Let the giving begin.
The Spokesman- Review Christmas Bureau opens today, poised to distribute grocery vouchers, toys and books to more than 32,000 people between now and Dec. 19.
About 5,700 people descended on the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, where the bureau is held, during its first open day last year. Even more are expected today.
“We will see individuals here who last year would not have needed our services,” Catholic Charities Director of Development Ann Marie Byrd told a crowd of about 300 volunteers during their orientation Tuesday.
The Christmas Bureau is a 64-year tradition organized by The Spokesman- Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America. It’s funded by community donations.
The bureau’s doors don’t open until 10 a.m., but every year recipients begin lining up at the fairgrounds as early as 5.
“I’m nervous it’s going to be cold, and we’ll have a line of people waiting,” Christmas Bureau Coordinator Theresa Dryden said Monday. “I want us working at top efficiency so we can get people in and out of the cold.”
Bureau co-chairwoman Yvonne Shulman asked volunteers to welcome the recipients with respect and cheer.
“These people are going to be very cold. We need to warm their hearts,” she said.
Adult recipients must show photo identification at the check-in area, as well as proof of current address, such as a current utility bill or rent receipt. To receive gifts for children, recipients must show medical coupons or a letter from an agency or school that shows the children live at the recipient’s address.
Attendees will then walk past tables covered with books for children ages birth through 14. Retired and current teachers will staff the tables, helping parents choose titles for their kids.
Finally, recipients will enter the toy room, where they can select one gift for each child. Hannah Montana dolls, makeup kits, a ride-on Clifford the Big Red Dog wagon and dozens of other toys were neatly displayed Tuesday.
“I was just thinking about how much play time each one of those toys represents,” said the Rev. Kenny St. Hilaire, bureau co-chairman.
The Christmas Fund crossed the $100,000 mark Tuesday with $19,383 in new donations, moving the fund closer to its $500,000 goal.
The Spokane Regional Plan Center continued its 15-year tradition of giving but increased its donation to $3,000 this year to meet this year’s greater need.
“It is important that we all do what we can to make the holidays a little brighter for those in need right here in our own community,” wrote Chairman Randy Vanhoff.
Rick Betts donated $2,500.
The Spokesman-Review editorial department gave $1,481.62, proceeds from its “freebie sale.”
Charles Haywood gave $1,000 in memory of Alice. Also giving $1,000 were the Assistants, a group of 40 women who support civic endeavors in Spokane.
“(We) hope that this will in some small way help provide a brighter holiday for those in need,” wrote President Terry Sorensen.
An anonymous donor gave $1,000 in memory of Vern Jacobs.
The Association of Retired Avista Employees donated $606.
The Suburbanites, a club of 30 women who raise funds for children’s causes, gave $600.
Spokane residents Terry and Kathryn Deno sent $550.
John and Nancy Orchard, of Spokane, sent $500 in memory of Violet Ash, Louise Harsh and Brother Tom Orchard, “all who loved Christmas.”
Also giving $500 were Ryan Baddeley, Marlene Geraghty, Spokane residents Roger and Kathleen Chase; Larry and Patricia Bishop; and Nancy Evans and Greg MacDonald. Spokane Valley resident Louis Franks sent $500 in memory of his wife, Vita M. Franks, and their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur C. Burnside.
The Superintendent’s Cabinet at NEWESD 101 donated $350 in memory of colleagues Jamie (Schlect) Knapp, Tod Xiontoyed and Ron Simmons, who passed away in the past year.
Judy Hudson, of Spokane, gave $350 with a note:
“My husband Mac and I always started our Christmas shopping with a contribution to the Christmas Fund. I’m sending a donation this year in his memory.”
Parkside Dental Care, of Spokane, sent $300, as did Spokane residents William and Deborah Pierce.
Giving $250 each were Spokane residents Francis and Patricia Goodman; Orval and Anita Janssen; and Anastasi & Moore PLLC.
