As has been the tradition in Spokane for 61 years, The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund opens today. This year’s goal is to raise $485,000 to provide Christmas dinner and toys for the area’s needy families.
The process is simple: Generous donors across the Inland Northwest send contributions to the Christmas Fund. The money raised is used to buy toys, Christmas candy, and food vouchers so families can buy the fixings for a holiday dinner.
The toys, vouchers and candy are distributed in December at the Christmas Bureau, which takes place at the Spokane Fair & Expo Center.
“It’s a very simple outreach that touches people deeply,” said Mike Reilly, volunteer chairman of the Christmas Bureau.
“The goal of the effort is to allow the community to reach out at the holidays to allow those who are in need to have a happier holiday,” Reilly said. “This is an effort that happens only once a year, and for over 60 years people have responded. It has been very successful. It isn’t just a gift that the community gives, the community also gets the gift of knowing that it is able to give a holiday gift to the needy. It’s really a multisided gift that the community gives to itself.”
Last year, nearly 10,000 families received holiday food vouchers totaling more than $287,000. New toys were given to nearly 16,000 children. Generous donors gave more than $499,000 last year to the Christmas Fund.
The effort depends on people in the community responding to the request published daily in The Spokesman-Review through Christmas Day.
The newspaper partners with Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America in this holiday charity. Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America operate the Christmas Bureau, which includes organizing and training the estimated 200 volunteers needed to cover 900 shifts at the bureau.
“In addition to the adult volunteers, we have about 90 high school students who will work in the child-care area and help those who need it carry their toys to the parking lot,” said Karen Orlando, Christmas Bureau coordinator.
A committee from the charities and The Spokesman-Review set the annual goal for the Christmas Fund based on the anticipated need in the community.
“This is one of the many ways Spokane can be proud,” said Reilly. Christmas Bureau officials have changed the days and times that the bureau will be open this year. In past years the bureau remained open Wednesday evenings to serve the working poor.
“We have people who come from other communities in the Inland Northwest. They have transportation issues such as not being able to get a ride during working hours,” said Reilly. “They often carpool from outlying communities.”
This year, the Christmas Bureau will be open on two Saturdays, Dec. 9 and 16, rather than staying open Wednesday nights.
“We were concerned about volunteers leaving in the dark and about recipients being able to get transportation in the evening on a weekday. We are hoping this will be more convenient for both of those groups,” Reilly said.
The bureau will be open Dec. 7-9, 11-16 and 18-20.
The operation of the bureau remains the same. Families will receive a food voucher ranging from $15 to $40, depending on the number of family members. Those who live alone will get a $15 voucher, a gift bag, a book and Christmas candy. Parents will get a food voucher and Christmas candy, and will be able to select a new children’s book and a new toy for each child in the family.
The generous donations of area residents are needed to pay for this holiday charity. All amounts are welcome. Contributions to this year’s effort will be accepted through Dec. 28.