If you’ve driven down Sprague Avenue where it meets with Havana Street in the last week, you might have noticed more people than normal waiting for the bus.
Often, they’re holding large plastic bags that contain toys they’ve just chosen for their children at the Christmas Bureau, a half-mile north of the bus stop.
Many walk or take public transportation to the bureau. Some who drive have physical disabilities or are elderly, making it hard to stand in line to receive a grocery voucher and a toy, if they have children. Volunteers work briskly to reduce the wait time, but with the bureau serving 4,000 or so people every day the process can take an hour or two.
But the effort it takes some recipients to be served by the bureau is worth it, they said.
“If it wasn’t worth it, I wouldn’t be here,” said Spokane resident Dick Rogers, 73.
Rogers drove to the bureau, but he walks with a cane because of poor blood circulation in his legs and pain from a broken hip that never fully healed. He lives alone, so his gift was an $18 food voucher and a bag of Christmas candy.
“Anything helps,” said Rogers, who was at the bureau for the first time in about 10 years.
The Christmas Bureau is a 10-day event held at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center that distributes food vouchers, toys and books to needy families. It’s organized by The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America and is funded by donations from the community.
The bureau served 3,948 people Monday, distributing $36,162 worth of food vouchers and 1,923 toys for children. That’s about 250 more children served than the same day in 2008 and about $4,000 more in vouchers.
The average monthly income of the households represented Monday was $1,049.
There are chairs for recipients to use as they wait, but volunteer Deb Prouty said many recipients don’t take a seat until they reach the intake table, where she was stationed Friday.
“They stand because they don’t want to lose their place in line,” Prouty said.
Christmas Bureau co-chairwoman Yvonne Shulman said so far she has come across three recipients who were supposed to be on bed rest and one pregnant woman who was in labor.
“We kind of scooted her through,” Shulman said.
The effort recipients make to be at the bureau shows “how important it is to people to have a nice gift for their kids,” she said.
It took Spokane Valley resident Cosette Morse two hours and two buses to reach the fairgrounds. Still, she waited cheerfully with her friend Brenda Allen, who uses a cane because of knee problems.
The $18 grocery voucher “will be a big help,” said Morse, who lives alone.
Danielle Edgerton, 27, rode the bus from Browne’s Addition west of downtown Spokane. The single mother and Spokane Falls Community College student moved to Spokane from Nevada to escape that state’s crumbling economy. She learned about the bureau from her mentor at SFCC, who sent her an e-mail with information about help available for needy families.
“I always try to give back this time of year, but now I’m a recipient,” she said.
Edgerton is on Toys for Tots’ waiting list, so for now the Christmas Bureau gift is the only present she’ll be able to give her 2-year-old daughter.
So was the trek to the fairgrounds worth the effort? Absolutely, Edgerton said. “My baby needs a toy.”
Thanks to $18,455 in new donations, the Christmas Fund now totals $214,489 and is closer to this year’s $500,000 goal.
William R. Wallace, of Spokane, gave $2,500, and Max J. Kuney Co., of Spokane, sent $2,000.
Manito Family Dentistry, of Spokane, sent $1,000, as did Spokane resident Melanie C. Johnson; two anonymous donors, one who gave in memory of Jim; and “Benson on Rockwood Boulevard,” who wrote:
“Wishing all love, joy, happiness and peace this holiday season. Thanks to each and every one of you for the great job you do.”
An anonymous donor sent $500 in memory of father and grandfather Peter Bogarosh and thanked the Christmas Bureau volunteers for their hard work.
Spokane resident Donald Moore sent $500 in memory of his wife, Billie.
Albert Materi, of Spokane, sent $300 and wrote his “gift and prayer is for those who would be without were it not for the Christmas Bureau. … Love, comfort and joy to all.”
An anonymous donor also gave $300, as did Clayton, Wash., residents Ken Gerard and Lynda Ensign, Spokane residents Mr. and Mrs. John Russell, and Spokane residents Burma and Rick Williams, who wrote:
“Thanks for keeping the fund alive. It is especially important in these recession times.”
Edward Honodel sent $200, as did an anonymous donor; Spokane Valley residents Colleen Warner and John and Janet Gray; and Deer Park residents Dennis and Bonnie Hughes, who wrote:
“It is such a pleasure to be able to contribute to such a worthy cause. May this help brighten the lives and day of those it helps.”
The following Spokane residents gave $200 each:
Marcella Spitzbarth, who gave in lieu of exchanging gifts with family; John and Barbara Obde; Jerome Keller; Stephen Noland and Linda Martin; and Ned and Linda Barnes, who wrote, “Thank you for providing so joyfully for those needing so much at this time.”
Spokane residents Virgil Duchow and Richard Myers gave $150 each. Michael and Doreen Lewis sent $126 in honor of their grandchildren Ryan, Riley, Jacob, Abby and Grace.
Richard and Donita Day, of Spokane, donated $125, and Mary Kristofferson sent $120.
Giving $100 were Lloyd Bobysud; Lois Mundel; and Derek Freeman.
Seven anonymous donors also gave $100, including one who thanked the bureau for making Christmas brighter for children; one from St. Maries, Idaho; one in honor of the work of Robert O. Weaver; and one in memory of the donor’s wife, Marilyn.
Clayton residents Charlotte and Paul Hudson sent $100, as did Seven Bays, Wash., residents C. and Georgia Caler; Newport residents Robert and Jeanne Dault; and Spokane Valley residents Dorothy Hart, Mary Bemis, Don Lippman, and Bill and Beverly Honeycutt.
The following Spokane residents also gave $100:
Mitch and Kathy Finley; Jane and Gary Graham; William and Eileen Dittman; Col. Robert Bublitz; Bruce and Kristin Bushman; Frank Franciscovich; Delores Taxter and family; Carol and Clifford Rankin; Robert and Wendy Harris; Dana Besecker; Lorraine Cannon; Joan Williams, who donated in memory of Marianne Dailey, “who always gave”; Thomas Bryan, who thanked organizers for doing a great job; and Carl and Dennie Crowe, “to honor our dear friend Rick Shulman,” the late husband of Christmas Bureau co-chairwoman Yvonne Shulman.
“Thank you for all your work for our community,” the Crowes wrote.
Charles Watkins sent $80. An anonymous donor gave $60.60 and wrote, “Best wishes to all you good folks. I’m 90 years old and happy to still be able to help out a bit.”
Two anonymous donors gave $50, as did Sherry Murr; T.J. and D.M. O’Dell, of Nine Mile Falls; Carol Lippman, of Spokane Valley; and Verda Coryell, of Spokane Valley.
The following Spokane residents donated $50:
Diane Veltri, in memory of her brother, Doug White; Kenneth Graham; Kenneth Blanchard; Frank Armstrong; and Michael Rooth and Julie Yahnke, who wrote, “So glad we were able to give again this year. Merry Christmas.”
An anonymous donor sent $40, and another sent $30 in memory of her parents John and Emma Peereboom.
Two anonymous donors gave $25, as did Mike Hughes, of Spokane Valley, and Spokane residents Lawrence Smith; Marg Swanson; and James and Jeri McGuire.
Three anonymous donors sent $20, $15 and $10 each.
Anne Edmonds, of Spokane, donated $6.