Project Santa Claus is huge success |

Project Santa Claus is huge success

by Kate Gardner

The holiday season is a time for caring, sharing and most importantly, giving.

Thanks to Project Santa Claus toy and clothing drives and the Carson Valley Community Food Closet, 327 Douglas County families – including 788 children – are able to enjoy Christmas a little more.

For the last 10 years, Diane Malone has been a little busier this time of year, rounding up meat, rolls, produce, pie and whipped cream for families in Douglas County.

“I’m very committed to it. Or maybe they need to have me committed,” she said with a laugh.

Most of the food Malone receives is through donation or purchased with a discount. Raley’s donated 1,000 pounds of meat, and Malone purchased 150 additional turkeys from Raley’s with help from the donation boxes at the cash registers. Malone purchased rolls, produce, pies and whipped topping from Scolari’s, at a discount, and with help from the Friendship Fund.

“When people use their Scolari’s Club Card, they have the option of donating their savings to the Friendship Fund. Then, every other month or so, the Scolari’s main office sends us a check. They usually range from $400-$600.”

The Food Closet also distributes food donated by community members.

“We thought that with Y2K people would be more apprehensive about donating food. We’re hoping they donate their surplus of food after the whole thing is over,” Malone said.

Malone said that this is one of her favorite times of year.

“I love it. I love every minute of it,” Malone said. “It keeps us busy and out of mischief. Then again, we also get to make a lot of mischief” she said.

Nancy Deyo has also found the people of Douglas County to be extremely generous.

Deyo is in her sixth year as clothing chairman for Project Santa Claus.

n Overwhelmed. “The people of Douglas County have been extremely generous. We were quite overwhelmed about the clothes we have received this year,” she said.

Deyo was also very impressed with the volunteer service this year.

“All I had to do was call them up and they would ask what time and where,” she said. “Without their help, none of this would be possible,” she said.

Deyo said she was not only impressed with the quantity of clothes this year, but also the quality. A change to the clothing drive this year is that only winter clothes will be distributed.

“We sifted through all the clothes and pulled out the T-shirts and bathing suits. Those got donated to the area thrift stores right away,” she said. Leftover winter items will be donated to the area thrift stores as well.

Deyo said that the clothes are washed by volunteers including herself. R&T Cleaners donates any dry cleaning services that are needed.

The people of Douglas County have made Marilyn Malkmus very pleased as well. Because of donations, 788 children, 15 and under, have received the gifts that they requested this year. Also, because of a surplus in donations, all of the children in the program 10 and under will be receiving three presents this year, instead of two.

“I think that people look at all the distress in the world and figure that at least they can fix things at home. The donations have been wonderful,” Malkmus said.

According to Malkmus, 11,000 pounds of food were collected at the Dec. 17 Channel 2 food drive alone.

Malkmus said she was also pleased with the weather.

“Last year it was so cold and snowy. And this place leaks. We had to station trash cans all over to catch all the leaks,” she said. “This year it seems like the weather is finally working with us.”

n Youthful helpers. Malkmus said youths from China Spring Youth Camp and the Rite of Passage are big helpers with the event. The youths from China Spring fix up bikes that are donated to the Kiwanis Club and along with the boys from Rite of Passage help with handing out the supplies.

“What was nice this year was that our helpers from China Spring got to see the kids receive their bikes. It was really exciting for everyone,” Malkmus said.

Lorna McLeish is a volunteer who divides her volunteer time between the food closet and the FISH Thrift Store.

A single mother, McLeish said that she can appreciate the assistance offered by the food closet.

“I want to show thanks for all the help they have given me,” McLeish said.

McLeish moved to Douglas County from California and said she found the Carson Valley program to be more user-friendly than California.

“This is a blessed place and event. So many people are getting help. I wish they would make more places like this. There is so much help available. I just want to give back what I can,” she said.

Project Santa Claus was started in 1989. Community members can be qualified through Douglas County social services and Washoe Tribal services.

n DCSO drive. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is also getting into the Christmas spirit by sponsoring its third annual toy drive.

The toy drive is organized by Deputy Jennie Hill and Investigator Dave Nishikida. Hill said she organized the event for a former employer before she moved to Douglas County and suggested the idea here.

The majority of the toys donated this year came in one day after the owner of Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant opened his doors to the toy drive.

“A lot of thanks needs to go to Ruben Aguilar. He did donate a lot of food and time and energy to doing that,” Nishikida said.

The restaurant hosted “Navidad in the Valley,” Dec. 12, in which anyone who brought in a new toy received a free entree.

Hill said the event helped gather more toys than ever.

“It’s a neat idea and we’d welcome doing it again next year,” Hill said. “We got all kinds of stuff, much more than last year.”

Hill said people have been extremely generous.

“One person donated a $1,000 check,” Hill said. “I think he wants to be anonymous, though.”

Hill and Nishikida started distributing the toys Wednesday to nearly 100 kids from 30 families.

n R-C staff writer Merrie Leininger contributed to this story.