Van Beek: A day of thanks, a community of giving

The holidays kick off next week at Thanksgiving. It’s a time when we have visions of a Normal Rockwell gathering, yet, in reality for many, those happy images remain a fantasy. 

For some, especially in this economy, it’s a time of added stress because their funds don’t match their needs and expectations rise during the holiday season. We also forget that some have lost a loved one or are suffering health issues that make this time of year especially difficult as they recall happier times. 

Of course, there is need throughout the year, but it is especially highlighted when those Rockwell images, coupled with Christmas music, and retail ads, remind you of exactly what you don’t have … presents, travel, perhaps family, and the money to acquire even the essentials.

While we cannot take care of everything, we can each do at least a little something. One such project is the Salvation Army Holiday Food Basket program. 

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office joins the Avon Police Department, Eagle Police Department, Gypsum Fire and Rescue, Mountain Rescue Group, Greater Eagle Fire District, Rock Creek VFD, Vail Fire & Emergency Services, Eagle County Paramedics, The town of Vail, Eagle River Fire Protection District and Vail Resorts, in support of the Salvation Army. In addition, many local community agencies, businesses, and individuals are donating money and volunteering time to make certain that families and seasonal workers do not feel so alone during this time of holiday celebration. 

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Thanksgiving deliveries will be on Saturday, Nov. 18, and Christmas deliveries will be on Saturday, Dec. 16. Food baskets will be available at Avon Elementary School in Avon and The Community Market in Gypsum. We are anticipating up to 500 baskets to be prepared and delivered during each holiday. Those wishing to be involved, please contact Veyra Gamboa at 970-376-7071.

Members of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, fire and police agencies are needed to help deliver baskets. Basket delivery begins at 8:30 a.m. with coffee and donuts, with deliveries taking off at 9 a.m.  Those interested in participating in the deliveries, please contact Dan Smith at 970-470-2693 or at

That said, let’s keep in mind that we have many seasonal employees who arrive for work on Thanksgiving, and go home to an empty room or apartment … spending Thanksgiving and Christmas, alone. Oftentimes, they gather together as a group to share the holidays, either recuperating from a busy holiday shift or to celebrate working at a job in an outdoor environment they love. However, there are many who will be missing their families and whose holiday meal will consist of a fast-food burger.

When you are out enjoying your skiing or other excursion, please thank these great workers and remember to be sensitive to their needs. Bringing them a small token of appreciation, like a cookie, or Starbucks gift card, goes well beyond a mere beverage and snack … it shows that the community cares about them, too.

The other issue that often surfaces is that of depression as we reconcile the image we have of holiday celebrations with the reality of what we are experiencing, exacerbated by the stress of work and expectations. 

Psychology Today states, “For many, the holidays can bring about feelings of depression, anxiety, envy and even dread and despair, rather than joy and merriment.” They suggest that we identify our holiday triggers; give ourselves permission to feel emotions; practice self-compassion; and limit social media (we see photos of everyone having much more fun than we are, forgetting that many of them are staged); reach out to friends, they likely have gone through similar feelings; and if it’s overwhelming, reach out to a mental health professional. 

A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that over 38 percent of those surveyed felt increased levels of stress, depression and anxiety, and reported more substance abuse during the holiday season. Don’t let that be you. You are surrounded by a community that cares. It may not seem like it when everyone is running around so busy, but you’d be surprised at how quickly they will drop everything to be there for you — but they can’t if they don’t know.

The holidays are a time for family and friends. Many more people care for you than you realize. This is a community that comes together to help one another. Please join us for the Salvation Army’s Food Basket program … you’ll find that you receive so much more than you give. 

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at

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