You’ve heard of buying locally and eating locally. The Christmas Fund offers a chance to give locally, to a charity whose influence is immediate and tangible.
That’s important to repeat donor Teck American Inc. and its employees, whose $10,000 gift helped boost the fund to $53,894.62.
“We want the impact to be felt in our community,” said David Godlewski, the company’s vice president for environment and public affairs.
Donations from local individuals, families and businesses pay for toys, children’s books and grocery vouchers distributed through the Christmas Bureau. Local residents form the vast majority of the recipients.
“It’s a community effort where the resources stay in the community,” said Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities Spokane, which runs the 10-day event in coordination with the Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review.
Last year’s bureau served a record 35,883 people, most of whom lived inside Spokane’s city limits or on its edges. A few Washington families lived in Moses Lake, Quincy, Olympia or elsewhere. Except for one family with a Pennsylvania address, the rest – 43 families – lived in Idaho.
“It’s very rare that we see anyone from outside the Inland Northwest,” said Ann Marie Byrd, Catholic Charities’ director of development.
Many of the toys are purchased at a discount through local retailers. And last year’s bureau distributed $331,460 in food vouchers, which are spent at local Rosauers, Safeway, Albertsons, Yoke’s, Trading Co. and Fred Meyer stores.
“Talk about stimulating the local economy,” Byrd said.Recipients spent about $18,000 in vouchers at Rosauers stores last year, Chief Operating Officer Mike Shirts said. It’s money that probably wouldn’t have been spent otherwise – or if it had, Shirts noted, it might have meant cuts elsewhere in struggling families’ budgets, such as in heat bills.
The vouchers carry a few restrictions: They can’t be used for alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets or gift cards. Recipients can’t get cash back if they spend less than the vouchers’ value, and they tend to spend “every last penny,” McCann said.
Counting the $10,000 check from Teck American, the fund is $12,480 closer today to its $500,000 goal.
“We recognize that this year’s fund will face great demands … so we wanted to get our annual contribution in early,” Teck American’s Godlewski wrote in a letter accompanying the check. “Please use this to help families in Spokane to have a merry Christmas.”
The Cyrus and Janet Vaughn family, of Spokane, donated $500.
The Suburbanites donated $500. The group of Spokane-area women organizes fundraisers each year to benefit local organizations that help children, Treasurer Elinor Johnson wrote.
Tom, Curly and Jan donated $250 in memory of their parents Frank and Charlotte Greene. Frank Greene, who retired from The Spokesman-Review, “believed strongly in the Christmas Fund and donated every year,” they wrote. After he died in 1995, Charlotte Greene “carried on the tradition”; she died in April.
An anonymous donor from Spokane sent $200. Charles Lobdell, of Spokane, donated $200 in memory of his wife, Marie W. Lobdell, a retired schoolteacher.
Betty Johnston, of Spokane Valley, donated $100. “My husband David always made a donation to the fund, so I want to keep up the tradition,” she wrote.
The following Spokane residents also sent $100: Marcy and Mark Majeski; Edward Ellefsen; and two separate anonymous donors, one of whom wrote, “I like to give locally and help my neighbors, and wish I could give more.”
Eric and Marian Anderson, of Nine Mile Falls, Wash., also gave $100.
Donating $50 were Joan Casey, of Colbert, Wash.; Catherine Martin, of Spokane; Larry and Sandra Neil, of Spokane; and Chuck and Kathy Huggins, of Spokane, who sent a note: “We hope this helps to brighten Christmas for others.”
Eddie Heavner, of Spokane, donated $30.