Vail Valley locals warm Denver’s homeless |

Vail Valley locals warm Denver’s homeless

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailySye Curtis, left, and Diane Moudy, right, buy hundreds of McDonald's hamburgers for homeless people like the unidentified man in the center in Denver each Christmas. "McDonald's has come to expect us after all these years," Moudy said.

VAIL ” Giving a homeless person a jacket in downtown Denver feels better than unwrapping presents in the warmth of one’s home, Diane Moudy will tell you.

That’s why Moudy and several other local members of “Operation Donation” drive to Denver Christmas Day to give homeless people clothing, candy and cheer.

“It’s so cool because it’s people we see year after year after year that are excited to see us,” said Moudy, a local concert promoter.

Diane Moudy’s daughter, Hayley, thought of Operation Donation when she was a student at the Eagle County Charter Academy. Moudy and Hayley put large plastic bins at the school. Parents and students filled them so quickly that the principal would call the Moudys to have the bins emptied, Moudy said.

“My living room is insanely packed with clothes every Christmas Eve,” Moudy said.

The group usually arrives about 9:30 a.m. in downtown Denver at the Colorado Convention Center, where the Salvation Army feeds and provides toys and clothing to low-income families, locals said.

Debbie Gibson, an assistant real estate broker, only gets Christmas Day off because the real estate market is busy during winter, she said. Gibson, of Vail, helps hand out toys to children.

“My favorite part is probably spending the time with the kids and seeing the looks on their faces and how happy they are,” Gibson said.

Moudy greets thousands of people and gives some phone cards so that they can call their families. She even lets people use her cell phone to call whomever they want, she said.

After the Convention Center, the group goes to McDonald’s and buys “hundreds” of hamburgers to hand out to hungry homeless people who could not make it to the Convention Center, Moudy said.

“McDonald’s has come to expect us after all these years,” she said.

They drive around Denver and walk in parks until dark, handing out socks filled with candy along with leftover jackets and other swag they get from Birds of Prey ski race, Teva Mountain Games and American Ski Classic, Moudy said.

“They’re representing Vail in Denver, most definitely,” Moudy said about Denver’s homeless wearing garb from Vail events.

Moudy once made the mistake of buying 100 blue and 100 red scarves, which some people pointed out were colors of rival gangs.

“People were like, ‘No, no, no you can’t wear a red scarf in this neighborhood,'” Moudy said.

At night, the locals dine in a nice restaurant, stay in an expensive hotel and drink cocktails, Moudy said.

“It’s not like we’re Mother Teresa,” she said. “We’re definitely out there having a good time, too.”

Andrea Feldman, of Eagle-Vail, has been going to Denver for a couple years because she believes the homeless should not be shunned, she said.

“It’s getting back to what Christmas should be ” it’s about giving,” company said.

A blizzard that dumped two feet of snow on Denver made last Christmas was particularly difficult for homeless, she said.

“For one day, we were able to make someone feel good and not forgotten,” company said.

Seeing homeless people with nothing to do can be upsetting, Gibson said.

“We kind of live in a bubble here in Vail and you kind of forget what it’s like in Denver,” she said.

But helping homeless people is a good way to get out of the valley when many people are working through the holiday in bars, restaurants and other service industry jobs, Moudy said.

“It’s so easy to lose sight about what Christmas is about when we’re here in the Vail Valley,” Moudy said.

When they leave Denver, the group feels good about the work they’ve done, company and Moudy said.

“We say, ‘That’s what it’s all about,'” Moudy said. “‘This is what we’re supposed to be doing.'”

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or

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