Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Rays of sunlight sifted through the ceiling windows at the Nederland Community Center Saturday morning, spotlighting a little girl trying on a pink winter jacket, a toddler dragging a shiny roasting pan as he followed his mom and a couple of young men who found some gloves that fit them.
A large box filled with stylin’ knit hats created by local knitters filled the senses with myriad designs and colors as well as multiple degrees of warmth.
This doesn’t even mention the Transformers, books, balls, art materials and even a bicycle that was up for grabs. New toys for the fun of it donated through Emergency Family Assistance Association.
It is an annual event, as dependable as the smiles that greeted the gifts that were being handed out at the Nederland Food Pantry food box giveaway, attended by over 100 households.
“Really? Can I really have this?” asked one little girl as she held up a holiday red dress and hugged it to her chest. A boy struggled to pull some gloves over his hands, but even though they were too big, he said he was going to keep them.
Although there were no holiday turkeys, the chickens that the volunteers handed out were huge, “mini-turkeys” said one of them.
A long row of fresh produce, red apples and radishes and sweet potatoes, green lettuce, broccoli and cabbage made an edible Christmas display. Piles of bread and rolls and sweets. Boxes of canned and boxed goods sprawled in the middle of the room, guaranteeing a few meals during the darkest days of the year.
Gift certificates to B & F Mountain Market and to the Backdoor Theater were handed out to the families so they could add their own special touches to the holiday dinners.
A five-week-old baby and an eight-week-old baby were fascinated with the peaceful colorful chaos of people giving gifts and giving thanks.
The Nederland Food Pantry began in 1986 when residents and church leaders joined forces to assist some of the mountain community people who struggled to feed their families.
When the Nederland Presbyterian Community Church offered a room to distribute food on a weekly basis and St. Rita’s offered storage space, volunteers realized their growing efforts needed a larger facility. In 2012, the Nederland Community Center offered space in the west wing for the pantry.
Since its inception, the food pantry has offered food baskets, toys and warm clothes every December, helping to make the season shine a little brighter for many local families.
The event also puts smiles on the faces of dozens of volunteers who have the opportunity to see pure joy on the faces of children who weren’t sure that Santa would find them this year.
As cars and backpacks were loaded by people wearing Santa hats, one could almost hear a slight echo stretching out over Barker Reservoir; a faint ho-ho-ho and a jingling of sleigh bells disappearing down the canyon.
It was probably just a sugar rush, or a gush of the holiday spirit blowing down from the Divide.
(Originally published in the December 14, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)