You might have run into Kent Huff somewhere in town and not known him. He's not a flashy sort of guy who goes out of his way to make his presence known, but he's there – making a difference consistently. He's one who's strong and steady, serious and compassionate. And disciplined.
His familiarity with the Evergreen community spans four decades, starting in 1972 when his parents moved here and operated a business called the Silver Squash, selling Indian jewelry. His stepfather, an Episcopal priest as well as a petroleum landman – an odd combination, he admits – influenced his decision to pursue a career as a landman after graduating from Western State in Gunnison.
Excessive travel to remote areas made him open to a career change; he turned to selling insurance in 1989, initially for New York Life. Having his own insurance business since 1992 has given him the independence to offer more choices to his clients. He's been representing multiple insurers with a variety of products for the past 10+ years, concentrating mainly on health and life insurance as well as investment planning.
One of his first community involvements after joining the Chamber of Commerce was to get involved with Blue Spruce Kiwanis, which led to his participation as a representative to the Evergreen Unit of the Salvation Army's Intermountain DIvision. Back then the local unit served both the Evergreen and Conifer areas, splitting about 15 years ago to serve the two communities as populations grew.
Kent has co-chaired the Salvation Army committee for about 75 percent of his 20 years with the group that conducts bell-ringing each holiday season and uses the funds to provide emergency assistance to the needy in the area. He has chaired the bell-ringing for 14 years, interacting with 22 service organizations, churches, nonprofits and high school groups to man the kettles between Thanksgiving and Christmas each holiday season. The red kettles pull in about $40,000 annually in mostly small bills and change, 90 percent of which stays here in the Evergreen area.
"It gets so many layers of the community involved," he says with a sense of pleasure. Some of the surprises he recalls are finding an occasional gold ring or gold coin and an envelope with five $100 bills dropped in the kettle anonymously. "I enjoy seeing the acts of kindness and positive interaction, especially with kids. Some [of the bell-ringers] dress up like a Santa or bring their dogs. Some of the high school kids sing," he says, describing how the more enthusiastic bell-ringers attract attention at the entrances to grocery stores and other businesses.
Kent has also been a representative for the Builders and Key Clubs, which are Kiwanis-sponsored middle-school and high-school groups designed to introduce students to community service and leadership skills. The young people then volunteer for Kiwanis functions.
He served as president of the Blue Spruce Kiwanis Club in 1996 and is a board member of Big Chili, an annual fundraising event coordinated by his Kiwanis group. As a board member for Bootstraps for five years, Kent served on the Scholarship Selection Committee, interviewing 78-80 applicants each year. He also worked toward automating systems used by the organization.
His record of community service earned him the 2010 Volunteer of the Year award from the Chamber of Commerce.
Kent's been working out at Nick's Pro Fitness 5-6 times/week for the past 13 years, holding a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Being physically fit has always been important to him. He was an All-State football player and All-State wrestler during his four years at an Episcopal boarding school in Tennessee and played football at Western State. He's a snowboarder and enjoys hiking the fourteeners.
He and his wife, Stu (the daughter of another Episcopal priest and also a landman in the petroleum industry), love live music and theatre. It's customary to take in five or six stage productions each year, and to make a pilgrimage to New Orleans and Arkansas twice annually to experience music festivals that feed their souls. "We love New Orleans-style music," he says, admitting that the crawfish, oyster po' boys, catfish and sugar-dusted beignets prevalent at these festivals (where funnel cakes are banned) add to the appeal. Kent and Stu are partial to the rhythm-and-blues Neville Brothers, blue guitarist and singer Tab Benoit and a funk band called Galactic.
Kent and Stu have a daughter, Sarah, a graduate of Evergreen High School, who's currently earning her PhD in psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Recently, his entrepreneurial interests have been heightened by Michael Gerber's E Myth approach. Kent is currently absorbed in "The Dreaming Room, a 12-week series of 3-hour sessions that help an entrepreneur define where his or her passion lies and how to define it with purpose and a mission. Kent recognizes a drive to integrate his passion for doing good for others with his insurance business, above and beyond the norm. His intentions are to work with clients who'd like to leave a legacy, helping them understand how they can truly make a difference after an estate is distributed.
"If people are made aware how they can give more to charities – with assets, money – they can make a difference locally and beyond," he explains. It's a well-planned, pre-death approach for people who actually want it.
With Kent's strong business background, affinity for taking care of his clients, sense of need in the nonprofit world and compassion for others, he's likely to be having a greater impact on nonprofits in the future – but still in his quiet, behind-the-scenes sort of way.