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Bureau gives parents pick of toys

Buyers try to have a variety of options for all ages of children

A new toy is a big part of Christmas for a child. Choosing just the right one can be the fun part for parents.

The Christmas Bureau provides both – toys for kids and choices for parents. The charity’s toy buyers – who this year ordered 18,139 toys for children from birth through age 17 – work to provide roughly 10 choices appropriate for each age group.

Whether their child is into dolls, crafts, space or spy games, the bureau essentially gives parents who can’t afford to shop for their kids a chance to do so, said Cheryl Taam, of Spokane, one of the buyers.

“They’re the ones who know the child’s personality the best,” Taam said. “It’s also really important for them to be a part of the process.”

The Christmas Bureau, which opens Friday, gives toys, children’s books and grocery vouchers to families in need. There’s no income or residency requirement, but recipients should meet ID requirements. 

In 2010 the bureau served nearly 36,000 people, including more than 17,000 children.

And each of those children was a different person, a fact Taam and the bureau’s two other volunteer toy buyers kept in mind as they put in their big orders. “There’s no one-size-fits-all, right?” she said.

They finished their ordering in June. The toys will be delivered by the truckload to the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center starting today.

Ordering the toys was “like going shopping,” Taam said. “You get all these catalogs and you envision what a child will experience when they see that toy under the tree, when they open that present. It appeals to the child in me.”

The buyers study their potential selections, traveling to stores to get a good sense of the toys’ size and quality. They read online reviews from parents, looking for warning signs about small parts. They seek input from bureau volunteers who put the toys together.

They consider the plaything’s power source: While the bureau provides batteries for toys that need them, “if a child can play with something that doesn’t require batteries, that’s always our first choice,” Taam said.

They order a mix of “classic” toys – proven popular year after year – and what they anticipate will be the season’s hot toys, said Theresa Smith, of Spokane, another buyer. In the latter category: a “Modern Family” game, based on the TV sitcom.

While the volunteers buy according to gender and age, estimating their needs in each category based on previous years, parents can choose any toy they want, with a couple of limitations on gifts reserved for older teenagers.

There’s a little something for everyone in the 6- to 10-year-old category: building toys, trucks, Nerf toys, sleds, Hot Wheels toys, dolls, arts-and-crafts sets, a “planetarium” toy that projects stars onto the ceiling, telescopes, a “listening dish” you can use to listen in on other people’s conversations (or, you know, “explore nature”). The list goes on.

Buying for older teenagers has posed a bigger challenge. But the buyers were again able to get some small MP3 players for that group, which parents snapped up last year.

The Christmas Bureau is a joint effort of Catholic Charities Spokane, the Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review. Donations to the newspaper’s Christmas Fund pay the bills.

New donations

The Christmas Fund now stands at $81,327.11.

Jeff and Kim Brown, of Mead, gave $1,000.

“The sisters” gave $500 “in memory of Mom, Dad, Peggy, Rick and Craig.” Elizabeth Hulteng, of Hayden Lake, also gave $500.

Fred and Norrine Potts, of Spokane Valley, gave $400.

Gunhild Clegg, of Spokane, gave $300, as did Nancy Edwards, of Spokane.

Steve and Barbara Stoyanac, of Mead, gave $250. An anonymous couple from Spokane also gave $250.

Spokane residents who gave $200: Steve and Peggy Koehler; Shirley and Edward Bell; Linda Martin; and an anonymous donor, who wrote, “I have increased my donation this year because of the need. Thank you and all the volunteers who make it possible for many to have a good Christmas.”

William Johnson, of Heron, Mont., gave $129.

Michael and Doreen Lewis, of Spokane Valley, gave $127.

Arlene Waters, of Spokane, gave $125, as did an anonymous donor from Spokane.

Linda Dunham, of Chattaroy, gave $100 on behalf of the Mattioli family of Port Townsend, Wash. “For several years now my sister and I have exchanged donations as our Christmas gifts to each other’s family,” she wrote. “This year I chose the Christmas Fund because of the help the fund provides to people, especially children, in our community.” Donald and Tina Daw, of Chattaroy, also gave $100.

An anonymous donor gave $100 in memory of Lisa Portrey and Garth Mason. Virginia Boyles, of Spokane Valley, gave $100 in memory of Donald Boyles.

Spokane residents who gave $100: an anonymous couple; an anonymous donor, “in loving memory of Charles Schmeltzer”; Carrie Prentice; Eileen Thorpe; and Ruby Niemeyer, who wrote, “I hope this helps a family have a better holiday season.”

Marsha Hansen, of Spokane, gave $60.

Spokane residents who gave $50: T.J. and B.P. Pope; Ray Faraca; an anonymous donor, in memory of Mac and Bernie; two separate anonymous donors; and Lynda Martin. Deb and Jim Repp, of Spokane Valley, also gave $50, “a little help for those in need.”

An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $40 in memory of John and Emma Peereboom.

Evelyn Graves, of Medical Lake, gave $30.

Giving $25: Al and Pat Luiten, of Spokane Valley; Claudia and Rich Kroll, of Nine Mile Falls; and two separate anonymous donors, both from Spokane. 

Father George Morris, S.J., of Gonzaga University, gave $20.

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