A Spokane resident who has been an Arizona “snowbird” the past several years stopped by the other day to ask for specifics about The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund.
She wanted to write a Tucson newspaper, telling how her hometown paper unites its readers in the common endeavor of kindling Christmas spirit for low-income families.
Helping others at Christmastime in Tucson is fragmentary at best, she said, asking her name not be published.
“I find it comforting and comfortable what we have here,” she said.
For the first time in a long time, she will spend Christmas in Spokane. And, in reading the paper’s daily stories about the Christmas Fund, she was impressed by the fund’s cohesiveness and how a donor’s single gift can help so many people.
Last year, 22,077 financially strapped families and individuals received Christmas cheer from people like you, their neighbors.
Of that number, 13,527 were children whose faith in Santa Claus was perpetuated for another year - or, if they are already wise to the world, they at least had the joy of opening a gift on Christmas morning.
More than 8,500 food vouchers were given to help provide an extra-special holiday meal.
More than 3,000 people contributed to the fund, which raised $359,153.20 - $37,000 less than was actually needed. A reserve in Christmas Fund money from past years was tapped and no one went without last year.
But now the reserve is gone and the fund began with a zero base. There is no comfort zone, no cushion to ease a bounce should not enough money be raised this year.
What the Christmas Fund takes in between Thanksgiving and Christmas is what it can distribute. Nothing more.
Working without a safety net is not comfortable. And this year, even more people are expected to apply for assistance than last.
On Wednesday alone, 292 people visited the Salvation Army offices looking for help of one kind or another, said Joy McManus, director of its social services.
What is even more alarming is that in October, 2,035 people had to ask for groceries from the Salvation Army’s food bank. During November 1994, just 1,182 people were given groceries.
The food bank numbers represent only a portion of those needing help since most people were part of a family with two or three other members.
Statistics can be mind-boggling, dehumanizing. But if you picture a face for each number - 2,035 faces, plus at least that many dependents - the figures take on a life of their own.
And it’s heartbreaking.
The late Laura Williamson took up the Christmas Fund years ago as a favorite charity. And when she died, her husband, Lyal Williamson, 9723 E. Shannon, continued her good work.
Thursday’s mail brought Williamson’s $1,000 check, given in memory of his wife. He wrote: “To know that every penny that she gave to the Christmas Fund would go to the poor and needy, she thanked God for you wonderful people.”
The Williamson gift helped bring Thursday’s receipts to $3,630, for a total so far of $18,891.81.
The goal is $380,000. There are 24 days left before Christmas is here.
A $500 gift was received in the name of the men and women of the Washington Air National Guard, active and retired. Michael Bailey, president of the group’s Booster Club, 3107 N. Lily Road, wrote: “We are proud to be members of the Air National Guard and the community we serve, and we applaud all of your efforts to aid those less fortunate in our community.”
A $500 anonymous gift was received; Betty and David Johnston, 6301 E. Seventh, sent $200; Louis Franks, 12002 E. Valleyway, gave $200 “toward the need of the less fortunate ones this year … in memory of my beloved, deceased wife, Vita M., and my dearest friends, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur C. Burnside.”
Giving $100 gifts were Dennis and Linda Ashlock, Liberty Lake; the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, Lodge 104, Opportunity; John and Hazel Baldasty, 5018 N. Maple; Eric and Marian Anderson, 3231 W. Boone; Melvin Dowd, 1613 E. Cambridge Lane; Marlene and Terry Thies, 4224 N. Vercler, in memory of Marlene’s mother, Marget Hagen; and one anonymous donor.
An anonymous Spokesman-Review employee, long faithful to the Christmas Fund, gave $75 with this: “I urge everyone who can, to contribute to this worthy cause.”
Donating $50 were Hank and Rachel Johnson, Spokane; and Harold Grunland, 2321 W. Second.
Marcia Renouard, 730 E. Glass, gave $30 in memory of her son, Terry; Margaret Kuhlman, 12121 E. Fourth, gave $30 in memory of her husband and their son.
Those giving $25 were Nancy Welch, 1507 N. Center Road; Odella Meulner, 4824 N. Adams; Marilyn Thompson, Springdale; Floyd Stewart, Loon Lake; Curt and Gladys Simpson, 3816 W. Francis; Doris Berringer, 3308 E. 11th; and Joy E. Obde, 2351 N. Crestline, in memory of her husband, Ed, who died in 1993.
James Paul Repp, Spokane, gave $20, as did a Prichard, Idaho, admirer who wrote: “I appreciate so much what you are doing - 40 years ago, in a far-off state, I needed help for my children’s Christmas, and the help was there. Thank you for being there for those in need in 1995.”
There was an anonymous gift of $15; those sending in $10 were Marilyn Bauer, 5403 W. Princeton Place; Jane Weeks, Veradale; Doris Hassing, 7918 N. Standard; and three anonymous givers. Philip Duval, Espanola, sent $5.