Featured Participant – Duane Youse

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Duane Youse is a long-time Arvada resident for whom community service is a way of life. He has contributed in many ways for many decades to Arvada’s well-being, but in recent years, the Apex PRD family knows him best through his involvement with Santa House.

Now gearing up for its 12th year, this beloved holiday collaboration helps brighten the season for local families in need, who otherwise might not be able to purchase gifts for their children.

In 2006, Duane and Bill Johnson came up with the idea for the Santa House. As director for the Arvada Community Food Bank, Duane interacted daily with clients and had a better sense than most of the unmet needs of families and children. As active community volunteers, Duane and Bill had the ability, experience and desire to recruit the volunteers and donations needed for such a significant project.

Bringing the Santa House to fruition took a lot of teamwork. Duane, Bill and members of the Arvada-Wheat Ridge Service Ambassadors for Youth (AWRSAY) took on the job of finding a home for the Santa House, gathering donations, stocking/organizing, and helping Santa House visitors. AWRSAY is a non-profit consisting of nearly 20 Arvada and Wheat Ridge service organizations and Red Rocks Community College. Their task is to help youth who have overcome adversity to achieve their potential through recognition, education and opportunities in the form of scholarships to Red Rocks. They also participate in other community service projects such as the Santa House.

Since 2006, the Santa House locations have changed and each year has brought slightly different challenges and rewards. The overall total numbers are a remarkable 9,337 families and 26,432 children receiving holiday gifts.

In the first two years, Arvada Community Food bank clients were referred to the Santa House. After that, the organizers focused more on local families by working with economically challenged Arvada and Wheat Ridge elementary schools and enlisted the schools’ help in identifying needy families and children. This year 17 schools are in the program this year: Allendale, Arvada K-8, Arvada Head Start, Campbell, Fitzmorris, Foster, Fremont, Kullerstrand, Lawrence, Little, Parr, Peck, Pennington, Secrest, Swanson, Thomson, and Vanderhoof,

Duane and Joel Folk, another long-time Arvada resident and a retired veterinarian who worked at the Arvada Veterinary Hospital, shared the leadership responsibilities at the Santa House for the first eleven years. In 2017, they are passing the torch to long-time Santa House volunteer coordinator Lila Nigh, whose enthusiasm and formidable organizational skills will carry the project forward with gusto. But Duane will continue to be a strong presence in the community-service sector; you might say it’s in his DNA.

When Duane describes his experience in community service, a couple of important themes jump out. One of these is the value of one-on-one communication. Duane has recently been involved in building community connections on an individual level, particularly with the growing immigrant population in the area. “When people start talking, they broaden and build relationships. That one-on-one contact is where it all begins.”

He also is proud of Arvada’s traditional community-mindedness, which goes back many decades. In his service with AWRSAY, Kiwanis, the Apex PRD (then North Jeffco) Foundation and many other organizations, Duane says that’s one of the best things about Arvada. “We live and breathe community; everybody’s proud of what has happened here.”

The Santa House is a thriving illustration of that philosophy at work. Many different organizations take an active role each year and assume responsibility for one aspect: books, wrapping paper, gift purchasing and more. When it all comes together, it’s a little bit magical—just like the holiday season.

Thank you, Duane, for your ongoing contributions to the community and for setting an example as a “service ambassador” to so many. Apex PRD is a better place for all that you’ve done, with a twinkle in your eye and a kind heart for all that you meet!

This year’s Santa House location is in the Friendly Square shopping center at 64th and Simms. Watch for more information about the Santa House collection drive at Apex PRD facilities.