Santa Claus urges people Wednesday to donate to the KRAI Holiday Drive at Centennial Mall. The proceeds benefit Christmas for Kids, Christmas for Seniors, Interfaith Food Bank and Advocates-Crisis Support Services.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Santa Claus urges people Wednesday to donate to the KRAI Holiday Drive at Centennial Mall. The proceeds benefit Christmas for Kids, Christmas for Seniors, Interfaith Food Bank and Advocates-Crisis Support Services.

KRAI Holiday Drive benefits local programs

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Santa Claus holds up a radio to Frank Hanel during a live broadcast for the KRAI Holiday Drive on Wednesday at the Centennial Mall. Craig Police Sgt. John Forgay jokingly handcuffed Hanel to the pole after members of his department and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office delivered donations.

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A stack of unopened remote control trucks waits in a storage space to be grouped with the rest of the toys and goods that will be given to families in need. Craig residents and organizations donated the toys to the KRAI Holiday Drive.

— Temperatures were well below zero when Margaret Culverwell arrived early Wednesday morning at Centennial Mall for the KRAI Holiday Drive.

Dressed in insulated work pants, a down jacket and a fleece headband, she wasn’t feeling the cold.

She was warmed by the spirit of giving and the number of donations she’s seen throughout the past two weeks as director of the Christmas for Seniors program.

“I am overjoyed,” she said. “The response from the community is just overwhelming. It’s amazing how many people want to help.”

Christmas for Seniors will serve about 300 Craig residents this holiday season. Seniors filled out a wish list, and tags with their desired gifts have been placed on Christmas trees in K-Mart and Murdoch’s.

Shoppers can pick a tag off the tree and shop for that person’s wishes and then place the unwrapped gift back under the tree on their way out.

The trees will remain standing until Dec. 18.

For some seniors, their wishes couldn’t be fulfilled by a shopping trip.

Culverwell said one man asked for help paying his utility bills.

“We’ve already taken care of him,” she said. “And he’s already thanked us. Not me, but the program. I love that feeling. I love the feeling of giving.”

She said many seniors pass the time by doing crafts, and ask for yarn, beads and thread.

Some ask for food.

But, no matter what they ask for or receive, Culverwell said seniors are thankful for anything.

“They’re so appreciative,” she said. “Anything you do, big or small, they’re grateful.”

Requests that aren’t filled by the community at large will be supplemented by cash raised by the Holiday Drive, which will continue through 6 p.m. tonight at Centennial Mall.

This year marks the 11th KRAI Holiday Drive, which collects food, clothing, toys and cash donations to benefit Christmas for Kids, Christmas for Seniors, Advocates-Crisis Support Services and the Interfaith Food Bank.

Rick Allen, who worked for KRAI for 10 years in the 1990s, had a vision to start the Holiday Drive.

He has since moved to run a business in Thermopolis, Wyo., but returned this summer to Moffat County for the first time in seven years.

He said he was in awe of what a once small holiday program has turned into.

“The first year was a lot of work with very few donations,” he said. “It’s snowballed into a regional event, with donations from three to four different states and cities all over.”

He said Leo Fornier, a Craig resident who won the lottery this year, pulled up to the mall with two truckloads full of new toys.

The Moffat County Sheriff’s Office and Craig Police Depa­rtment also spent part of their morning unloading truckfuls of donations.

The event has raised as much as $30,000 in cash in addition to toy and food donations in the past.

Originally, the Holiday Drive collected toys for the statewide Toys for Tots program; however that affiliation required KRAI to send all the toys to Denver, where they were redistributed across the state.

And that’s not what Allen wanted.

“We want everything that’s raised here to stay here,” he said.

They changed the name to Christmas for Kids, which then bore another effort to provide seniors with the same support for their needs.

“It brings back a lot of fantastic memories,” Allen said, of being back in Craig during the holiday season. “When you look at Moffat County, it’s one of the most sparsely populated areas. In 2003, we sat down and figured out that we had the most donations per capita than any other area in the state.”

For Culverwell, she wouldn’t give up a month’s worth of full time volunteer work for anything.

She did not hesitate to say she’d lead Christmas for Seniors next year.

“It’s been a wonderful response,” she said. “There’s always someone out there that needs more than you do, and Christmas is the time to give."

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