Christmas Unlimited

Empowering parents, serving children. Christmas Unlimited serves families in need in the Pikes Peak region through its Operation Back to School school supply distribution program in the summer, holiday toy distribution program in December and other programs throughout the year.

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General Information

Official Name
Christmas Unlimited​​​​​​​
DBA/Trade Name(s)
Former Name(s)
Date Established
Offers Additional Colorado State Tax Credit
Tax ID
Headquarters Address
2204 E Boulder Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Colorado Location
2204 E Boulder Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Mailing Address
2204 E Boulder Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Other Address
Main Phone Number
Fax Number
Other Phone Number
Social Media Links

Mission Statement

To provide material and emotional support to families in need through our Operation Back to School school supply and holiday toy distribution programs, while assisting youth to achieve a positive self image through our mentoring and work skills opportunities.

Organization History

The first mention of what is now Christmas Unlimited was in the December 16, 1923 edition of the Gazette Telegraph. The article started with a verse presumably written by the author:

"Givers and getters and old St. Nick letters,
And all the Christmastide causes;
Here's to the painters, the stitchers, repairers,
The women who play Santa Clauses."

The article reports that in a loft at the Newton Lumber Yard a group of Santa-minded citizens is repairing dolls, putting puzzles together and painting various donated items. They conduct this beehive of activity under the auspices of the Mrs. Santa Claus Club. These pioneers in volunteerism set in motion a community consciousness that survives today as Christmas Unlimited. While there are significant gaps in the organization's historic archives, it is remarkable how little has changed philosophically from those early days when 300 to 1,000 children were served annually.

The project outgrew the Newton Lumber Yard attic and moved to the basement of the downtown YMCA. Mrs. John Bennet guided Mrs. Santa Claus Club for sixteen years in the forties and fifties. During this time the program provided clothes and food in addition to toys. In the early 1970's they changed the name to Christmas Unlimited and in the mid-eighties moved into the basement of a building on Bott Avenue where toys, clothes and food were collected, cleaned, repaired and distributed. Recounting this "era" an early volunteer remembered "the families would step up to the counter and would list what they wanted. Taking a box with us, we would try to find the items they asked for." During these years the number of children served each year grew to between 3,000 and 4,000.

In 1987 president Emil Garnett announced in the Gazette that Christmas Unlimited was on the verge of closing its doors -- too few volunteers and too much work. Emil, his wife, and the Mary Garrison family were Christmas Unlimited. Mickie Shepard, a local businessperson, responded to the Gazette article and stepped forward to take the reigns of the struggling group. Calling upon friends and family, she worked diligently to restructure the organization and develop a five-year plan. It was during this time the "store" concept of distributing the toys was developed, giving clients an opportunity to choose what they wanted using a point voucher system.

In 1990 Christmas Unlimited changed the way clients were screened and notified. Applications were distributed to human service agencies who in turn gave them to their clients. The response was unexpected and dramatic. More clients than every before were served in December of 1990.

Throughout its history Christmas Unlimited had a "flow through" system for the collection and distribution of toys. Everything that came in went out the same season. The scare of December 1991 caused the board to think in terms of building financial stability by collecting more toys than would be distributed each year. Greater emphasis was placed on developing toy drives. In 1997 Sandy Aldrich came on board as the Toy Drive Coordinator. Under her direction the number of corporate drives increased dramatically. Bob Tretheway, now the organization's administrator, helped grow the three largest toy collection projects: the HOGS Toy Run, KRDO's Santa's Toy Drive and KKTV's Toy Drive.

In 1997, Christmas Unlimited expanded its programs with Operation Back To School. This program gives school supplies to needy children and is dealt with in more detail in another section of the website.

This goal of collecting and warehousing the majority of toys needed a year in advance of distribution was achieved in 2000. This has allowed Christmas Unlimited to serve more families in a more comfortable fashion and giving them more toys.

From 1991 to October of 2001 Christmas Unlimited relocated some part of its operation every year. Different workshop and warehouse spaces moved twelve times, the office moved nine times and the Distribution Center moved six times. During that time the operation was located at Chapel Hills Mall, at the Satellite Hotel, at the Community Health Center, in rented semi-trailers, in an old K-Mart, at the Youth Outreach Center, Rocky Mountain Clutch and in eleven self-store units.

On October 16, 2002 Christmas Unlimited, after wandering the non-profit desert for seventy-seven years, moved into a warehouse located at 2204 E. Boulder, where it continues to operate today. It was the first time that the warehouse, office and distribution center were under one roof.

Throughout the years Christmas Unlimited has had thousands of volunteers, many having dedicated a significant part of their lives to the organization's success. Tens of thousands of parents, grandparents, foster parents and children have benefited from the simple idea of "neighbors helping neighbors."

Eschewing the entanglements of an umbrella fund-raising alliance, Christmas Unlimited has remained staunchly independent and in charge of its own destiny. There have been golden years and times of extreme difficulty - and always the organization finds leadership, support and inspiration to forge ahead with its mission of serving the Pikes Peak region. Since 1923 Christmas Unlimited has been:

"Helping children believe in the magic of Christmas,
and adults in the kindness of the human spirit."


"If it weren't for Christmas Unlimited, my grand kids wouldnt have Christmas!!! Thank you!!!" - Julie B

"I have done this program a few years ago and the staff are friendly and the program is absolutely amazing and I am so thankful for this program" - Melinda V.

"Last month we were the recipient of a very generous donation of school supplies from Christmas Unlimited. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of all of our schools that benefited from this donation. The variety of supplies was such that all grades, K-12, were able to receive something useful and needed." - Vicki Huffor, Woodland Park School District Re-2

Key aspects of this profile information have been reviewed by Community First Foundation staff. Each organization is exclusively responsible for the content that appears on the profile page. Community First Foundation offers general guidance as to the purpose of each area but does not require or encourage charities to include anything in particular in each section.