Esther B. Nelson, of Spokane Valley, gave $250 “to join our caring Spokane community for its outpouring of love and concern for those so much in need during these critical times.”
Two anonymous donors gave $250 each and three more gave $200.
Spokane residents Allan Morrison and Karen Woodworth each gave $200, as did J&J Drilling Inc., of Spokane Valley, and Dan and Peggy Jeremiah, of Spokane Valley, and Bill Molsberry.
“Making sure all our kids have a merry Christmas,” the Jeremiahs wrote.
Spokane resident Sara Dougherty donated $150, as did Merridy and Mike McChesney and Molly Gershon; Harold and Heidi Clarke; Spokane Valley residents Betty and John Mertens, who gave in lieu of exchanging family presents and in memory of deceased family; and Spokane resident Verna Winton, who donated in memory of her husband and longtime Christmas Bureau volunteer and donor Marvin Winton.
“May the good work done by today’s volunteers continue for many more years. The need is never ending,” she wrote.
The South Hill Bunko Babes gave $125.
Joe and Pam Ridlington, of Mead, sent $120 and wrote, “Thank you for making it so easy to help our neighbors.”
Four anonymous donors gave $100.
Also giving $100 were Kevin Stevens, Liberty Lake residents Mr. and Mrs. Tony Roche, Lincoln residents Todd and Barbara Heaton, and Spokane Valley residents Virginia Besemer, James Kearney and Tom and Susan Eastman, “in honor of our beautiful grandchildren.”
Bob and Carol Lingow, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of their daughter Carrie, “who loved the spirit of Christmas.”
Spokane residents “T and E” gave $100 in memory of their parents; Chuck and Kathy Huggins, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of family members in West Virginia and Illinois; and Grace Nissen, of Spokane, gave $100 and wrote, “It makes my day every year I mail the check.”
BNSF Veterans Association sent $100, as did the following Spokane residents:
James and Carrie Clanton; Lynn Samuels; D.J. and Karen Merritt; Ralph and Joyce Prouty; Mari-Lynn Sonner; Mary Larsen; Deborah Walter; John and Zoe Ann Foltz; Stephen and Frances Menzel; John and Donna Leaming; Rhea Dow; Bruce and Frances Rogers; Eileen and Ben Fawcett; Mr. and Mrs. L.R. Tompkins; and Carrie Prentice.
Spokane resident Rovella Vawter sent $80 and wrote, “I wish to put a smile on a child’s face.”
An anonymous donor gave $65.
Norma MacArthur sent $55 in memory of the Mellick family, and Sankar and Uma Jayaram, of Pullman, donated $51.
Fifty-dollar donations came in from Beatrice L. Scheele, of Spokane, Robert and Patrick Edelblute, of Spokane Valley; Rob and Barbara Bly, of Newman Lake; Barry Benoit, of Hauser, Idaho; Mary Jett; and an anonymous donor.
Spokane Valley resident John Remund gave $50 in memory of Jean Remund. Harriet Watkins, of Spokane, sent $50 in memory of her husband Zeke Watkins and son Mike Watkins.
Spokane residents Irving and Jeanine Kiehn sent $40. Giving $35 were Spokane resident Cyrus McLean; Gordon Radford; and Spokane Valley residents Bill and Laura Nestoss, who wrote, “We hope this will help those who are struggling this year to have a better Christmas.”
Eddie E. Heavner, of Spokane, gave $30, as did Glenis Brantley, also of Spokane.
Five anonymous donors sent $25 each, as did Spokane residents Tracy Howe; William and Judith Anderson; Mike and Dorothy McMurtery; Spokane Valley residents Darrell and Judith Shane; and Sharon Hopper.
Mimi Bennett, of Spokane, gave $25 in memory of her parents, Tom and Vi Bennett. Vi Bennett’s birthday was on Christmas Day. “They are both terribly missed,” Mimi wrote.
Sharon Harris, of Spokane Valley, sent $20 and a note:
“I wish I could give more, but I do know every little bit helps.”
T. Derr, of Spokane, sent $15.