Earlier this month, The Spokesman-Review published a story that touched on the history of the Christmas Bureau.
The article explained that the Christmas Fund started in 1945 as a fundraiser for a GI who lost his eyesight, one arm below the elbow and the use of his other hand in a mine explosion in Germany.
Then in 1946, the community raised money so an 8-year-old girl could undergo heart surgery to correct a birth defect.
That girl – Carol Lee Davis – lived until 2005. She had a son and a granddaughter and a full life, her grandniece Rachel Vinson wrote to the newspaper after reading the Dec. 5 story. “There is no doubt that without the generosity of the Spokesman readers she would not have had the surgery that saved her life,” Vinson said.
Carol Lee was a “blue baby,” born with a congenital heart disease that prevents the tissues and organs from receiving enough oxygen, tinting the skin blue.
Her mother, widowed since Carol Lee was a year old, ran a small farm near Benton City, Wash., but had to sell 10 of her cows to pay for her daughter’s surgeries. “My grandfather (Carol Lee’s oldest brother) had to quit school in the eighth grade to support his mom and brothers and sisters,” Vinson said.
Donors flooded the post office with letters and almost $6,000 to finance an operation for Carol Lee and help buy back some of the livestock.
One letter came from a child in Idaho, who wrote: “I am 7 years old. I have been ill, too. I am sending you one dollar that my grandmother gave me for Christmas. My Christmas love to you.”
Vinson said reading about that donation moved her. “One dollar at a time might not seem like much, but if each of us finds it in our heart to give even a dollar, together we can make a difference,” she said.
It made a difference then, and it has made a difference in 2009. The Christmas Fund has closed for the year with donations totaling $521,393.95, exceeding the goal by more than $21,000.
“It means the Christmas Bureau will keep going, which I think is something that’s very important to the community,” said Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities. “It’s certainly something very important to the most marginalized and the most vulnerable people that are among us.”
The amount raised this year was the fourth-largest total in the bureau’s 64-year-old history, behind 2008, 2007 and 2000 figures. “To reach and break the goal in a year where it’s the worst economy since the Great Depression says a lot about the Spokane community,” McCann said. “Truly, we are folks that care a lot about each other.”
The donations ensure the fund will cover bills for the Christmas Bureau, which provided toys, books and food vouchers to 11,350 needy families, including 17,877 children. Food vouchers totaled $331,460.
Almost 36,000 needy people from across the Inland Northwest had brighter holidays thanks to the generosity of the community.
The following donors gave to the fund during the past week.
Spokane-based Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories and its employees sent $3,683.10.
McClintock & Turk Inc., a Spokane mechanical contractor and design-build specialist firm that installs and maintains piping systems, donated $2,500.
Parker, Conner, Jack, Buddy, Keith and Janie Slater gave $1,106.
An anonymous donor sent $1,000, as did T.W. Clark Construction LLC, of Spokane.
Employees of Spokane Public Schools’ maintenance, warehouse, facility services and purchasing departments donated $962. “Your efforts to bring a ray of happiness to others each Christmas is a tremendous opportunity for our community to come together and help our own,” wrote the fundraising committee’s co-chairmen, Wayne Bergstresser and George Loos.
Two anonymous donors gave $500, as did Jim and Salli Sledge, of Spokane.
A $500 donation reported on Dec. 9 didn’t include the full names of the donors. They were John and Marlene Connolly and they gave in honor of Marlene’s parents, Marland and Dorothy Curtis.
The Wagner family, of Spokane, sent $450.
The Richard & Connie Stacey Donor-Advised Fund of the Inland Northwest Commuity Foundation gave $400.
An anonymous donor sent $300.Also giving $300 were D. Clemm, of Spokane, and the Seghetti family, of Spokane.
An anonymous donor sent $250, as did David Maccini; and Larry and Paula Williams, of Spokane, who wished everyone a “merrier Christmas and a happier New Year.”
