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Workers convert fair building into holiday toyland

Christmas Bureau volunteers unload toys from trucks at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.  (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Christmas Bureau volunteers unload toys from trucks at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Christmas Bureau opens Wednesday

Dozens of volunteers spent Monday unloading trucks full of 16,000 toys, dozens of folding chairs and tables, computers and 15,000 bags of candy at the Spokane County fairgrounds Ag Building.

By this evening, the Christmas Bureau will be ready to distribute gifts to families in need starting Wednesday.

“Everything’s looking good,” said Theresa Dryden, Catholic Charities special events coordinator. The charity is operated by Catholic Charities and the Volunteers of America, in partnership with The Spokesman- Review Christmas Fund.

“We’ll turn on the heat in here as soon as the computers are delivered,” Dryden said Monday.

Computer consultant Ben Wadden tested the computer system a week ago and will oversee the setup and operation of the network at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

The computers are used to generate food vouchers for recipients and manage the recipient database, Dryden said.

“Ben wrote the software we use,” she said. “We processed the food vouchers for the shut-ins during testing last week.”

More than 175 volunteers will gather at noon today for orientation and a pizza lunch.

Volunteers will also begin putting together toys that require assembly, such as baby buggies for dolls. The toy rooms and child care areas will be built and the toy rooms stocked.

Representatives from the Spokane Chiefs hockey team will deliver more than 4,000 teddy bears and other stuffed animals that hockey fans pitched onto the ice during Saturday night’s game at the Spokane Arena. The teddy bear toss is a tradition for the Chiefs, and the team gathered a record number of bears this year.

Generous donations to the Christmas Fund pay for toys and food vouchers given out at the bureau each December. New donations of $6,706 bumped the fund to $116,514 – still well short of the $495,000 goal. Donations of all amounts are welcome.

Following are the latest donors and what they gave: An anonymous donor, of Spokane, sent $1,000.

Merit Electric of Spokane Inc., donated $500, as did an anonymous donor, of Spokane.

Helen Mitchel, of Spokane, gave $400.

Robert and Marian Cummings, of Spokane, gave $300, as did an anonymous donor, of Deer Park, in memory of Milt and Fay Echelbarger.

Norman Genung, of Spokane, sent $250, as did Stephen Scott, also of Spokane.

Richard and Lucille Hallett, of Spokane, gave $160.

Helen Casper, of Spokane, sent $150 in memory of her husband, Andy, and her son-in-law, Jerry Scrivner.

James Marshall, of Spokane, sent $100, as did Leo Wood, of Mead; Tim and Marcia Dorwin, of Spokane Valley; John and Ann Miller, Gail Harper, Loretta Bremer, Linda Williamson, and the Order of the Eastern Star, White Rose Chapter, all of Spokane; and Donna Haas, of Colbert.

Howie and Jennifer Stalwick, of Post Falls, gave $100, as did an anonymous donor from Coeur d’Alene and another anonymous donor, of Spokane.

MaKayla Hatch, of Veradale, gave $100 in memory of her Grammy Schragl. Grace Nissen, of Spokane, donated $100 in memory of her son. Charlotte Campbell, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of Janice and Bruce Campbell. Frances Joachim, of Mead, sent $100 in memory of her husband, Milbert Joachim.

Verna Winton, of Spokane, donated $100 in memory of her husband, Marvin Winton, a former volunteer at the Christmas Bureau.

Adrian and Wanda Nichols, of Spokane, donated $75, as did Edward and Eileen Looker, of Spokane Valley.

Lynn Clements, of Spokane, donated $50, as did the Laws family, of Cheney; Rob and Sharon Stevenson and family, of Spokane; Sharon Boyer, of Spokane Valley; and Sheri and Kimball Barnard, of Spokane.

Grandma Honey, of Spokane, sent $40 and a note: “I wish it could be more. Our family and many, many others need lots of prayers, too, especially for health.”

Capt. Stephen LeBlanc and Cynthia LeBlanc, of Greenacres, gave $35.

Elizabeth Solverson, of Spokane, donated $25.

Barbara Potter sent $23.97 via PayPal. “With the economy as it is, my family and I are so thankful for still being employed, having a home to live in and food to eat. We’d like to help others during this difficult holiday season,” Potter wrote.

Susan Walker donated $19.12 via PayPal.

Helen Hanshaw, of Spokane, sent $15 and a note: “What is a blessing? It’s reaching out, and a small check, to those in need to bring a smile to a child on Christmas Day. This is a blessing from me.”

Jacqueline Eide, of Odessa, Wash., also donated $15.

Roy Charlton, of Spokane, sent $10, as did Nancy Wood, of Spokane Valley.

An anonymous donor, of Coeur d’Alene, gave $3.

Susan English can be reached at christmasfund@

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Freeman students march in unity to honor memory of slain classmate Sam Strahan

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