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Paying it forward fulfills spirit of Christmas

by Caryn Haller
Special to The R-C
Elf Dave Bauer sorts Christmas presents for children at the annual Project Santa event.
Jim Grant | The Record-Courier

A group of teenagers learned the value of paying it forward Saturday as Project Santa Claus shifted into its second phase of bringing Christmas to 314 Carson Valley families.

The teens helped wrap some of the hundreds of books and toys donated by the community.

“Having children wrap presents for other children, rocks on so many levels,” volunteer Jackie Blaha said. “The kids are being selfless and giving to someone else.”

The children Blaha referred to was the youth group from Valley Christian Fellowship.

“I love wrapping, and I love helping our community,” 11-year-old Kendyl Bryant said as she wrapped a toy. “I love helping everybody who needs help.”

Saturday was just the start of a busy week for Project Santa Claus volunteers who will be at the Douglas County Fairgrounds Pavilion through Wednesday preparing for distribution day.

“Do you realize how many children are going to smile on Christmas morning because of what we’re doing?” said John Carne, Project Santa Claus vice chairman. “We won’t get to see the smiles, but we can feel them.”

The Kiwanis Club of Carson Valley partnered with Rotary International, Carson Valley Sertoma Club, Family Support Council, The 20-30 Club and the Salvation Army to provide for more than 700 children.

“I love it,” Carne said. “It’s a chance to help people in the community, and this is a great place to live, so you ought to help people in the community.”

Volunteers jumped into action helping to unload Deanna Abbott’s car full of books, hats and mittens collected from Angel Trees around the Valley.

“We’re doing really well,” Abbott said of her collection. “This is from only five locations.”

Abbott is a math teacher at Faith Christian Academy, and came up with the idea of adding books to the project 15 years ago.

“I like being able to provide new books,” she added. “Books are awesome. They’re not too expensive, so we can provide one to every kid. Every age gets a book. We get board books for the babies, all the way up to young adult novels for the teens.”

Dakota Blaha, 14, had never heard of Project Santa Claus before he volunteered with his youth group Saturday.

“I wanted to find out what it was, and it’s pretty fun,” Dakota said of why he volunteered. “There’s not much wrapping I get to do at home, and here I get to wrap Star Wars for people.”

Angel Trees were put out around the community two weeks before Thanksgiving with more than 1,000 angels being taken this year.

For any child’s name who didn’t get taken, volunteers pull from their supply of donated toys or send shoppers out to buy the items on the child’s wish list.

In the spirit of paying it forward, attached to each of the more than 100 bicycles given away is a note that reads, “ Pay me forward — Please recycle me. If your child has outgrown me, or has no further use of me, please donate me back so I can make another child happy.”

For more information on Project Santa Claus, visit the Kiwanis Club’s Facebook page or call 339-8882.