Spokane resident Hailey Poutiatine, 10, sent $211.57, $60 of which came from her allowance and the remaining she raised by singing carols on Christmas Eve. “It’s really fun to do, but the best part is knowing that I’m helping other people by doing it!” she wrote.
An anonymous donor gave $200, as did Bill Robinson; Sharon Matthews; Spokane resident Barry Folsom, who gave in memory of his brother Randy Folsom and mother Darlene Smith; Owen and Nora Gadd; and Deer Park residents Russell and Kathy Mager.
Terry and Betty Torson, of Naperville, Ill., sent $170.
Spokane residents Paul and Kelly Moorman donated $150, as did David Lane; Norris Brown, of Spokane Valley; and Joyce and Edward Ranniger, of Spokane, who wrote: “God bless you. Thank you for all you do for those in need.”
An anonymous donor sent $105, as did Leah Taylor.
Two anonymous donors gave $100 each, as did Teresa Critzer; Robert Martin in honor of Bob and Diane Martin; Honolulu residents John and Charlotte Sullivan in memory of Charles and Opal McCay; Boehm’s Chocolates & Flowers in River Park Square; Cheney residents Elmo and Mariam Bartlett in honor of their grandchildren; and the following Spokane residents:
Joseph and Charri Doeleman; Elaine Myers; Bob and Amy Lutz; William and Jerri Brooker; Norman and Brenda Jangaard; Steve and Theresa Helmbrecht; James and Melissa Tipke; Karen and Kit Sherfey; Judith and John Brown; Jerry Traynham; World War II veteran Harry Sparks Jr., 91, in memory of all veterans of the past and present service branches; Dick and Lola (Houx) Lile in memory of Robert and Ellen Houx, “who imparted to me the values of Christmas: love and generosity,” Ellen wrote; and Beth, Shawn, Mackenzie and Madison Priest, who gave in gratitude for their blessings and in memory of their friend Mike Hansen, their pastor Fr. John Shepard and their father and grandfather John Priest, all of whom passed away unexpectedly this year. “We will miss them,” the Priests wrote.
Randy and Lisa LaBeff gave $85 and wished everyone a merry Christmas.
Mike Yake, of Spokane, sent $75.
Five anonymous donors gave $50 each, as did Margaret Waterman; the Knox Presbyterian Church Ruth Circle; Cascade Park-MHOA; Cynthia B. St. John; Post Falls residents Vern and Teri Winkle; and the following Spokane residents: Joan Guerin; Kerr; Scott and Nancy Stowell; Bob and Lucy Kumpon in memory of Mackenzie Tate Watson; Jack Redinger; and an anonymous “guest teacher” in the Spokane Public Schools District in honor of their students.
John and June Sine, of Spokane Valley, donated $45 for their grandchildren Riley, Brock, Bryndon, Olivia, Thomas, Braxton, Jyoti, Sophia and Jonathan.
An anonymous donor sent $30, as did Spokane residents Tom and Ann Shaw; Spokane Valley resident Cynthia Stufflebeam; and Spokane residents Jay and Jozica Selfridge.
Cynthia Hallanger donated $25. An anonymous donor gave $20, as did Liberty Lake residents John and Ellen Billips and Spokane Valley residents Charlie and Steve Gonzales.
Two anonymous donors sent $20 each, as did King and Yvonne Yim, of Spokane, who wrote: “Thank you for spreading the Christmas spirit to our community for all these years. May God bless you all.”
An anonymous donor gave $15. Phillip and Shao Wei Hsu-Nakagawa, of Honolulu donated $10.
Some donations made over the holidays via Paypal didn’t process until after the Christmas Fund closed for the year. These are the donors and their amounts, although the money will be applied to the 2010 fund:
An anonymous donation of $500 in memory of Pat and Judy Ryan; an anonymous donation of $500; $500 from Julie Shiflett; an anonymous donation of $100 “to Doug and Kathleen from their family”; and $50 from Wayne Hall in memory of Philip Sawyer.
Another anonymous donor gave stocks worth $2,050.
Any donations the newspaper receives from now on will be reported in November 2010.