When Spokane residents Larry and Renee Cebula first told their son about the Christmas Bureau – a place where needy families can “shop” for Christmas presents for free – Sam’s reaction was probably pretty typical for a kid.
“He said, ‘Can I go?’ ” Larry recalled.
But soon enough, Sam understood that the program is for families who can’t afford their own gifts and food on Christmas Day.
So when Larry and Renee wrote a $750 check for the fund this week, Sam decided he wanted to contribute $5 from the money he earns for doing chores.
“I figured if that happens to me, I would want some presents for Christmas,” said Sam, who is in fourth grade.
The Cebulas say that talking about people in need and reading the newspaper articles about the bureau together over breakfast every morning has opened Sam’s eyes – not to mention his heart and his wallet.
“Yesterday we were coming out of Fred Meyer, and we walked past a (Salvation Army) bell ringer,” Larry said. “Sam said, ‘Wait a minute,’ reached into his pocket for $1 of his own money” and put it in the kettle.
Joanne White, of JoJo Day Care in Spokane, sent a $100 donation this week in honor of the 3- and 4-year-old children in her care.
“We’re always trying to find ways to share,” White said.
One day, the children were talking about kids who don’t have basic essentials, such as coats and mittens. White suggested to the children that she donate money to the Christmas Fund instead of giving them a holiday gift this year.
“Some of the younger ones were like, ‘Well, OK,’ ” White said.
But after they talked more about it, chose the stationery on which White would write a letter explaining the donation and then signed their names on it, “Not one of them asked about a gift from me. I’m so proud of them.”
A mother named Diane is proud of her children, too.
Her sons Matthew, 8, and Joey, 4, saved birthday and odd-job money throughout the year in a special account Diane set up at her bank.
Last week, the boys decided to give the money “to somebody who doesn’t have Christmas,” so they withdrew the entire balance – $115.42 – and sent the money off to the Christmas Fund.
“The older one, especially, was beaming,” Diane said. “He was so proud of himself.”
She added, “It’s great to see the kids getting what Christmas is all about.”
The Christmas Bureau is organized by The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America and is funded by donations from the community.
Thanks to $28,315 in new donations, including those listed above, the Christmas Fund now totals $478,332 and is closing in on this year’s $500,000 goal.
Premera Blue Cross gave $5,000 and wrote, “We live here, we work here, and we recognize in serving our members that we are really serving our neighbors. On behalf of Premera’s 370 employees in Spokane, we are proud and honored to support the fund once again this year.”
Also giving $5,000 was an anonymous donor who lives at the Fairwood Retirement Center.
“I am honored to be able to share my blessings with those less fortunate, especially this year with the poor economy,” the donor wrote. “No child should be hungry or go without a gift on Christmas. God bless all the volunteers who help make this possible.”
Downtown Toyota, Scion & Lexus, of Spokane, gave $2,765.
Wheatland Bank donated $2,000 and its President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairwoman Susan Horton, gave $1,000 with her 8-year-old daughter, Alexandria, in memory of her husband and Alex’s father, Stan Horton.
“Wheatland Bank would like to thank the many donors and volunteers of the Christmas Fund who generously spread the true spirit of Christmas throughout our local community,” Susan Horton wrote.
An anonymous donor sent $1,000 and a note:
“God bless you and thank you so much for all you do.”
Fairbanks Enterprises LLC, of Spokane, also gave $1,000.
Employees of Garco Construction gave $4,195, some of which was included in that company’s previously reported $50,000 donation.
“We want to thank all of the community volunteers that make the Christmas Bureau a reality for those in our area that are most in need,” wrote Garco President James T. Welsh. “Since our company is fortunate to have projects located in other cities, we have told the employees in those areas about the Christmas Bureau, and we are matching their contributions to the local charity of their choice.”
An anonymous donor sent $500, as did Edward VanVliet, of Spokane; Sondra Wildman, of Spokane; and Dr. Keith and Kathleen Mackenzie and the Spokane World Affairs Council gave $500, who wrote, “We hope this will help many in our community. Merry Christmas.”
Spokane residents Elizabeth and Robert Lemoine sent $350.
An anonymous donor gave $300 and thanked the bureau for its good work, as did Walker’s Furniture, of Spokane.
