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Volunteers 'humbled' by Christmas gift program

Dec 24, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

More than a dozen needy families in Fremont County are getting Christmas gifts this year from members of the United Presbyterian Church in Riverton.

"It's really humbling," UPC member Angela Yowell said. "It's just a blessing that we (have) such a giving church."

Yowell initiated the partnership with Injury Prevention Resources about five years ago when she was looking for an outreach project in the community.

The organization is known for its bicycle helmet and car seat distribution programs, but IPR also employs probation agents who work with people convicted of driving under the influence.

"We have I think 145 people that are on DUI probation with us," IPR executive director Noel Cooper said. "Most of them are low income."R32;Several weeks before Christmas, IPR probation officers get together and identify families in the DUI program who are in need financially.

"It's not a family who can afford Christmas," probation agent Christl Buskohl said.

She added that all of the clients chosen for the UPC gift drive are in compliance with the rules of their probation.

"(They're) actively engaging in their treatment, whether it's a DUI education class or ... whatever is required by their court order," she said.

Church members provide forms, or "wish lists," for each family to fill out.

"It's got several slots for a present, or hobbies and interests, and it has the child's name," Yowell said. "Sometimes we get the age. ... Then it also has a section at the end for a family gift."

She said a lot of parents will ask for items they have been missing around the house, like pots and pans or picture frames.

Members of the UPC congregation choose a child or a family or individual to shop for, and once the gifts are purchased, church volunteers collect the packages from the congregation and deliver the items to IPR, or to the needy families directly. Buskohl said in the past the UPC youth group has participated.

"The youth of the church actually goes and delivers the gifts purchased (by) the church members," she said. "It gives the kids in their church the idea of giving."

The donations were dedicated on Sunday during the UPC church service.

"It's been a neat thing," Yowell said. "It's been a really good fit for us. ... We feel fortunate."

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