For a little kid, a wait in a long line can seem endless – tragic, even, to one boy who’d thrown himself on the ground Friday morning and begun to whimper softly.
Becca Mangan, 18, strove to keep things lively for her daughter, Charlie, as they waited outside the Christmas Bureau. Besides taking Charlie, 1, to play in the snow – scraped into lumpy piles on the wet grass – she employed a variety of tactics: walking, running in circles, pointing out cars and clouds.
Mangan said the wait would be worth it to get into the bureau, which distributes toys, children’s books and grocery vouchers to people in need. Neither she nor her daughter’s father has a job. “We’re kind of scrapping right now,” she said.
A two-hour wait is standard during the first few days of the bureau. Volunteers and coordinators put a few measures in place to ease the discomfort. And recipients come up with their own strategies to bear the boredom.
Just a couple of minutes into her wait, one woman was engrossed in a Dean Koontz novel. A few people huddled around an ashtray stand placed at a distance from the line or leaned on yellow sawhorses lined up as barriers.
Ellen Old Chief, 61, of Spokane, had finally reached the awning leading to the entrance. Mild exercise helped her keep warm. “Try and move around,” she advised.
As recipients advance from the outside line to the inside line, volunteers direct a few – judged to be “severely disabled,” or, sometimes, “very pregnant” – to a separate, shorter ID-check line, volunteer Robin Patchett said.
Patchett, of Colbert, was working the door as a line greeter Friday, letting in a few people at a time and checking that they had necessary documentation.
“We greet them and say, ‘I’m sorry you’re so cold. There’s coffee halfway down the (inside) line,’ ” she said.
Volunteers also patrol the line outside, keeping an eye out for people facing tough physical challenges to move to the disabled line, bureau coordinator Judy Lee said. They invited one woman using a walker and an oxygen tank inside early, for instance.
Summer Goodwin, 33, waited outside with her youngest daughter, 4-year-old Mercedes.
The people in front of them lent Mercedes an extra coat to wear. In turn, Goodwin, a nursing assistant, offered a lead on a job to another woman in line – also a nursing assistant, who’d lost her job.
The wait, Goodwin said, was “a small price to pay” for a chance to get presents for her three girls.
“I just appreciate anything I can get here,” she said.
The Christmas Bureau is paid for with donations by newspaper readers. It’s organized by Catholic Charities Spokane, Volunteers of America, and The Spokesman-Review.
Donations totaling $10,458.25 bumped up the Christmas Fund to $161,028.01.
TESTCOMM, a Spokane company, donated $6,500. Manager Jerry Ensminger wrote: “We at TESTCOMM are pleased to continue our tradition of increasing our annual contribution to this community event. We salute the volunteers and our friends and neighbors who make this such a worthy cause.”
Bart and Lindell Haggin, of Spokane, donated $500. An anonymous donor from Spokane also gave $500.
Burma and Rick Williams, of Spokane, donated $300. “This is a fine thing that all of you do for our community,” they wrote. “Keep up the good work!” Scott and Shannon Sevigny, of Spokane, also gave $300.
An anonymous couple from Spokane gave $250.
The Spokesman-Review Craft Fair gave $200, as did Virgil Duchow, of Spokane.
Theresa and Jeffrey Utesch, of Veradale, gave $150.
Spokane residents who gave $100: Tom and Mary Anna Bryan, in memory of Bill Bosch; Sharon Myers; Dru Bendix, in memory of Virgil E. Bendix; Kay Mosholder and Beth Paananen; and three separate anonymous donors. Darlene Waller, of Spokane, donated $100 in memory of Darroll R. “Skip” Waller and his parents, Jack and Margaret Waller. “Yours is a cause we all believed in,” she wrote.
An anonymous donor from Spokane donated $75, as did Michael and Konni Dietz, of Mead.
The Cannon Hill Bunko Group donated $70.
Michael Brown, of Spokane, donated $60.
Spokane residents who gave $50: an anonymous donor, in memory of Joe and Irene Lynch, of Coulee Dam; Jean Janke; Thomas Parisot; Debbie Reinbold; and another anonymous donor.
Janice Holcomb, of Mead, donated $50 “to honor my twin grandsons born in August. Our family is so blessed, we have chosen to share with others in lieu of gifts.” Raelee Easton, of Spokane Valley, also donated $50.
Kent Holbrook donated $48.25 via PayPal.
Randy and Victoria Bunke, of Deer Park, gave $25. An anonymous donor gave $25 “in memory of Rick Shulman, who served the poor with humility and humor.”
Allison and Dan Gingrich, of Bellevue, Idaho, gave $20 in honor of Dick and Alice Gingrich, of Spokane.
An anonymous donor gave $10 in memory of Don Morley, of Grand Coulee.