Villager couple of the year – Linda and Jimmy Yip

Celebrating 2018 – Year of the Dog. Linda and Jimmy Yip at the Chinese New Year Gala for NYF – Photo by Scottie Iverson

When you think of Linda and Jimmy Yip – you automatically think “Team Yip.” They are partners in marriage, business and life and are seldom seen without each other – especially in photographs. “We are a very good team,” said Linda. “I would trade anything but him!” They have embarked on big ventures together – with much love, energy and compassion. They have more than 25 years of leadership experience in the restaurant industry, real estate and land development, insurance and business processing outsourcing services.

A personal note

I knew Jimmy and Linda from the former Metropolitan Club in Greenwood Village where they entertained frequently. We re-connected several years ago. Jimmy (and, I’m fairly certain Linda selects his wardrobe) was on The Villager’s Best Dressed Men List called Gents. That section won a Colorado Press Association award for 2011. Fortunately for me, the Yips bring good luck. In 2016, I covered the Chinese New Year Gala that raises funds for the Nathan Yip Foundation (NYF) that Jimmy and Linda founded. That coverage was nominated for another Colorado Press Association award and…won! At that same gala, Dr. Richard and Linda VG Kelley were honored. About that couple (former Villagers of the Year), Jimmy said:

“The Kelleys are our role models!”

More close ties – The Kelleys’ son Chris was a classmate of the late Nathan at Kent Denver and the son of that year’s gala chairs Skip and Jane Netzorg, Grant, was also a classmate.

Jimmy and Linda with Colorado First Lady Robin Hickenlooper, James iacino and Governor John Hickenlooper in 2017

The backstory

Linda was born in Taiwan, raised Buddhist and graduated from the Cultural College of Taiwan with a degree in political science. Jimmy was born in Hong Kong and was raised in Catholic schools. He came to Iowa in 1970 with two friends in pursuit of a college education. Money was tight, so Jimmy moved to New York City after his first quarter of college. He spent the summer working with a friend running a Chinese restaurant to earn tuition for engineering studies at City College. As his restaurant expertise grew, Jimmy and a friend opened their own restaurant in New York. It was so successful that Jimmy left college.

Food brought them together

Valentine’s Day of 1979 was a very important day in the lives of the Yips. Linda had a visa from Taiwan and wanted to find a good husband in America. She came to Denver to help a friend in the restaurant business. Jimmy moved to Colorado from New York City to run Ming Dynasty. They met on Heart Day and became friends. He was hard working and conservative. Linda admits that in Taiwan, she traveled and mostly spent money. Jimmy told her she needed to be more independent and do more with her life. “I found a diamond.” She said. “I changed myself to earn my husband.” They married in 1981. Their reception was at the well-known Tommy Wong’s Island in Glendale. Together, they opened and sold their first Chinese restaurant, then opened two more simultaneously. The ambitious couple continued in restaurant ventures including such names as Fish & Chips, Long John Silver’s, Captain Kangaroo, Cuisine Unique Fusion and Flower Drum Chinese Restaurant. Jimmy brought many ideas from New York and Linda was learning her adopted country’s culture. Then, they ventured in to the real estate business.

“My first waitress job was at Mr. Steak and 11 years later, we bought the franchise,”

said Linda.

They decided to invest in real estate with two partners and established the first Keller Williams franchise in Denver and later acquired the entire Keller Williams region from Tom Coldwell. In 1991, the group bought its first building in Denver – The Alamo at 17th and Market Street.

Over the years, they also joined the Carlson Family to build Country Inn and Suites. As their businesses and talents grew, the group combined several service companies to form a new company called Peliton. That business outsourcing company was designed to help small-business owners improve their processes, efficiency and profitability. In 2017 that last business venture of the Yips was sold. Now they could devote fulltime heart and soul to their nonprofit.

Nathan Yip and the foundation that bears his name

In 1983, Linda and Jimmy had welcomed their only child, a son named Nathan. The handsome young man had a radiant smile and a big heart. In 1994, when Nathan was in middle school, they took him to China to visit poor rural areas where young students needed help. This need made an indelible impression on Nathan.

Education was very important to him. He told his dad that he hoped someday, he could help. At Kent Denver, he was a member of Future Givers and served as vice president. His last wish was expressed as wanting to establish a foundation to help kids with scholarships. He was back on vacation from Lehigh for winter break when a tragic car crash took his young life at age 19. This loss turned Linda and Jimmy’s lives upside down. Drawing from the friends and family who had helped raise Nathan, the couple formed the Nathan Yip Foundation in 2002, determined to turn their personal tragedy into public good. Linda is known for her signature purple – from nail polish to fashionable attire to interior design. So, it’s no surprise that the foundation color was purple incorporating butterflies in the logo.

