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Volunteers unload toys, prepare bureau for opening

The “supermarket sets” of toddler-size shopping carts and toy groceries to put in them looked familiar to volunteer Hanna Weathers at the Christmas Bureau on Wednesday.

She had the same toy as a kid, she said as she helped tote the toys from the end of a semitruck to their assigned spot in the bureau’s behind-the-scenes storage area.

It wasn’t so long ago. Weathers, 17, is a Freeman High School senior. She and 22 other members of Freeman’s National Honor Society chapter showed up early to help transform a cold space at the fairgrounds into a welcoming charity that will serve thousands of people starting Friday.

“This is the funnest field trip I’ve been on so far,” Weathers said. “It’s like Santa’s workshop.”

As that first truckload of toys was followed by four more, the Christmas Bureau began to take shape Wednesday. Dozens of volunteers flipped over folding tables, pushed around carts stacked over their heads with boxes and checked inventory against orders.

The bureau, a joint effort of Catholic Charities Spokane, the Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, will distribute children’s books and grocery vouchers along with the toys. Donations to the Christmas Fund pay for the gifts.

The gaping space at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center was being divided into a recipient intake area, a book room, a toy room, a bagging-and-batteries area, and a child-care room where parents can leave their kids while they pick out gifts.

The setup Wednesday hit one early snag: A load of toys, en route by train from the Midwest, was delayed and wouldn’t arrive until today. Still, there were thousands of toys to unload.

And there was plenty of help as the first truck backed in – volunteers crowded the end of the trailer to accept toys as fast as they could be passed down. Tall stacks of Police Mini-Trikes dwindled, and towers of My Very Own Vanities emerged.

 Randy Olson, who helps manage the toy inventory, watched as students hustled to put the toys in place. Along with the group from Freeman, students from Rogers and Gonzaga Prep high schools also volunteered Wednesday.

“I want to jump in. I’m not supposed to. I’m supposed to let them do it,” said Olson, of Spokane Valley.

Volunteer Don Ragan, of Spokane Valley, watched as the high school students and others crowded the truck, waiting for their turn to help. To him, he said, the volunteers’ eagerness reflected what’s important about Christmas.

By giving their time, he said, “They’re probably getting as much out of this as the people who’ll receive.”

New donations

Thanks to new donations, the Christmas Fund now stands at $109,041.11.

Jim and Beth Brasch, of Spokane, gave $5,000. “At a time when things are so hard for so many, you are bringing some joy and hope to others,” they wrote.

Kristianne and John Blake, of Spokane, gave $2,500.

Tom and Cheri Susens, of Spokane, gave $2,000 in honor of Bernice Susens and in memory of Thomas Susens and Louis and Mary Lou Gironard.

Modern Construction & Consulting Services, of Spokane, gave $1,500.

The following Spokane residents gave $1,000: Larry and Patricia Bishop; Evelyn Cullitan and family; and Michael Altringer. Matthew Root and Sarah Moore, of Pullman, also gave $1,000. “It is a time to remember that people often find themselves in need through no fault of their own,” they wrote.

Shirley and Matt Alling, of Spokane, gave $500. “This is in memory of our parents – Milbert and Frances Joachim and George Alling,” they wrote. “They always remembered us at Christmastime, and this gift will hopefully allow others to remember their children.” Other Spokane residents who gave $500: Cyrus and Janet Vaughn; and an anonymous donor. Gail and Roberta Keeling, of Otis Orchards, gave $500 in honor of their three grandsons, Taylor Merkley, 15, Kolby Keeling, 7, and Ryan Keeling, 6. An anonymous couple from Spokane Valley also gave $500.

The following Spokane residents gave $400: Peter and Gay Witherspoon; P. and M.L. Bach; and Albert Materi, who wrote: “The Honor Flight visit to the WWII memorial makes me want to make this donation in memory of the 460,000 of our lost heroes who are honored there, including my brother Alexander.”

Donors who gave $300: an anonymous donor, in memory of Milton and Fay Echelbarger; an anonymous couple from Spokane; Debra and Ralph Prouty, of Spokane; and Peter and Sharon Fairchild, of Liberty Lake.

Les and Lyn Wolff, of Mica, gave $250, as did an anonymous donor from Liberty Lake. Also giving $250: Stephen Scott, of Spokane; and Pam and Jon Ness, of Coeur d’Alene.

The Skaufel family gave $225.

