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Record number of families get help

With the Christmas Bureau closed for the year, bureau organizers are tallying the bills for the fixings of Christmas given to area poor families.

More than 32,400 poor people in 10,000 families – a record for the charity – went to the bureau at the fairgrounds for help with their holiday celebrations. More than 16,000 children will get a toy for Christmas, thanks to donors who have given generously to the Christmas Fund. The fund pays for the toys and food vouchers given out at the bureau.

Donations totaling $12,081.35 brought the fund to $501,105.21. That’s more than the goal, but with more families than expected served, the bills will exceed the $485,000 estimate.

Volunteers distributed more than 10,000 food vouchers totaling $293,250. Recipients can use the vouchers at most local grocery stores through January. The fund reimburses the stores for the vouchers honored at each store.

Last year, the Christmas Fund covered more than $504,000 in bills. But with a record number of families this year, the food vouchers distributed ran nearly $8,800 more than last year, and 330 more toys were given out. Last year, toys cost nearly $200,000.

Officials from the two agencies that operate the bureau, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America, will meet after the holidays to settle the finances with the Christmas Fund. First, though, the more than 200 volunteers who spent 12 days serving the poor at the bureau will celebrate their own holidays.

“I’m on vacation next week,” said Catholic Charities liaison Theresa Dryden during the tear-down of the bureau on Friday. This was her first year at the bureau, after joining Catholic Charities in October. Like others there, she worked all 12 days the charity was open, plus the two Sundays it was closed.

“What surprised me when I got here to set up was how organized the volunteers already were. They came in and knew what to do and took the ball. For my part, the busy time was two months ago. I’m just here to manage if there are problems,” she said.

Volunteers packed up tables, chairs, computers and assorted other gear and put it in storage by nightfall Friday afternoon.

While organizers are still adding up the bills, the Christmas Fund welcomes donations through Friday. If there is a balance remaining after bills are paid, it will be applied to next year’s fund.

Following are the donations and their donors:

The employees and retirees of Jensen Distribution Services, of Spokane, donated $7,211.50, “to those in need in our community.”

An anonymous donor gave $970.70 via PayPal.

Gary and Jo Ann Owens, of Spokane, donated $500, as did Linda and Gregory Ruff, on behalf of Jacqueline Schaffer and Harold Kaufman Sr.

Brian and Mary Smith, of Colbert, donated $300 in memory of Denny Sulpizio. Lillian Olsen, of Spokane, sent $300 in memory of Oscar.

Karen Mahar, of Spokane, donated $250.

Bob and Marge Johnson, of Spokane, donated $200, as did Byron and Susan Greany, of Greenacres.

Russell and Lisa Akerhielm, of Spokane, donated $150 in memory of Kathleen Rotchford, “a wonderful role model for acts of giving.”

Dr. Clifford Rankin, of Spokane, donated $100, as did Robert Lingow, Mike and Debra Dahl, and two anonymous donors, all of Spokane; and Outback Studios, of Mead. Bobbi and Marc Anderson, of Spokane, donated $100 in honor of Carol Speltz, and “all the hard work she has done.” Bernice and Denis Nelson, of Nine Mile Falls, donated $100 in memory of their parents, Peter and Lillian Nelson, and Ken and Dorothy Bell.

Christine Eriksen, of Spokane, donated $96.80 via payPal, as did Anupam Narayan, also of Spokane.

Two anonymous donors, of Spokane, each gave $75.

Norma Macarthur, of Poulsbo, Wash., donated $50 in memory of the Mellick family.

Kenneth and Linda Leyde, of Spokane, donated $50, as did Larry and Barbara Tobin.

Linda Early, of Cheney, donated $48.25 via PayPal, as did Alan Eppinger.

Yvonne and King Yim, of Spokane Valley, donated $30.

Sharon Hopper gave $23.97 via PayPal.

Fr. George Morris, S.J., of Spokane, sent $20, as did Express Personnel Services, also of Spokane.

Charlotte Ulibarri, of Spokane, donated $15 in memory of Kenneth Lide Ulibarri.