Project santa brings good cheer
Project Santa Claus has united Douglas County in helping to bring a cheery Christmas to children who may not have one otherwise.
Director Marilyn Malkmus has been volunteering with the program since 1991.
“It brings me more incredible joy than I can begin to describe. I was born to do this job,” she said.
Project Santa Claus is an offshoot of the Carson Valley Community Food Closet, Marilyn Malkmus said.
The effort begins to take shape around October when clothing drives, book drives and toy drives start. Malkmus cannot emphasize enough how many people have volunteered time and money to support Project Santa Claus.
The children of families who qualify to benefit from Project Santa Claus can request two presents, Malkmus explained. Those items are then purchased and wrapped.
This year, however, there have been so many donations that every child will receive at least five presents. In addition to the two requests, they will also get a stuffed animal, a book and a video.
Last year there were 327 families and 788 kids who benefitted from Project Santa Claus. Malkmus expects the same number this year.
The families are from all over Douglas County, including Topaz, Jacks Valley and Stateline, she said.
This week has been the culmination of a lot of preparation, Malkmus said.
Volunteers can come anytime between 9 a.m.-4 p.m. to help wrap presents and sort clothes at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
“It involves a lot of community effort,” Malkmus said.
Jerry Rasmussen is in charge of collecting the bicycles that are given to children. This year, every bike will come with a helmet.
Rasmussen works with the Kiwanis Club to pick up repaired bicycles for the children.
“It’s fun to see how it all comes together,” Rasmussen said. “It’s neat how the community comes together.”
Kallie Goheen, a 16-year-old sophomore at Douglas High School, spearheaded a coat drive that involved DHS and the freshmen at both Carson Valley and Pau-Wa-Lu middle schools.
Goheen is in the leadership class at DHS, and volunteered to be in charge of a coat drive held from Dec. 4-15.
A collection box was placed in every fourth period or homeroom class in all three schools. The class that donated the most coats will an ice cream or pizza party.
“There were around 400 coats collected,” Goheen said. “It turned out better than I expected it to.”
All of the coats were donated to Project Santa Claus, Goheen said.
Volunteer Nancy Deyo is the coordinator of clothing drives. She oversees the collection, sorting and cleaning of the clothes that are donated. This is her seventh year.
“Number one, we have a great group of women and volunteers who are available whenever I call them, ” Deyo said. “I can’t say enough about them. We couldn’t do it without them.”
The volunteers help in cleaning the sorted clothes and setting them out for the families to choose from.
“When families come in to get food and presents, they can take anything they need,” Deyo said. “Our main objective is to keep people warm in the winter time with whatever we can.”
Clothes include sweaters, jeans, boots, coats, scarves and hats.
“We have a nice supply of blankets this year,” Deyo said. “We put out a call for them.”
All the leftover clothes are donated to FISH, Coventry Cross and the Family Support Council thrift stores, Deyo said.
This year’s Project Santa is Liz Starkey’s first. She went to high school with Malkmus in Southern California, and recently retired to Douglas County.
“I told her to call me if she needed a volunteer,” Starkey said, knowing Malkmus was involved in the community.
Starkey has helped to sort and clean the donated clothes.
“It has been a good experience,” Starkey said. “A lot of nice people do these things.”