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Woman collects handcrafted Christmas ornaments for Marshall fire families

The boxes piled in Carol Burton’sWestminster living room and dining room are spilling over with red, green and white Christmas ornaments.

There are snowflakes and angels, teddy bears and gumball machines made with felt, toy alphabet blocks, little plastic cups and wooden beads. Some are detailed, hand-stitched designs with Christmas trees and reindeer. There are hand-painted wood cutouts. Snowmen are crafted from pom-poms.

And they’re all going to families who lost everything in the Marshall fire.

“It’s so people know that other people are willing to spend time on them and love on them rather than go out and buy something,” Burton said of the handmade ornaments.

Burton’s goal is to collect at least 6,000 handmade Christmas ornaments to distribute on Nov. 26 to families who lost their homes and possessions in the Marshall fire. She hopes each family is able to take home a dozen ornaments with every ornament coming from a different state. The distribution will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 13370 Lowell Blvd., Broomfield.

It is one of several holiday events planned for the Marshall fire families, including a Nov. 27 holiday market in Louisville and a Dec. 3 Christmas extravaganza in Broomfield. The one-year anniversary of the fire, which killed two people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, is Dec. 30.

Burton paired with Operation Christmas Ornaments to collect ornaments from around the globe. She recently received a box of origami ornaments from Japan.

Operation Christmas Ornaments was founded two years ago by Carolyn Nicolaysen of New Braunfels, Texas, who teaches, coaches and writes ebooks about emergency preparedness. Over the years, she’s talked to hundreds of people who have survived natural disasters.

“They often tell me that they miss their Christmas ornaments,” Nicolaysen said. “There are so many memories associated with Christmas ornaments.”

In her first project, Nicolaysen collected 700 ornaments for families who lost their homes in 2020 wildfires in Oregon. This Christmas, the organization is sending ornaments to Marshall fire families as well as families who lost their homes during the December tornadoes in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Typically, she picks disasters that happen early in a year so there is time for volunteers to craft ornaments and mail them around the country.

Nicolyasen spreads the word through friends, the website — which connects people to service projects in their communities — and the Facebook page Operation Christmas Ornaments from Near and Far

Burton helped spread the word about the Marshall fire ornaments via the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, where she is a member.

The deadline for making ornaments for Marshall fire victims was Monday. But Burton said it’s not too soon to start making ornaments for disaster victims’ 2023 Christmas. Visit the Facebook page for

One of Burton’s favorite things from the project is reading the handwritten notes that come with the boxes of ornaments. Crafter leaves messages of hope and prayers for the families. And many have written to Burton about how they bonded with friends and family as they made ornaments.

“It’s drawn people together,” Burton said. “It’s beautiful that something like that can come out of a disaster.”

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