Maxine and David Breshears, of Spokane, gave $200. “We are doubling our donation this year because the need is so great,” they wrote. Other Spokane residents who gave $200: Wayne and Joyce Attwood; Dennis and Patricia Doyle; Phillip Jones and Christina Marino; an anonymous couple; and Peter and Beth Weller. The family of H. Earl Davis made a $200 donation in his memory. Colleen Dodroe and her son David also gave $200.

Gary and Vicki Erickson, of Medical Lake, gave $150, as did Ralph and Sandra Laws, of Cheney, who wrote, “Last year we donated $100. This year we are adding $50 for our niece Hannah Moss.”

Lorraine Cannon, of Spokane, gave $125, as did Ronald and Naomi Franklin, also of Spokane.

The following Spokane Valley residents gave $100: Helen Schafer; an anonymous donor; and H.O. Wilson.

The following Spokane residents gave $100: Dick and Marnie Wands; Luella and Dean Palmer; Stanley Short Jr.; Arthur and G.J. Dendy; Phillip and Marilyn Sandberg; Ellen Ostheller; Verna Winton; John and Donna Leaming; an anonymous donor; Col. Robert and Joyce Bublitz; Martin and Margaret Phillips; Beth Schomburg, “in memory of Dick Schomburg, who supported the Christmas Fund every year”; and William Pemberton, who gave in memory of his wife, Dorothy.

Others who gave $100: Gary and Judy Spangelo, of Cheney; Kenneth and Helen Evans, of Mead; Karen Trejbal, of Rockford; L. Rogers, of Chattaroy; and Michael and Konni Dietz. Leo Wood, of Mead, also gave $100, as did Gregory and Diane Wick, of Mead; an anonymous donor; and Terry. Leslie and Meredith Hilby, of Liberty Lake, also gave $100 and wrote, “A special thanks to Judy Lee and all of her crew and volunteers.”

Three separate anonymous donors each gave $75: one from Pullman; one from Spokane; and one who didn’t give a hometown.

Louise Hill, of Spokane, gave $65 in memory of her husband, Solomon, her friends and relatives, and her neighbor, Ken Trent, who worked to help the needy.

An anonymous donor from Spokane Valley gave $60 in memory of her son Jim.

The following people gave $50: Todd and Barbara Heaton, of Lincoln, Wash.; an anonymous donor from Veradale; Edward and Susan Leach, of Coeur d’Alene; Shannon O’Brien; Loyce Lewis; Cherie and Doug Foss; and Marcia and Timothy Dorwin, of Spokane Valley. The Spokane Authors and Self-Publishers gave $50 in memory of group members Elmer Freeman, Don Johnson, Elizabeth Michael, Irene Pancner, Patti Richardson, Stanley Wood and Lester Smith.

The following Spokane residents gave $50: W.H. and V.A. Selzer; Gail Johanson; Alan and Deanna Eppinger; Patricia Earley; two separate anonymous donors; Patti and Clinton Degenhart; Jacquelin and John Richardson; Ruth Votava; Marian Pearson; Jane Courtright; and Kris Spelman, who gave in memory of her grandmother Violet Burgunder and great-aunt Elsie Altin.

Glenis Brantley, of Spokane, gave $35. Thelma Ostby, of Spokane, gave $35 “in memory of my five brothers – Leif, Lars, Willie, John and Idar.”

William and Gelene Griffiths, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $30. Rita Osborne, of Airway Heights, gave $30 in honor of her son, Alex Adams, and the growing Osborne family.

Donors who gave $25: Louise Inman, of Newman Lake; Lesley Darr Tate, of Careywood, Idaho; Robert and Marilyn Keen, of Liberty Lake; an anonymous donor from Mead; Andrew and Nanci Slipper, of Spokane; Betty Thompson, of Spokane; and Rob Roose.

Jong Soon Whang, of Spokane, gave $20 and wrote, “I know the hard times and struggles – I’ve been there myself. But now I want to give back and thank you all for the help you’ve done for me all these years.” Other Spokane residents who gave $20: Fred and Mary Kay Dayharsh; Lisa Faye Gardner; an anonymous donor; James Funke; and Ronald Coyle and Susan Walker.

Also giving $20: Helene Heuvel, of Priest River, Idaho; an anonymous donor, who gave “in loving memory of Annabelle”; and another anonymous donor.

Rose Breckenridge, of Coeur d’Alene, gave $4.