“Many families in Spokane and the surrounding communities have suffered due to these hard economic times and could use a helping hand this year,” Mark Walker wrote. “We have been blessed to live in a community that will help those in need. This year, let’s all do what we can, small or large, to give those in our community a special Christmas.”
An anonymous donor sent $250, as did Tri States Rebar, of Spokane; Ralph and Lynn Schmidt; and Edward Beck.
Transtector, of Hayden, Idaho, gave $200, as did Scott McGann, Amy and Kathi of Payne Financial Group.
“In lieu of buying gifts for our clients, we want to share this financial contribution with the residents of Spokane who find themselves in need,” Payne donors wrote. “We appreciate the donors and volunteers that make this Christmas season a little brighter for those in need.”
The following Spokane residents gave $200:
Anne and Jess Walter; Rand and Erin Young; Virginia Whitehouse, in memory of Bruce Whitehouse; and William and Norma Lee Main.
The following family members gave $190 in memory of former Spokane Daily Chronicle reporter Hazel Barnes: Marie and Dewain Grier, Tom and Deanne Stanton, Jim and Mary Grier, Stephen and Peggy Barnes, Lorraine Barnes, Bobbie Carr, Mark and Jena Hollenbeck, Linda and Jack Butcher, Janette Barnes, and Jake and Kelsey Trowbridge.
The homeowner residents of the Sunny Creek Community gave $170 and thanked the bureau for its service to the community.
An anonymous donor sent $150, as did Mary Eddy, of Spokane, and Bruce Calkins, of Spokane.
Six anonymous donors sent $100 each, including one in memory of two wonderful dads who made Christmas such a special time and a couple who wrote:
“As volunteers at the Christmas Bureau we witness the great need for assistance during the holidays. We hear the words of appreciation for this significant community effort. Merry Christmas!”
A ladies’ prayer circle gave $100, as did the following Spokane residents:
John and Miriam Finnegan; Ed Ellefsen, in memory of his mother, Marjorie Ellefsen; Don and Pat Enemark; John and Shirley Riley; H. Kurt and Michael Olson; Marsha and Larry Hitchcock; Erlinda Fry and her children George-Ann, Catherina, Alexander and Johnathan Fry; and Stephen and Theresa Lamp, who wrote:
“Thanks for all you do. What a year to help the less fortunate. Merry Christmas!”
Also giving $100: The “four boys” and their families in memory of their parents, Mabel and Carl Schreck; John and Teri-Ann Nystrom, of Liberty Lake; Glen Traeger; Jean Young; Darla Malone and family, of Hayden, Idaho, in the name of their mom, Maxine Malone and in memory of their father, Richard Malone; Norma Echelbarger, of Spokane Valley; Marilyn and Al Morgan, of Seven Bays, Wash.; and Lester and Patricia Hibdon, of Spokane Valley, who wrote:
“We are very thankful we are able to send something for your very worthwhile cause. Merry Christmas to everyone volunteering their time to help, and thank you.”
The Research Department at Heart Clinics Northwest donated $80. An anonymous donor sent $75 in the name of Howard Hayden Jr. and family.
Five anonymous donors gave $50 each, as did Gary Fiscus, of Liberty Lake, and the following Spokane residents: John and Polly Powell; Monica and Eddy Nagashima; Tamara Holdren, in memory of her parents “who spent their lives giving”; Michael and Christine Carbery; Kenna and David Latwesen, in honor of their friendship with Mark and Lisa Westlake; Scott and Suzie Jacob, in honor of their children’s teachers Mrs. Ferguson and Ms. Chittum at Indian Trail Elementary School.
“They are both great, caring individuals as well as wonderful teachers,” the Jacobs wrote.
Brian and Jill Vrablick, of Spokane, gave $50, and their employer, Northwest Management, of Moscow, Idaho, matched it.
“We feel blessed to be able to do so,” the Vrablicks wrote.
Jacquelyn Daniell, of Spokane, sent $25 in memory of Monica Abbott.
“Thank you for all your work for the people of Spokane,” Daniell wrote.
Ralph Walter donated $20, Alfred Ungaro sent $15 and an anonymous donor gave $10.