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Santa House readies for another year of helping families

Now in its 12th year, Santa House has provided gifts to 9,337 families and 26,432 children

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Over the past 12 years, the Santa House in Arvada has provided gifts to 9,337 families and 26,432 children and its volunteers are getting ready to open for another season.

“It’s really incredible what they do there,” said Lorraine Spears, who has been a volunteer at the Santa House for the past nine years.

Spears shops with clients when they come to the Santa House, which will be open this year Tuesdays through Saturdays for two weeks starting Dec. 5.

“It’s very heartwarming,” she said. “It’s really fun to go with the clients and know that their kids are going to have a great Christmas.”

The 12th annual Santa House is organized by the Arvada-Wheat Ridge Service Ambassadors for Youth, an affiliation of Arvada and Wheat Ridge service clubs, and Red Rocks Community College. It was started by Duane Youse and Bill Johnson in 2006 when Youse, who interacted daily with clients as the director of the Arvada Community Food Bank, saw an unmet need in the Arvada community.

Bringing the Santa House to fruition took a lot of teamwork. Youse, Johnson and members of the Arvada-Wheat Ridge Service Ambassadors for Youth took on the job of finding a home for the Santa House, gathering donations, stocking/organizing and helping Santa House visitors.

In the first two years, Arvada Community Food bank clients were referred to the Santa House. After that, 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: Allendale, Arvada K-8, Arvada Head Start, Campbell, Fitzmorris, Foster, Fremont, Kullerstrand, Lawrence, Little, Parr, Peck, Pennington, Secrest, Swanson, Thomson and Vanderhoof.

“We would like to think that families maybe don’t have need anymore, but on the other hand the numbers continue to grow at the food bank,” Youse said. “The number of students in the backpack program indicate that the need is still there, so we’ll be there to help them.”

Since 2006, the Santa House locations have changed, and each year has brought slightly different challenges and rewards. This year, the Santa House has moved again and will be hosted at 11651 W. 64th Ave., Unit B2 at the northwest corner of 64th and Simms in the Friendly Square Shopping Center.

With a little more than 4,000 square feet for the Santa House this year, Youse hopes to serve 1,000 local families.

Youse and Joel Folk shared leadership responsibilities at the Santa House for the first 11 years. In 2017, they are passing the torch to longtime Santa House volunteer coordinator Lila Nigh, whose enthusiasm and organizational skills they say will carry the project forward.

All Apex facilities are accepting donations of new and unwrapped toys and clothes for infants through age 12 as well as monetary donations.

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