Although the leaves have just begun to change color, Santa and his elves are already working hard to get ready for the holidays. The Arvada Press wasn’t able to get a comment from the North Pole, but the Arvada Jefferson Kiwanis Foundation’s Santa House appears set to return for a 16th year.
The program helps families with children in Jefferson County Public Schools provide Christmas presents at home. Donations are collected at various drop off locations from Oct. 16 to Nov. 25 before the Santa House opens its doors and, after that, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 at Storyline Church in Arvada.
Over the next few weeks, folks can donate new presents for children under the age of 12 to a number of drop off locations, including all Apex recreation facilities and Red Rocks Community College.
The Kiwanis Foundation is also accept monetary donations during this time, which will allow volunteers to purchase things that may not have come through in donations.
The end result is a Christmas shop full of free gifts for over 12,150 families. The program has served 33,550 children throughout its history.
Program Director Cheryl Norton said the impetus of the Santa House is to allow families to select their own gifts.
“The whole idea was to try and provide a Christmas opportunity for families in need and do it in a way that allowed families to shop for toys and gifts that they thought their children would enjoy,” Norton said.
The Kiwanis Foundation gives out vouchers to nine Title 1 schools in the area: Arvada K-8, Foster, Fremont, Hackberry, Lawrence, little, Secrest, Swanson and Vanderhoof.
From there, school resource officers’ hand out vouchers to families. Any family with a voucher can shop for as many children as the family has as long as they’re under 12 and live at the same address. Vouchers are passed out on Nov. 1.
Norton said working with SRO’s allows for the donations to go to the families who need them the most. The Santa House is completely volunteer run, she continued to say.
“We didn’t want to necessarily give away toys to families that didn’t have a need for it,” Norton said. “So that was our way of trying to determine through the school resource officers just who could best benefit from the Santa House experience. It’s all run by donations. It’s all run by volunteers so that this is really our way of gifting Christmas to families.”
The Santa House took a two-year COVID-induced hiatus, from 2020 to 2021. Norton and her team were unsure of how the community would respond when it returned. To their surprise, their expectations were exceeded.
“The support was overwhelming,” Norton said. “It was almost like there was a pent-up demand to say, ‘We want to help others.’ I’m hoping we have the same kind of response (this year).”
Over the first 14 years of the Santa House, the program served about 2.5 children per household. Last year — the first year back from COVID — that number increased to about 3.7 children per family.
Norton said the best part of the program is the autonomy it provides people.
“Dignity,” Norton said when asked what the best part of Santa House is. “The ability to feel that they’ve made a choice, the choice is theirs, and they have contributed to their family’s happiness and holiday spirit.”
New toys, stuffed animals and books are some of the most needed items this year. Baby toys and items for infants are also encouraged.