When Clint Branz and his wife, Cheryl Custer-Branz, began volunteering for the Christmas Bureau seven or so years ago, the couple couldn’t help but notice the sub-par equipment organizers used to designate lines and partition areas.
Sandbags held down PVC-pipe framing, and hanging tarps divided spaces.
“They were doing the best they could with what they had,” Branz said. “We didn’t say anything the first year, but the next year we said there might be a better way.”
The couple own Jim Custer Enterprises Inc., the consumer-show organizer that hosts craft, home and antique shows at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center throughout the year. Making warehouse spaces feel organized and less cavernous is right up their alley.
Branz and Custer-Branz approached Ken Quimby, of LCD Exposition Services, and together they devised a plan for making the bureau more attractive with fabric skirting and professional-grade partitions. They also partner with Senske Lawn & Tree Care’s holiday decorating service, which sets up Christmas décor at the bureau. The three companies’ donation of materials and labor is worth about $4,000, and it saves volunteers hours of work, Branz said. “It would take them a couple days to set up the toy room” before, Branz said. “For us, it takes three hours.”
The Christmas Bureau gives grocery vouchers, toys and books to more than 32,000 people in need. The bureau runs from Dec. 9 to Dec. 19, with the exception of Sunday, Dec. 13.
The bureau is organized by The Spokesman- Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America. It’s funded through donations from the community.
Custer, LCD and Senske are just three of the businesses that donate products or services to the bureau.
Craven’s Coffee Co. supplies coffee for the bureau’s 300 volunteers. “We want them to stay fully fueled during this event,” said Craven’s co-owner Simon Thompson.
Craven’s has been involved with several charities since it opened in 1993. It often markets a special blend and donates a portion of that product’s profits to charity.
Craven’s role with the bureau happens behind the scenes, but Thompson said he’s happy to help by providing what he knows best: coffee.
The following businesses also will provide in-kind donations this year:
Arby’s restaurants will deliver lunch for volunteers every day the bureau is open; ABC Mini Storage and National Storage Center are providing storage space; Costco will provide four flatbed carts for use at the bureau.
Earthworks Recycling Inc. will haul away cardboard at no charge; Estes West Trucking is delivering five semi-trailers full of toys to the fairgrounds; Fred Meyer is donating 18,000 plastic bags and, for kids in the child care area, security wristbands.
The Hoo Hoo Club is donating 800 wooden toy trucks; the House of Charity will feed casserole to volunteers on the first setup day; Inland Medical & Rehab will provide two wheelchairs for use when the bureau is open.
Service Paper Co. is giving 3,000 bags; the Spokane Chiefs hockey team will donate hundreds of stuffed animals from its Dec. 12 Teddy Bear Toss; Spokane County Fair and Expo Center provides general assistance to organizers.
URM Stores Inc. reduced its prices on candy that will be given to recipients; and Yoke’s Fresh Markets is providing three dozen doughnuts each day for volunteers.
New donations of $3,747 bumped the fund over the $50,000 mark – still well short of the $500,000 goal.
Kilgore Architectural Products, of Spokane Valley, sent $1,000, as did John and Kristi Blake, of Spokane, and Sharon Anderson.
An anonymous donor gave $500 and wrote, “We hope this brings some Christmas cheer to those who are struggling to make ends meet this year.”
Spokane residents Gregory and Alice Prekeges sent $200, as did Veterinary Surgical Specialists, of Spokane.
Giving $100 were Linda Hess; Allen and Susan Hoover, of Spokane; Craig and Alisa May Hanson; an anonymous donor; and Terry and Renee Sulpizio, who donated in memory of Ed and Edna David.
Carol Voogd, of Spokane, sent $97.70 and a note: “I found $36.70 when I opened my thanks offering box and decided to add a dollar for every Christmas I’ve been blessed to enjoy.” People who use thanks-offering boxes drop in coins or small bills when they say a prayer of gratitude and donate what they’ve collected.
Linda Williamson, of Spokane, gave $75. An anonymous donor gave $60 in memory of her mother and brother.
Ronald Doyen, of Spokane, sent $50, as did an anonymous donor, Coeur d’Alene residents Edward and Susan Leach, and Spokane residents Dean and Mary Duncan.
An anonymous donor gave $35; $30 came in from Spokane residents Michael and Wendy Brady; and two anonymous donors gave $25 each, one in memory of Jean Morin.