Project Santa Claus helps more than 600 children |

Project Santa Claus helps more than 600 children

by Caryn Haller
Soroptimist member Liz Bricker wraps a present for Project Santa Claus on Monday.
Jim Grant | The Record-Courier

With the belief that all little girls should have the opportunity to have a baby doll, Linda Faff and her friends at Carson Valley Desert Brushes donated four handmade and painted cradles complete with baby dolls and matching bedding to Project Santa Claus.

Reno Woodchucks creates 50 cradles every year which the Sierra Nevada and Carson Valley Desert Brushes paints and distributes to children in Reno, Carson City and for the first time this year, Carson Valley.

“Most of us are from Carson City and Carson Valley, and we wanted them to come to our community this year,” Faff said. “Every girl should have the opportunity to have a baby doll.”

Project Santa Claus is helping 290 families and 651 children have a merry Christmas this year. Each child receives at least two gifts and a new book. Elementary age children also receive a cap and mittens.

“When you’re a 3-year-old child, you want to tear open a package.”
Gary Dove
Kiwanis Past President

Kiwanis Club of Carson Valley Past President Gary Dove said when a present comes back to an Angel Tree in a gift bag with tissue paper, he always rewraps it.

“When you’re a 3-year-old child, you want to tear open a package,” Dove said. “This is the most rewarding thing we can do knowing children can experience Santa the way it should be experienced.”

Minden resident Stepanie Waggoner has volunteered with Project Santa Claus for five years. This year, she was asked to handle the hat, book and mitten trees.

Although she works full-time running her fitness business, she was glad to donate her time to the worthy cause.

“It’s only five weeks of my time and only five days of really hard work, and if that gives 657 kids smiles on their faces, who wouldn’t do it?” Waggoner said. “To know a kid could not have anything on Christmas morning is heartbreaking. All families every year have highs and lows. There’s some families who we’ll only have this year, but some who have been here every year.”

On Monday, Waggoner had her team of elves at the Douglas County Fairgrounds building organizing all 657 sets of hats and mittens.

“It takes a village, that’s for sure, to get it all done,” she said. “It is quite an amazing sight to see how our community comes together, but it’s also sad to see how many children need this kind of help.”

Volunteer Sue Carne, who grew up in a less fortunate family, remembers the Christmas she received a doll which came in a box that opened up into a bedroom.

“I still have it,” she said. “Christmas was the only time my parents ever bought anything for us, so it was a huge deal.”

Carne works as a substitute teacher, and loves helping with Project Santa Claus.

“It’s probably the most rewarding thing I do all year,” she said. “It would be heartbreaking if these kids didn’t get anything for Christmas.”

Carne also helps shop for the angels that didn’t get taken from the trees.

“Some lucky boy is going to get a train,” she said. “He’s going to be blown away.”

Linda Lemley volunteered for various nonprofit groups in Los Angeles before moving to Carson Valley three years ago.

“The first time I walked in here and saw all these bikes and presents, I was amazed by the generosity of this Valley,” she said of her first time volunteering three years ago. “The community support this Valley has is overwhelming.”

Lemley moved to the Valley when unemployemt was at 13 percent.

“We’re a very rich community in L.A., and to come down here is a humbling experience,” Lemley said. “To see all this generosity when you’re not used to seeing it is amazing.”

Nearly 180 used bicycles refurbished by students at China Spring Youth Camp will also be distributed this year.

Project Santa Claus is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Carson Valley with help from the Rotary Club, Soroptimist International, the Active 20/30 Club and other community groups and individuals.