R-C’s featured organization of the month: Project School Days
Project School Days may be the smallest organization that The Record-Courier has recognized, and one of the newest, but it is one that reaches far, helping students at all elementary schools and middle schools in Douglas County.
Co-chairs of the project are Alis Nalder and Marilyn Malkmus. Rosemarie Middendorf provides the publicity. And that, in a nutshell, is the extent of the project’s organizational structure.
“We may be a small band, but we get the job done,” said Malkmus. “You might say we are a determined group.”
Project School Days was conceived when Nalder’s daughter-in-law, a teacher at Gardnerville Elementary School, and her granddaughter, a teacher at Minden Elementary School, mentioned that some students were unprepared for school because of a lack of supplies from home.
“One student brought in a note from her mother that she couldn’t buy the crayons to do the homework until the next pay day,” said Nalder. “Things that a lot of us take for granted are not in some family budgets.”
“Alis and I worked on Project Santa Claus and we decided that we needed something to do with the other end of the year,” said Malkmus. “And that’s how we came up with the idea of Project School Days.”
This is the second year that Project School Days is fulfilling its mission of providing “a helping hand for the greatest asset Douglas County has – our children.”
“But first we had to find out which students had the need,” said Malkmus.
The project turned to the teachers for help and developed a system.
“The teachers fill out the forms, itemizing the needs in their classroom, and they are the only ones who know,” said Malkmus. “The information is given to us in numbers. The supplies are then sent to the teacher so that they can give the students the supplies discreetly. There is no embarrassment. It’s all confidential.”
While Malkmus and Nalder were working on the system, Middendorf was getting the word out to the community that donations of either money or supplies were desperately needed through an extensive publicity campaign. Douglas County answered the call.
“Our original concept was that when a business ordered supplies, it would add an additional box of pencils or pens or a case of paper to the order,” said Malkmus. “But our needs exceeded that idea. The support from the business community and individuals has been fantastic.”
Then came the fun part.
“With the donated money, we go shopping for two days,” said Nalder.
“It must be a kick to see two ole gals going nuts over backpacks,” said Malkmus.
Once the supplies are sorted, Malkmus said that the hardest part of the project is getting them from the car to the school.
“Don’t you know that our two husbands got involved with that,” said Nalder.
Project School Days serves the needs of elementary and middle school students, but the co-chairs would like to it progress into the high school.
“Just because students reach 10th grade doesn’t mean that they no longer need a helping hand,” said Malkmus. “We just haven’t worked out the semantics yet.”
And the supplies provided at the beginning of the school year don’t stretch far enough.
“We want the teachers to remember us all year long,” said Nalder. “Let’s face it, those pens will run out of ink sometime during the school year.”
“It’s an evolving thing,” said Malkmus. “As the program develops, we are finding new ways to help students.”
Last year, Project School Days provided school supplies to 153 Douglas County students.
“There will always be a certain percentage that needs help,” said Malkmus. “Hopefully, it (the percentage) will never get bigger, and maybe get smaller. But either way, Project School Days will be there to help.”
This year’s donation drive is now in full swing. The project plans to disburse school supplies to the elementary students during the first week of September. Supplies will be delivered to the middle school two weeks later.
However, Malkmus was quick to point out that these supplies are not meant to supplant in-school supplies provided by the school district.
“The need is at home for homework or the everyday supplies that are usually supplied by the family,” said Malkmus.
Donations to Project School Days can be mailed to P.O. Box 5438, Gardnerville 89410, or they can be dropped off at Skyland Realty, 1546 Highway 395, Gardnerville. You can also call Malkmus at 782-4931 or Nalder at 782-8131.
“When you look at international or national problems, it’s easy to feel that you can’t do anything about it, but here you can,” said Malkmus. “Project School Days is just another little help, another niche we can fill.”
Project School Days
Most Necessary Needs:
3-ring binders with dividers
3-hole lined and plain paper
Special Project Needs:
Extra Special Needs: