by Caryn Haller
The spirit of Christmas filled the Douglas County Fairgrounds building Monday as volunteers sorted and wrapped presents for 317 families, and 703 children.
Each child receives at least two gifts, a book, mittens and a hat.
"It's going real well. The volunteers are great, and the community support has been phenomenal," Minden resident John Carnes said. "There are several families that have received gifts in the past who are now buying gifts for people."
According to Carnes, all the angels that were out on the trees were taken. Books for older children, and gifts for families who signed up late were all that volunteer shoppers had to purchase.
Minden Rotary member Dave Bauer has volunteered for Project Santa Claus for eight years, and was impressed by how many children volunteered this year to wrap gifts.
"When you see kids learning to give back in grade school, it's a great thing. It's infectious," he said. "They just wanted to give back. One sixth-grader, Joseph, was one of the best wrappers we had. He was just intent to wrap."
Minden resident Jann Fargnoli put extra care into curling the red ribbon tied around a little girl pajama set.
"I love wrapping. I picture the children looking at these all wrapped up with bows," she said. "I think the visual is just as exciting as what's inside. This is really getting me in the spirit."
Although Topaz Ranch Estates resident Esther Villegas said she isn't the best at wrapping, she puts love into each present.
"I can't financially help out, so this is my way of helping out, and it makes me feel good, too," she said. "I'm hoping they'll feel the love I gave them when wrapping their gift."
Even though Project Santa Claus falls under the Kiwanis Foundation, more than 150 volunteers from Minden Rotary, Sertoma, Crystal Angels, and other community groups helped out.
Students from China Spring Youth Camp refurbished up to 200 bicycles for the Kiwanis to give away, and the Douglas County Sheriff's Mounted Posse delivered the bicycles to the fairgrounds.
Barbara Watson has volunteered for Project Santa Claus since moving to Gardnerville in 2005.
"I love to do it, and I love to see all the things that are given out," she said. "It's a wonderful project. It makes you very happy to help. It's a magical time."
Project Santa Claus distribution day is Thursday at the fairgrounds.