20-12-09 Holiday baskets@.jpg

Realtors volunteered to stuff hundreds of holiday gift baskets last year.

The Sun Valley Board of Realtors last year provided free holiday baskets to 225 local families in need, including over 500 children. This year, the pandemic has significantly increased the need for this seasonal gift.

“We expect to see two to three times more families and young children in need of assistance,” said Brandee Smith, executive director of Sun Valley Realtors Give, the nonprofit charitable foundation of the Sun Valley Board of Realtors.

So far this year, 1,950 people have applied for Holiday Baskets, 967 of them are children, Smith said. And, she expects that number to rise even higher.

“COVID-19 put our organization in a state of uncertainty, pushing us to quickly adapt our operations out of safety for our community,” Smith said. “So far, about 50 percent of our holiday basket applicants are new to the program, and almost all who applied have stated that the pandemic has financially impacted them and their ability to provide basic necessities for their families.”

Smith said the program will look different this year but local families will still receive the resources they need to celebrate.

“Our focus is to make sure every family or individual in need receives our assistance safely,” she said.

The Sun Valley Board of Realtors took over the Holiday Baskets program in 2004, which has for over 30 years helped take some of the financial pressure off families and children during the holiday season by providing them ingredients for a Christmas meal, warm clothing, toys, shoes, toothbrushes and books for the kids.

“Hundreds of hours are dedicated each year to making the program a reality for the hundreds of Blaine County families that rely on assistance during difficult times,” Smith said.

Instead of stuffed holiday baskets, recipients this year will receive Atkinsons’ gift cards to purchase food and Visa gift cards to purchase gifts for their children via a drive-up location.

“Direct cash donations are preferable due to the number of families we will serve this year,” Smith said. “Ensuring families have enough money to purchase food and warm clothing items is our No. 1 concern. Local gift card donations will also be accepted and appreciated as a way to include a special gift for the families while also supporting local business during a difficult time.”

Sun Valley Realtors Give was founded in 2004 and also offers high school scholarships and veteran housing assistance.

“Community support helps to ensure that the nationwide epidemic of veteran homelessness never impacts our county,” Smith said. “All of our efforts stay local, and donations go directly toward helping veterans in Blaine County. This year, SVRG is supporting five local veterans with rental assistance.”

To make a donation go to sunvalleyrealtors.org.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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