Santa comes early to South Shore needy |

Santa comes early to South Shore needy

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune Staff Writer

Christmas came early for eight South Shore families visited by a group of charitable carolers Monday night.

The Ridge Eagles, a philanthropic group made up of The Ridge Tahoe resort employees, delivered Christmas trees, ornaments, gifts and holiday feasts to many families in need.

Five of the families were women and children in the Women’s Center Sheltering Program who are living in transitional housing or shelters.

It was the fourth year the group has helped Women’s Center families.

“I know, for the families I work with, they’re coming out of domestic violence and they have to leave everything behind,” said Women’s Center Shelter Director Catherine Owens. “(The Ridge Eagles Christmas program) means the world to us and to the women. It is providing a Christmas the families may not have had if this club did not provide it.”

Diana Schmelzer, coordinator of the Ridge Eagles and personnel manager for the resort, said she started the company’s charitable group because most of the employees weren’t satisfied with giving money to a large organization.

So in 1996, Schmelzer decided to organize events throughout the year to raise money to benefit local organizations in need.

“I chose to do something different,” Schmelzer said. “Instead of making (employees) give us money, we would do events that would bring employees closer together and help the community.”

During the year, the Ridge Eagles have participated in miniature golf tournaments, raffles, blood drives and food drives to help the Heavenly Ski Foundation, the Humane Society, the Senior Center, the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe and Christmas Cheer.

Schmelzer said the Ridge Eagles are fortunate to work for a corporation that allows them to plan charitable events on company time and to use company supplies to organize and publicize events.

At the beginning of every year, Schmelzer said the Ridge Eagles put an ad in the paper to assess the need in the community and where the group can help.

“I do feel like we’re making a difference, and people know they can call us if they have a need,” Schmelzer said. “The needs are always there, and all we’re doing is making a way for people to participate because most people in their hearts really want to help. I think if more companies had programs like these more people would help and more needs would be met.”

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