It was a shiny Huffy Highland mountain bike featuring a suspension fork and oversize frame, with a gleaming navy blue helmet hanging on its handlebar, and so Tony Hiser lifted it carefully into the car.
The bike was just one of many donated gifts, food items and meals distributed to more than 1,000 community members on Dec. 12, as part of the annual Noel’s Giving food and gift holiday giveaway.
It’s an increase from last year, when the organization, founded by Kim and Tony Hiser, served around 860 people in total.
Gifts were distributed to more children this year as well – upwards of 500 compared to 417 last year.
Kim Hiser cited the struggling economy as a driving factor behind this year’s increase in donations.
“This year the event is more important than ever, with so many people out of work since March,” she said, referring to the pandemic as well as the energy bust.
The coronavirus also impacted the way the items were distributed this year. The distribution event was held Dec. 12 in a drive-through format outside Fort Caspar at the state fairgrounds.
Recipients of the items remained in their cars, and over a dozen volunteers, wearing masks, placed the gifts, turkey, ham and hamburger meals inside their vehicles.
Recipients were more than grateful to receive the items, many of whom joked and laughed with Santa Claus, who was also at the scene handing out presents.
In the lead-up to the distribution event, donated gifts were placed under Christmas trees at numerous businesses in Douglas, including Converse County Bank, Bank of the West, Memorial Hospital of Converse County and Hardware Hank.
Members of Wyoming Central ABATE also assisted in the effort, delivering children’s gifts to their homes on the morning of Dec. 12, for a related initiative.
The Noel’s Giving organization was founded in 2000 by the Hisers, initially as a way to provide food to families and people in need during the holiday season. It has since expanded its scope to also provide gifts to children, academic scholarships and other assistance to the community.