Keeping the lights on: Duerksen repairs Christmas lights for Et Cetera Shop

Dave Duerksen volunteers at the Newton Et Cetera Shop, repairing Christmas lights. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

By Wendy Nugent, Newton Now

Sometimes, work can be a tangle—a tangle of emotions or a tangle of personalities. However, in Dave Duerksen’s volunteer job, tangles usually take the form of Christmas lights in a big mess.

One of his jobs is to straighten them out. He doesn’t just untangle them during the holidays; he does it all year round.

He said he spends a lot of time at the Newton Et Cetera Shop untangling lights. His other duties include making sure lights they sell are safe, and he repairs strings of lights. He said he doesn’t want to send anything out on the sale floor that’s not safe. For instance, one string of lights had a couple of staples through it, so that went in the trash.

I basically string the lights out and check light by light,” he said, adding he takes most of them home and strings them out in his garage to see what works and what doesn’t.

He’s self-taught on light repair.

I got my education at Google University,” he said. “This is a typical problem—half of it works and half of it doesn’t,” he added about a string of lights at Et Cetera he was working with.

Duerksen uses a couple of tools in his repairs, one of which is what he called at zapper. If the zapper doesn’t bring the lights to work with its powers (Duerksen explained what it does, which included melting what he referred to as wax in the light strand), then he starts pulling lights individually, he said.

He also said if lights are battery powered, he’ll add the batteries to check the lights, but then he’ll take them out, and then they’ll get put on the sale floor. If they don’t sell, they’ll be stored upstairs until next year. He likes to take the batteries out so they don’t corrode while being stored.

We try to check them out and see if it works,” he said. “Sometimes you only have one bulb out.”

After his checking/repair work, Duerksen isn’t sure how the lights are priced, and he said they don’t just get Christmas lights, they also get lights for Halloween and Easter.

They also get inflatables and other holiday items.

Besides lights, there are figurines that need batteries to have them work,” Duerksen said.

The most interesting item Duerksen got last year was a Santa in a bathtub, he said, which was battery operated.

He was wiping himself with a towel, and it played Christmas music,” he said.

He enjoys the work, which he does half days twice a week.

I don’t mind getting lights in here that don’t work,” he said, adding he doesn’t mind fixing them. “Anything where the wires are cut, we have to throw them in the garbage. I actually check Christmas lights all year round.”

When he doesn’t have lights to work on, he then turns his attention to a pile of items that run on electricity, including lamps, clocks and coffee makers.

I really enjoy doing this,” he said. “One of the other benefits is we keep things out of the landfill. It really gives me something to get up in the morning for. I’m retired.”

Duerksen said he has health problems, including a severe heart attack five years ago when he was at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.

The doc said I had a five percent chance of surviving that heart attack,” he said. “So I’m very thankful to be here. This is a wonderful place. My wife is here, too.”

Duerksen, who’s volunteered at the Et Cetera Shop since 2016, said the store needs volunteers. To volunteer, contact store manager Sara Dick. The next volunteer training is from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8. For more information, call the Et Cetera Shop at 316-283-9461.