The little foundation that could…and did

Keeping the spirit of Nathan Yip alive, the foundation reaches around the world to help youth in forgotten communities by providing schools, education and ongoing support. The goal was to equip these young people with the skills and resources to become productive contributing citizens in our global world.

The little foundation started out to be private and then went public. The first project was in Laredo, N.M. supplying a rural school with a bus and dormitories. This was followed by many projects in rural China.

There are countless photos and records to fill countless scrapbooks. Thank goodness for digital files. There are still dozens of China projects, too many to mention. Some even include Nathan’s name such as New City Nathan Yip School of Hope in Jiangxi Province. There are several trips to China each year orchestrated by Linda. Supporter Meiko Nakamura has been on all of them. And, NYF still reaches out to Africa. Among other extensive outreach programs are Project Pave and the Book Trust.

The Colorado connection expanded

Recently, the focus of NYF has been fittingly, in rural parts of Colorado making an impact that is important to the Yips.

“The beauty is when the money is granted, we can visit to see how it helped,”

said Linda.

“It’s also creating hope.”

All that is required is submitting a letter of request, so the foundation knows what is needed. For instance, at Eads High School, thanks to Joe Wagner, who wrote a request letter, the foundation funded over $30,000 to completely renovate the science classroom. Just a sampling of the NYF’s commitments includes Center Consolidated Schools in Center – working on the challenges of teacher retention and salaries and community building. At Peyton High School, NYF is helping with vocational training in the automotive program and woodworking program. At Pleasant View Elementary, each student received a refurbished laptop. At Ute Mountain, Ute Reservation, over 40 laptops were distributed. Math tools for kindergartners, first and second-graders were made available at Byers Elementary. An innovative synchronized learning program with STEM School Highlands Ranch was linked to Arikaree School District. A spectrum of science materials and 72 Chromebook computers were provided for students at Cortez Middle School. NYF has also served schools in the Denver area – East High School, Denver Center for International Studies and George Washington High School. “Our volunteers are so important,” said Linda. “They are always involved as is our remarkable executive director Tarika Cefkin and exceptional board of directors led by Mike Kalush. When we let go, we hope to have built up an endowment for our legacy as well as Nathan’s.” Nathan’s classmates were very close at Kent Denver. He was gregarious and welcoming, loved music and made friends easily. Of note are James Iacino and Alan Frosh who is president of Friends of Nathan that holds its own fundraiser annually called Nate’s Night. Iacino’s Seattle Fish Company is a huge sponsor of the foundation events. The Nathan Yip Foundation office is located in Greenwood Village. Agatha Kessler has been a close friend of the couple for two decades. She has also been a board member of the Nathan Yip Foundation since its inception 16 years ago. She said,

“With seemingly an unlimited supply of love and kindness, Jimmy and Linda Yip have tirelessly been carrying out Nathan’s wishes for the past 16 years. Through the Nathan Yip Foundation, the Yips have provided educational assistance to thousands of less privileged children in rural China, Mexico, Africa and Colorado. What’s more, is they are a couple who shower their friends with food and love in good and bad times. The Yips are modern angels. This award is recognizing a very deserving couple who are inspirations to all of us!”

Linda and Jimmy have been honored throughout Colorado for their contributions as positive role models as well as volunteerism and social activism. In 2007 the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival honored the Yips as “Successful Immigrants.” In 2011, Asian Avenue recognized Linda and Jimmy as “Asian –American Heroes.” Also, Forbes Asia named them “Heroes of Philanthropy” in 2011.

The Yips with Friends of Nate President Alan Frosh at the Dim Sum Luncheon held annually at King’s Landing – Photo by Scottie Iverson

The Yips in real time

In addition to NYF, the Yips support the likes of Opera Colorado, Colorado Ballet, Women with A Cause and many more. When you become a friend of Linda and Jimmy, you become family. It’s an honor to call them your “sister” and “brother.”

They have attracted a loyal following of volunteers and supporters for the foundation, hoping to make Nathan proud, because of their caring and generous spirit.

“Our entire team is wonderful to work with,”

said Linda. Their connections are genuine and very personal. They listen, respond, and readily help not only their own family members but friends whenever there is a need. They never forget a name or an occasion – so humble, so polite. In addition to the big Chinese New Year Gala, coming up Feb. 9, they open their home in Aurora for the Annual Summer Sushi Party and private gatherings around their bountiful table with the most gracious hospitality. Just to be in their presence is always a fun celebration. Not to mention the famous Jimmy’s rum cake – always savored (secret recipe not revealed).