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Donors bring children’s Christmas hopes closer

Helping hand for families is halfway to fundraising goal

Are we there yet?

No, but we’re halfway there. Considering the ambitious goal – to raise $500,000 to help struggling families at Christmas – that’s impressive progress. Donations to the Christmas Fund so far have been as small as $5 and as big as $15,000. Each is accepted with thanks and goes toward the bills for the food vouchers, toys and books distributed over 10 days to tens of thousands of people in need at the Christmas Bureau.

Still, there’s a long way to go. And, at this point, donations lag last year’s by about $50,000.

The Spokesman-Review’s fundraising campaign begins each year the day after Thanksgiving. In 2009, the Christmas Fund had collected $301,802 on its 23rd day. Today’s total: $255,565.44.

The bureau is a complex, year-round effort, but its mission is simple.

“The reason I’m here is I want to have every child to have a little happiness on Christmas. Period,” said Marilee Roloff, president of Volunteers of America, on Friday behind the scenes at the Christmas Bureau. The VOA works with Catholic Charities Spokane and The Spokesman-Review to organize the event.

Many donors’ checks have arrived with notes reflecting that desire, to make the holiday better for even one child, or one family. The sizable donations received from some individuals and companies will do much more than that.

As Roloff said Friday, there’s not a kid in America, no matter how poor, who doesn’t know about Christmas.

Job loss and poverty don’t slow the tide of TV ads excited about spending or mute the playground chatter among kids excited about Santa.

“The images these kids see on TV is very Norman Rockwell,” said Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities, in an earlier interview. There’s a mom, there’s a dad, there’s a beautifully trimmed tree, and there’s often a disconnect between all that and their family’s reality.

For parents who can’t buy Santa’s piles of presents – or just one – it’s a stressful time as kids ask why they can’t just go to Toys R Us or why Santa will be skipping them.

For these kids, “there’s a fine line between reality and mystery at Christmas,” McCann said.

The Christmas Bureau helps with the mystery, but it comes with its own reality: $500,000 is what the bureau’s organizers say is needed to provide food and gifts for everyone who shows up.

Cynthia Armstrong called the bureau a “blessing.” She stood in line at the fairgrounds Friday with her husband, Phil Armstrong, and the youngest two – ages 1 and 2 – of their five children. The other kids are 8, 13 and 15.

Cynthia Armstrong, a nursing assistant, has survived rounds of layoffs at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center but said she lives with worry that her job will be among the next to go. Phil Armstrong is a student, close to earning a criminal justice degree but feeling “intimidated” by news about the difficult job market.

“We do a tight budget,” Cynthia Armstrong said. “… God makes a way.”

New donations

New donations totaling $7,069.20 elevate the Christmas Fund to $255,565.44.

Dorian Photography Studio, of Spokane, donated $1,000. “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to help,” the Joe Mark family wrote in an accompanying note.

Mike Altringer, of Spokane, sent $1,000 and a note: “Keep up the good work!”

An anonymous couple from Spokane also gave $1,000.

Linda Ashlock and Susan Boyd, of Liberty Lake, donated $500, as did Fay and Carmel Johnstone, of Spokane Valley.

An anonymous donor gave $485.20 via PayPal.

Timothy and M. Camille Schmidt, of Valleyford, gave $300.

Frank and Patricia Goodman, of Spokane, gave $250.

Joann and Ken Dunlap, of Spokane, donated $200 “in memory of Grampa Joe!”

Karen and Steven Heaps, of Spokane Valley, gave $150.

Spokane residents who gave $100: an anonymous couple; James and Sharman Watson; Ned and Linda Barnes; Tom and Joyce Sylvester; and Robert Loomis.

Also giving $100: Mary Ann Cooley, of Cheney; Rick and Joan Haynes, of Nine Mile Falls; R.W. and Kay Brightman, of Colville; an anonymous couple from Spokane Valley; Lloyd and Patricia Bobysud, of Spangle, in memory of their parents, George and Marjorie Bobysud and Dick and Eve Sterett; and the Caldwells of Spokane Valley, “in memory of Craig Caldwell and our Grandpa, Dr. Edward Adams.” Donna Busko, of Spokane Valley, gave $100 in memory of her husband, Budd Busko.

An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $95.

Country Homes Nurse Practitioner Associates, of Spokane, donated $89.

Giving $50: Edward and Susan Leach, of Coeur d’Alene; Todd Hamm, of Spokane; and Susan and Steven Anderson, of Spokane.

Joyce Rae, of Spokane, donated $40 “in memory of sons Billy and Jim, who loved Christmas and the fun we always had as a family.”

Kathy Hull, of Colbert, donated $25, as did Janet Walker, of Colbert. They sent a note: “There are so many people who need assistance year-round. The Christmas Fund helps those in need to realize that people do care.”

Roanne Pascal, of Spokane, also gave $25, as did an anonymous donor from Chattaroy.

An anonymous donor from Metaline, Wash., gave $10. “I wish this were more,” the donor wrote. “Thank you for what you do!”

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