Christmas Fund prepares to meet greater need this year
‘People who were donors to the charities now need help’
The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund organizers increased their goal this year with expectations that the need will be greater because of the depressed economy.
The Christmas Fund opens today with a goal of raising $495,000, up about 2 percent from last year’s goal of $485,000. The newspaper partners with Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America in this annual Christmas charity.
The Spokesman-Review solicits donations from the community for the Christmas Fund. The money is used to pay for new toys and food vouchers distributed at the Christmas Bureau to needy families in the community.
The newspaper’s Christmas Fund has been a tradition for more than six decades. The effort dates to 1945 and has operated continuously since 1955.
“The Christmas Fund represents an important commitment by The Spokesman-Review and its readers every year, but perhaps never more so than this year as the community contends with an economic downturn,” said Spokesman-Review Editor Gary Graham.
Theresa Dryden, special events coordinator at Catholic Charities, estimated the number of people served at the bureau might rise 3 percent this year, and she projected a budget based on that estimate.
Last year, the bureau gave the food and toys to more than 32,000 poor people. More than 16,000 children received new playthings and more than 10,000 families got grocery vouchers to get the makings of a holiday dinner. The bills for the charity totaled more than $507,000.
“With the economy, it seems there will be a significant increase in need,” said Rob McCann, Catholic Charities executive director. “In our other programs we are seeing a demographic coming for help that we haven’t seen before. It’s a notch up from the working poor. Some of the people who were donors to the charities now need help.”
The Christmas Fund welcomes donations of all amounts. The names of donors and the amount of their donations will be listed in daily stories in The Spokesman-Review beginning Monday. Donors who prefer to remain anonymous should specify their wishes in notes accompanying their donations.
“We give the Christmas Fund prominent front-page coverage because we know how critical it is for the well-being of thousands of our neighbors during the holidays,” Graham said. “We also think it’s important to show everyone how generous the community can be when there are so many needs to be met.”
While the need may be greater this year, McCann said the community finds a way to help those who are less fortunate when the economy is flagging.
“Our experience is that charitable giving has gone up during times of hardship and volunteering is already up,” he said. “In times of hardship, we are reminded of what’s important.”
The Christmas Bureau, which opens Dec. 10 at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center, depends on the work of about 200 volunteers. The volunteer spots are already filled, according to Ann Marie Byrd, volunteer coordinator at Catholic Charities.
To allow more volunteers to contribute their time and energy, some longtime helpers have been asked to yield some of the shifts they worked in past years.
“The volunteer spots filled faster this year than ever before,” Byrd said.
The Christmas Fund will take donations through Dec. 29. The Christmas Bureau will be open daily, except Sunday, Dec. 10-20. All donations go directly to paying the bills for the Christmas Bureau.
“When times are tough, people step up. Hopefully the community comes through,” McCann said.
Susan English can be contacted at christmasfund@ spokesman.com.