army.The Masons and Asper don’t ask a lot of questions about why people need help. Folks just do, and that’s enough.”You’d be shocked about who needs help with food or toys but doesn’t want to ask, because they used to make good money and now they don’t,” Asper said.

They set up the toy store in the Masonic Lodge (120 E. Third Street, Eagle), and it runs the week before Christmas. People come through a few at a time.Last year they helped almost 600 families through the toy store, and another 60 or so families on the side.Sometimes stuff just shows up at families’ homes. Families don’t know where it came from or who left it. They don’t need to know.”They just need to know that someone cares about them and their family,” Asper said.

The network works if you work it.Asper knew Mike Montag through the Eagle fire department and the Masonic Lodge. Montag was working with Larry Mathis, who spotted Montag’s Masonic ring and asked him about the annual Masons and Fire Fighters Toy Drive.”Do you think you could use a donation of toys?” Why yes, Montag responded.So, Larry and Beth Mathis donated what we’ll call a “significant” bunch of toys.”Now that we have a home here, we wanted to help the people of Eagle County,” Larry said.So now you need people to help load and unload, which is how local Boy Scouts are now counted among Santa’s helpers.The Masons asked the Boy Scouts for some strapping lads who were young and strong and had never been tired.Turns out the Boy Scouts have several.”We try to instill the benefit of service in the boys, to do a good turn when they can, and this was certainly a good turn they could do,” said Chris Burner, scoutmaster for Troop 222. “There are a lot of people who came together to make this happen.”They have a bunch of stuff, but they need a bunch more.”We don’t want people to think they have more toys than they know what to do with. We don’t,” Montag said. “We never have enough toys. Last year we were buying toys on the last day.”The Masons added bicycles to the mix. They take used bikes in pretty good shape, repair them and tune them up, then give them away to kids who need them.Not just anyone can wander in and get toys, Montag said. They get lists from the Salvation Army. They have their own lists, and some people are referred from other places.”Someone has to tell them about it, and we do ask how they found out about us,” Montag said. “We make sure people are not double-dipping, making sure people are not getting toys from more than one location.”But like all of Santa’s helpers, if folks need help, that’s what they get.Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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