Vail Valley volunteers gather to feed the hungry |

Vail Valley volunteers gather to feed the hungry

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
CVR Thanksgiving Baskets DT 11-20-10

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Porfirio Reyes knows all too well about needing help in order to feed his family, which is why he helps the Salvation Army fill food baskets for locals in need every year.

About 15 years ago, Reyes needed help, and he’ll never forget where he found it.

“I help whenever I can – I want to give back,” Reyes said Saturday morning, while helping to organize more than 350 food baskets at Avon Elementary School.

Tsu Wolin-Brown, executive director of the Vail Valley Salvation Army, said the organization is putting together about 600 baskets this Thanksgiving. She said donations have been great, but the need is high again this year because of the economy.

“If we have to make more, we’ll make more,” Wolin-Brown said.

At least 100 volunteers gathered into the Avon Elementary School cafeteria Saturday morning to put together the baskets in an assembly line. Volunteers made several trips around the line in order to fill all of the baskets, which included turkeys, cranberry sauce, potatoes, green beans and other Thanksgiving foods.

Dan Smith, chairman of the Salvation Army board, said the annual event is really a culmination of random acts of kindness from people throughout the valley.

“It’s wonderful that we can do it, and it’s tragic that we have to do it,” Smith said.

Smith, who is retired, said he got very lucky in life and was able to retire. He stresses the word “luck.”

“Anyone who thinks it’s a skill is an idiot,” Smith said. “It’s luck, and you have to pay luck back.”

So that’s why he tries to do exactly that to those in need in the valley. He worries that all of the food baskets aren’t enough for all of the hungry people in the community, but it’s a start.

The annual event began 27 years ago in volunteer Sharon Thompson’s garage. Thompson said she can’t believe how big the food basket list has grown over the years, but she’s grateful there are people in the community like Wolin-Brown who make sure everyone gets fed.

“It’s always a privilege to be here,” Thompson said.

Most of the volunteers do it because they get satisfaction out of knowing that their time is helping others. Debbie King, who’s been volunteering for 10 years, does it because she realizes how much need there is in the community.

Seth Ehrlich, of SOS Outreach, a local nonprofit, brings along children and teenagers involved in the SOS program every year to help out with the food baskets. The event is a perfect match for the SOS kids, too, he said.

“So many of our kids live in the communities where these baskets are going,” Ehrlich said. “They make that connection, and they realize the impact they can have in the community.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at

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