Brentt Gabel, of Hayden High School, places a toy in the back of a truck during last year’s KRAI Holiday Drive. This year’s event is scheduled for 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Centennial Mall, 1111 W. Victory Way.

File photo

Brentt Gabel, of Hayden High School, places a toy in the back of a truck during last year’s KRAI Holiday Drive. This year’s event is scheduled for 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Centennial Mall, 1111 W. Victory Way.

Holiday Drive in Craig seeking charitable donations

If you go…

What: KRAI Holiday Drive

When: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday

Where: Centennial Mall, 1111 W. Victory Way

— The event, in its 13th year, enables community members to donate toys, food and funds to numerous charitable efforts. The Holiday Drive includes a lineup of Christmas-themed performances by area musicians with a live broadcast on KRAI, refreshments, and an appearance by Santa Claus. Only new toys and nonperishable food items will be accepted. For a full list of desired gift items, visit www.krai.com/holiday-drive or call 824-6574.

The reason for the season is giving. But, you don’t have to break the bank to do so.

In Frank Hanel’s view, if everyone in Northwest Colorado opens their wallets a tiny bit, it will help provide a happy holiday for those who don’t have as much.

Hanel, owner of radio station 93.7, 102.3 KRAI and 55 Country, is hosting the 13th annual Holiday Drive, a charitable endeavor to benefit the less fortunate in the region.

The event begins bright and early at 6 a.m. Thursday and Friday, running for 12 hours, as volunteers at the entrance of the Centennial Mall take in donations of money, food and toys on behalf of local charities Christmas for Kids, Christmas for Seniors, the Interfaith Food Bank and Advocates-Crisis Support Services.

Whether you’re planning on bringing in canned foods or items like tea sets, action figures or anything with Justin Bieber on it — as suggested by KRAI’s Web site — there are a few rules.

Donated toys must be new and unused and only nonperishable food items will be accepted.

Hanel said there are less restrictions on cash and checks and how they’re distributed by Moffat County United Way. People can either donate money directly to each charity or to all four.

“A lot of people just say, ‘Split it,’ and so we divide it four ways,” he said. “If someone brings in $100, we’ll just put $25 in each envelope. People are starting to come out of the woodwork early. We’ve already had a couple checks, one for $1,000.”

Hanel said the event has averaged $20,000 to $25,000 in recent years, with last year’s drive bringing more than $23,000.

The most successful year was 2007, hitting the $30,000 mark for the first time.

The amount of food accumulated regularly tops two tons, or 4,000 pounds, which was about the total for 2010. There was a staggering 7,220 pounds of food items donated in 2009.

Hanel said last year’s intake of toys was too much to count, with more than 2,000 items for children.

“We’ve actually done really well considering the economy,” Hanel said. “People are very generous. I know in Denver, they do things like this and get $600,000 or three-quarters of $1 million. That’s in a place where there’s about 2 million people in the area. They’re not even getting 50 cents from everybody. We get $30,000 in Moffat County, that’s over two bucks from everybody in the county. To me, that’s exceptional that people are donating at that level.”

Hanel said various restaurants, car suppliers and other businesses provide constant support during the drive with refreshments, vehicles for hauling donations, and other items.

“Everybody wants to pitch in and help us out,” he said.

Numerous musical acts from the region will also lift spirits, such as school choirs and the Yampa Valley Boys, among others.

KRAI will intersperse the performances throughout the day via live broadcast, along with a steady stream of pre-recorded Christmas favorites.

“I think it launches the Christmas season in town,” Hanel said. “It’s the only time of year you can hear people singing live over the radio.”

While the live music will warm some hearts, as will an appearance by old St. Nicholas, Hanel said he will have a heating system set up to make sure volunteers aren’t overtaken by cold weather. A little snow only makes the festivities more appropriate.

“We’ve never had a problem with snow,” he said. “Some days, it’s been 40 (degrees) below, but people keep coming in. I know how much it means to the people it benefits and as long as we own the radio station, we’re going to keep on doing it. It’s just a heck of a lot of fun.”

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