As social service coordinator at the O’Malley Apartments, a low-income housing complex run by Catholic Charities, Lynette Jensen sees the struggles Spokane’s poorest people face.
Many are elderly or have physical conditions that make it difficult if not impossible to leave their homes. A caregiver might do their grocery shopping, but residents’ limited incomes don’t stretch very far at the supermarket.
So when the Christmas Fund sends grocery vouchers to people who physically can’t get to the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center, where the Christmas Bureau is held, the $18 to $40 boost means a lot.
“During the holidays, many people become depressed,” Jensen said. “For many of those folks, (the vouchers) are their only Christmas gift. … It means something to them that somebody cares.”
The bureau is a 10-day event that distributes grocery vouchers, toys and books to needy families. It’s organized by The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America and is funded through donations from the community.
Although the bureau doors don’t open until Wednesday, organizers sent almost 380 vouchers to homebound people last week – 25 more than last year. Because some vouchers went to couples or people who live with children, they’ll reach a total of 492 people.
Those recipients earn an average of $223 a month, so the $18 to $40 vouchers make an impact.
“It could mean they can have milk with dinner this time,” Jensen said. “It could mean they can buy a little turkey for Christmas, or maybe they’ve been wanting a chocolate bar.”
Some of the homebound recipients are children.
“It’s sad to see there are 21 kids who aren’t going to get a toy” because the bureau is only able to send food vouchers, not toys and books, said Theresa Dryden, Catholic Charities’ Christmas Bureau coordinator. “But at least we’re helping out in some way.”
Dryden didn’t know whether the increase in homebound recipients was due to the poor economy, the growing number of elderly people or a greater awareness that the vouchers are available.
Christmas Fund donations of any amount are welcome to help make the holidays brighter for homebound recipients as well as the 32,000 people expected to come to the bureau this week and next.
The names of donors and the amount donated are listed daily in the newspaper. People who prefer to remain anonymous should indicate that in a note accompanying their donations.
The Christmas Fund bumped up to $62,370, thanks to new donations.
Employees of Spokane-based Taylor Engineering Inc. gave $1,000 and wrote, “We recognize that this year is particularly challenging for many and hope this can help make a difference.”
The C.T. Nuxoll family and friends gave $500 and wished everyone a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.
Spokane residents Dick and Trudy Raymond sent $400 in memory of their parents, Tom and Marie Raymond and Don and Winnie Thomson.
“God bless all of you for your efforts in helping the community through the Christmas Fund,” the Raymonds wrote.
Three anonymous donors gave $300, $250 and $200 each.
Cyrus Vaughn donated $250.
Three donations of $200 came from Spokane residents Joan Peden; Debbie and Ralph Prouty; and R.W. and B.J. Siers.
Spokane Valley resident D. Fitzgerald gave $125.
Specialty Outdoors, an outdoor gear maker, sent $100, as did Spokane resident Scott McLaughlin; Post Falls residents Howie and Jennifer Stalwick; Spokane resident Jose G. Cepeda; Spokane Valley residents Eileen and Maj. Edward C. Looker Jr.; Chewelah residents Tom and Becky Hochwalt; Spokane resident Beverly K. Harvey; and an anonymous donor.
Germaine Weaver, of Spokane, donated $100 in memory of Robert Weaver. Jim Bellotty, of Airway Heights, gave $100 in memory of Val Walker.
Spokane residents Craig and Phyllis Adams sent $50, as did an anonymous donor, and J.C. and Rory French, of Spokane, who wrote:
“We challenge all other mother-son combinations in Spokane to help make this last-of-the-decade season the happiest ever for all children and families who are in need.”
Donations of $25 came in from Spokane residents Esther Westlund; Dalton and Karen Jassman; Gary and Jan Huguenin; Patricia Stewart; Vickie Borer; an anonymous donor; and Barbara Manley, who gave in memory of her husband, Rick Manley.
Nanci and Andrew Slipper, of Spokane, gave $20, as did Steve and Nancy Kiss, of Metaline, Wash.
The Spokesman-Review ran a story about in-kind donations on Friday. Not included in the list of donors was Pizza Pipeline, which will provide lunch for the 300 volunteers who will be setting up the bureau Tuesday.
And a $1,000 donation reported Friday came from Mark and Sharon Anderson. Mark’s name wasn’t included in the listing.