Vail Valley sends out 400 Thanksgiving meals |

Vail Valley sends out 400 Thanksgiving meals

Dustin Racioppi
Vail Valley, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” A day after Vail’s slopes opened, there were other ways most people could’ve spent a beautiful Saturday morn-ing in Colorado than standing in a line trailing out of Avon Elementary School, waiting to begin packing boxes.

But they did and for the most unselfish reasons.

At both the school and Brush Creek Pavilion on Saturday, a couple hundred locals ” from toddlers to adults ” helped pack and deliver Thanksgiving Day dinners for area families in a financial bind.

“We’re helping our community, not because we have to, but because we want to be here,” said Tanya Solis, a 19-year-old mentor with the Snowsports Outreach Society. “It’s nice to help the community out. If you were one of these families, you would want some help, too.”

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The annual gift basket drive, which is organized by the Salvation Army, is what executive director of Vail Valley’s chapter, Tsu Wolin-Brown, called “organized chaos.”

Like a Detroit factory, people get in line, grab a box and move through tables laid out with random Thanksgiving fixings and drop the boxes off to labeled destinations. The boxes are then loaded up by police offi-cers, firefighters and other volunteers and delivered throughout the valley.

“It is a true community effort,” said the valley chapter’s chairman, Dan Smith.

Saturday’s joint effort between Avon Ele-mentary and Brush Creek produced 407 boxes to families, which is both a blessing and a curse to Smith.

“It’s a curse because there are people in the valley struggling,” he said, “and a bless-ing that we have these kinds of people here to help them out.”

Many of the people there to help were there for the first time, and, like Wolin-Brown, who began the effort 25 years ago in an Eagle-Vail garage, it probably won’t be their last.

Patric Raichart brought his two daugh-ters to give them an early-on experience of helping out.

“We wanted to expose our kids to volun-teering a little,” he said. “It’s fun for them. They don’t even know how much they’re helping. It’s a great experience.”

For 24-year-old Masa Wakita, there’s a sort of satisfaction from lending a hand that can’t be found many other places, he said.

“It just feels really good to come out, help some people and give back,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of good luck in my life. I just want to spread the love.”

Wakita and everyone else who turned out Saturday accomplished that goal by spreading donations out to hundreds of families, but the work isn’t done. The Salva-tion Army will hold another gift basket drive next month for Christmas.

Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or

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