Project Santa Claus wraps up 30 years of giving back |

Project Santa Claus wraps up 30 years of giving back

A pair of ROP volunteers carry bags of presents for Martin Van Lokeren of Gardnerville Saturday during the Project Santa Claus pick-up day at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
Brad Coman

Project Santa Claus wrapped up its 30th year of bringing Christmas joy to more than 200 families and 500 children in Douglas County on Saturday.

Supported by individuals, businesses and service clubs Project Santa Claus is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit which provides Christmas gifts to hundreds of families and children in Douglas County annually.

“I love doing this, it gets me choked up doing so,” volunteer Debbie Dove said. “It’s really rewarding that we can help out to families during the holiday. Sometimes we take for granted the things we have, so it feels good in the heart to reach out and give back to those in need.”

Project Santa Claus usually begins in October with service clubs including the Kiwanis Club of Carson Valley, Carson Valley Active 20-30 Club No. 85, Carson Valley Lions Club, Rotary Club of Minden and Carson Valley Sertoma as well as many volunteers and individuals, putting in long hours making sure angel trees are at businesses around the community, shopping and wrapping presents.

Project Santa Claus Chairman Gary Dove said there were 203 volunteers this year who put in a total of 1,775 hours in preparation for the project.

“A lot of us go home tired at the end of the day, but we do it with a smile because we know that roughly 600 children will wake up on Christmas with a smile and we feel good knowing that,” said John Carne, Rotary Club of Minden member and “elf.”

Project Santa recipients qualify for the program through Douglas County Social Services, Washoe Tribe Social Services, Court-Appointed Special Advocates, or the Family Support Council.

Each qualified child, through 17 years of age, receive at least two gifts requested during sign up, valued at approximately $30 each, a book and children in fifth-grade and younger receive a hat and mittens.

Through the efforts of the Kiwanis Club and others, a total of 151 bikes were given out this year and 193 helmets were given to anyone who received a bike, scooter or skateboard. Dove said the helmets were made possible by the Carson Valley Medical Center.

Project Santa Claus helps those in need through the service groups in Douglas County, but when a need comes through outside of those group whether late or an emergency situation arises, they do what they can to bring a little joy to the home, said Dove.

“There was a family a few years ago where the mother was dieing and the father was in no position to make Christmas happen that year, so a local Hospice care facility reached out to us to help the family,” said Dove. “We learned what we could about the family and the children’s ages and put something together for them.”

Later, Dove said Project Santa Claus received an update from that family.

“It was a letter saying the mother had passed away and an appreciation for what Project Santa Claus did for the family during their difficult time and the joy the mother felt seeing her children happy on Christmas,” Dove said.

Many who have been a part of the program first-hand give back by volunteering or picking up angels to shop for.

“I volunteer because I used to be a part of it and my little brother still is,” volunteer Colleen Clanton of Carson Valley Medical Center said. “I know what it is all about, I’ve been there so it’s nice to give back.