A record number of needy families are expected to seek help with their holiday celebrations from the Christmas Bureau this year, according to bureau organizers. Based on trends in previous economic downturns, charitable givers are expected to respond to the increased need.
“I am reading in philanthropic literature that people step up in hard times and give more,” said Marilee Roloff, president and CEO of Eastern Washington and North Idaho Volunteers of America. “Let’s hope it’s true. I was talking with a businessman this week and he said, ‘We got to feed and shelter people first.’ So there’s that kind of thinking out there.”
Wednesday, the bureau will begin giving toys and grocery vouchers to poor people, thanks to the generosity of donors to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund.
Longtime donors are indeed stepping up their giving to the fund. A SCAFCO Corp. representative delivered a $10,000 check to the newspaper last week, doubling last year’s donation and helping bump the fund to $104,748.
“Once again SCAFCO Corp. and its employees are happy to share with others so they may also have a happy holiday season. During these difficult economic times we feel fortunate to be able to assist others,” the firm’s Bruce Katahira wrote in a letter accompanying the check.
The Spokane-based company makes grain silos and steel studs for construction.
Donations to the newspaper’s Christmas Fund pay the bills for the food vouchers and toys distributed at the bureau. But VOA donates 20,000 children’s books to the bureau, as well as organizing volunteers to operate the book selection tables.
“At VOA, we’re putting together a dozen parties this month for our own programs,” Roloff said. VOA serves about 2,500 people a year, most on an ongoing basis through such places as Crosswalk, Hope House, a veterans house, and Project Safe Place in Coeur d’Alene.
The VOA Christmas Bureau work begins in April, when about 40,000 books arrive, donated by Scholastic Inc. “About 40 volunteers and a dozen staffers spend 400 hours total sorting books into age groups,” Roloff said. “The first 20,000 are put away for the Christmas Bureau. They are re-boxed and plastic-wrapped on pallets and stored at the VOA thrift store until December.”
VOA also contributes books to a variety of literacy programs in the region.
On Monday, VOA trucks will deliver the books to the fairgrounds, where a dozen members of the Alpha Nu chapter of the ADK sorority again will sort them by age group onto tables. “The ADK volunteers are scheduled all 10 days at the bureau book tables,” Roloff said.
“Mostly what I do once the bureau is open is go out every day at 8 a.m. and check the stock to see if they need more books,” she said. “I have coffee with the boys and then leave and go do my real job.”
The Christmas Fund welcomes donations of all amounts. Following are additional donors and their donations:
J&J Drilling, Inc., of Greenacres, donated $300.
Bob and Debbie Glanza, of Spokane Valley, donated $200.
Thomas and Nancy Nelson, of Colbert, donated $150.
An anonymous donor, of Spokane, sent $150 and a note: “This year, charity is needed more than ever. I hope my small gift may in some way help some family to have a wonderful and blessed holiday season.”
Kathleen and John Roche, of Liberty Lake, donated $100, as did Hugh Johnston, of Spokane. Wayne Bass and Kathryn Sharp, of Liberty Lake, donated $100. Elizabeth Klohler, of Spokane, gave $100, as did Tom and Elaine, also of Spokane, in memory of their parents.
Allen and Susan Hoover, of Spokane, donated $75.
Anne Franke, of Spokane, gave $71.
Connie Vetter, of Spokane, donated $50, as did Joan Casey, of Priest River, Idaho. James and Mariel Tuttle, of Spokane, gave $50, as did an anonymous Spokane donor.
Albert and Mary Jane Bair, of Spokane, sent $50 and a note: “We hope this helps to bring a Merry Christmas to someone.”
Utaka Akiyama, of Spokane, sent $25, as did Doris Matsch, also of Spokane; and an anonymous donor, of Greenacres.
Nancy Cabe, of Spokane, sent $20 in memory of her mother, Helen Halverson, “who was faithful in caring for others and in supporting this Christmas Fund.”
Dennis and Joan Ryan, of Spokane, also donated $20.