Project Santa hits 30-year milestone through community involvement |

Project Santa hits 30-year milestone through community involvement

Last year was a milestone for Project Santa Claus in celebrating 30 years of service and dedication to more than 20,500 children.

It also was a year of change as five service clubs in the Carson Valley came together as one to take on the project.

"One of my proudest moments was getting these clubs together, like we talked about last year and having all five of their banners hung during the entire week of Project Santa," said Gary Dove, Project Santa Claus chairman at the nonprofit's annual appreciation breakfast Thursday.

Dove spoke in the past about making Project Santa Claus a community project.

"It's really a community project and a group involvement," Dove said at last year's breakfast. "Our hope is to have the communication start more development and involvement throughout the community."

Those efforts paid off this year for Project Santa Claus.

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"We started building a team to do to the things that were necessary to make this project work," said John Carne, Rotary Club of Minden member. "That team was being built by Gary's emphasis, hard work and enthusiasm. He tried to make this a broad-based community project. It was not any individual's or any club's project, but it was the whole community's project, and this year we took a big step down that road; we became a separate 501 (C)(3) nonprofit corporation."

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.

Children up to 17 years of age qualify for the program through Douglas County Social Services, Washoe Tribe Social Services, Court-Appointed Special Advocates, the Carson Valley Food Closet or the Family Support Council.

It was originally established in 1988 through the efforts of the Carson Valley Food Closet, Carne said. In 1991 Marilyn Malkmus took on the project and spearheaded it for 20 years before the Kiwanis Club of Carson Valley took the reins.

"I am overwhelmed by all of this," Malkmus said. "I thought for about a year and half before deciding that I needed to move on with my own life. Gary came forwarded, a very unexpected little angel himself, and said he had a vision for (Project Santa) and the Kiwanis would take it on."

The Kiwanis Club of Carson Valley administrated the project since 2011, sharing the load with local businesses and volunteers.

"Most service clubs like to take ownership in things, we didn't want (sole) ownership in this," Dove said.

This year, 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, Crystal Angels, China Spring Youth Camp/Auoroa Pines as well as many volunteers and individuals came together for the project.

"This is one of the most incredible communities to live in," Malkmus said. "Just about everyone come to make it a better life and everyone brings forth help when it is needed. I've had such a great fortune to work with such a wonderful team and seeing how far (Project Santa) has come."

It takes a community to make Project Santa Claus happen and it's all for the kids, said Dove.

"We see many of the individuals and families you serve almost every day and they tell us their stories of Christmas and of the bikes their kids are riding all year long so this means more to them, than just a 'yay, there are Christmas presents under the tree,' it impacts them and their lives in a variety of ways. So thank you and thank you from all them," said Sarah Sanchez managing director at the Carson Valley Food Closet.