Project Santa brings Christmas to those in need
December 10, 2016
Following in the footsteps of her mother and older sisters, 11-year-old Aleeah Weaver helped coordinate books with presents for area children Saturday during Project Santa Claus at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
In its 29th year, Project Santa Claus delivers Christmas cheer to nearly 550 children and 237 families with the help of volunteers and community service groups.
"I like helping all the kids because it makes me feel good giving kids presents," Aleeah said. "I'd much rather give presents than get presents."
Her mom, Dayleen Weaver, has been a shopper for Project Santa Claus for 24 years. She is one of several people who purchase gifts for any angels that remain on the trees.
"We get about six or seven shopping carts at a time," she said. "I enjoy giving back to the community. It's pretty amazing what we get to do. It's what Christmas is truly about. I've been doing this with my older daughters, Lexie and Mandy, who are in college now."
The Weavers invited 10-year-old friend Ellie Gansberg to volunteer for the first time this year.
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"I like it a lot," she said. "It makes me feel good knowing I helped a kid have Christmas."
Kathy Duffy, another first-time volunteer, said she enjoyed wrapping presents so much Saturday she volunteered to help again during the week.
"I wanted to come and be a part of the team that helps the community," the Gardnerville Ranchos resident said. "I've known people who had to struggle during Christmas, and I at one time was a person who struggled to provide Christmas for my kids. It's amazing to help, and it's a blessing to have Project Santa Claus."
Meredith Joyce, 12, and Faith Key, 11, worked together to wrap a makeup kit in red and green striped paper topped with a bow.
"I think it's cool that more kids will get presents on Christmas," Faith said. "I enjoy that it gets to be a surprise."
Kendyl Bryant, 13, and Gage Kruger, 12, gently placed their wrapped presents inside an oversized Santa Claus bag.
"This is fun because a lot of kids don't have this experience," Kendyl said. "This makes me appreciate what I have."
Rotary member John Carne said the number of children qualifying for the program is down by close to 200 this year. He also said it takes a village to make the miracle of Project Santa Claus happen.
"We get lots of help from lots of people," he added.
The Active 20/30 Club of Carson Valley was one of the service clubs involved this year. The club provided gifts for 50 angels.
"It's awesome. I love doing this," club member Jacob Holst said. "It was fun shopping for the gifts. I was happy to get out there and do it. It gives me a warm feeling in my heart."
Connor Blaha, 13, helped wrap presents for the second year with his Valley Christian Fellowship youth group.
His mother, Jackie Blaha, said since he was a little boy he would be in his room wrapping gifts for his family before they finished decorating the Christmas tree.
"I like helping wrap all the gifts because I like giving to others," Connor said.
His older brother Dakota also was at the ready with tape and bows.
"It's fun helping bring Christmas to a child," the 15-year-old said. "I couldn't imagine not getting a present on Christmas."