A couple of dozen volunteers packed the Christmas Bureau’s computers, tables and chairs into rental trucks on Thursday morning, then they celebrated briefly with cinnamon rolls and coffee before bidding each other happy holidays and farewell for another year.
The Christmas Bureau closed Wednesday night after giving food vouchers, toys and other goodies to nearly 10,000 families. The number of families helped was 7 percent more than in 2004, which meant the bureau ran out of bags of Christmas candy on Tuesday and out of toys before closing on Wednesday. Volunteers bought a thousand bags of candy Tuesday night and distributed all but eight by closing time. Recipients who came after the toys were gone on Wednesday afternoon were given vouchers to buy a gift for their children. The bureau gave toys to 15,906 children, a 4.6 percent increase from 2004.
“The last day at the bureau was sad, it was really hard,” said volunteer William Barber. “The people who come at the end are the poorer families, their lives are complicated. I had one lady who was blind and deaf.
“It’s also sad for the volunteers,” Barber said. “After you work here you think of yourself differently. You work here as a team, and now the party’s over.”
“It’s really touching to see how this effort affects the recipients and the volunteers,” said Rob McCann, director of Catholic Charities, which partners with the Salvation Army and the Volunteers of America to run the Christmas Bureau. “Many volunteers have said they were transformed by something they heard or saw at the bureau.”
The bureau’s computers and equipment were taken to storage units, rent-free thanks to a donor. Usually space is needed to store extra toys but not this year, said bureau co-chair Bruce Butler.
The effort made Christmas brighter for 31,884 needy people, with $287,460 in food vouchers distributed as well as the toys, candy and children’s books.
The Christmas Fund, which pays for the toys and vouchers, reached $428,284.97 with donations of $39,959.53 Thursday. The goal is $485,000, the amount that organizers estimated would be needed to pay the bills. But that estimate is based on the number of needy people who came to the bureau last year. The food voucher bill this year is 4.8 percent more than last year, and the volunteers made four toy-shopping trips during the final week of bureau operation to accommodate the increase in the number of needy children.
The Christmas Fund will take donations through Dec. 29.