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47-Year Tradition Sees Even Greater Need This Year

High Country Bank Tree of Hope 2022  locations. Courtesy image

Each holiday season for nearly fifty years, the “Tree of Hope” program has helped make the holiday season a little brighter for families and individuals in need. Since 2016, High Country Bank has taken on the lead role for this countywide program that distributes over 400 gifts each year on average.

How it works: People drop by the bank’s U.S. 50 and U.S. 24 locations or go to Walmart or Safeway in Salida, plus La Grees in both Poncha Springs and Buena Vista. Inside, colorful trees are set up just waiting for you.

You’re asked to simply pull a tag or two indicating your willingness to help. Then, purchase a gift for each tag, wrap each one and return it to either of the High Country Bank locations as soon as possible.

“I would like to remind everyone that gifts are due by December 14, and encourage our community to please take an ornament off one of the trees and help make someone’s holiday a little extra special this year,” said High Country Bank Community Outreach Director Robin NeJame.

With a late Thanksgiving this year, the time to collect tags, purchase gifts and return them for distribution is shorter than usual. An economy in recession is adding extra pressure for everyone in 2022. “I am hearing and seeing that there is a greater need this year.  Times are tighter than usual,” said NeJame.

Gift wrapping in progress at High Country Bank for the 2021 Tree of Hope program. Courtesy photo

Once wrapped gifts are returned to a location, volunteers from the bank’s staff take over from there, working to match the gifts with a code list of recipients.

The list is provided by a number of agencies that know their client’s needs. Agencies include the Chaffee County Department of Human Services (DHS), Salida Head Start, Columbine Manor and the Salida Housing Authority.

“Though High Country Bank takes care of the nuts and bolts (or rather the ornaments and bows) of the Tree of Hope, it is the community that pulls together to support our friends and neighbors”, NeJame added.

Featured image: Gift sorting in progress at High Country Bank for the 2021 Tree of Hope program. Courtesy photo