It might have been a minor Christmas Bureau miracle: Costco had on hand all 3,200 batteries that failed to arrive as expected with toys that’ll be given away to children in need starting today.
And Wal-Mart had the 500 light bulbs needed to light the children’s wall lamps the bureau ordered – volunteers didn’t realize they weren’t included until the eve of the bureau’s opening.
With those problems solved, and with the bureau’s more than 160 volunteers with some training and pizza under their belts, the charity is ready for business. It will open at 10 a.m. today at the Spokane County fairgrounds to distribute toys, grocery vouchers and children’s books to families in need. Organizers expect a crowd: Last year the Christmas Bureau served 35,612 people. And the need, coordinators say, is greater than ever.
“Everything is in shape now,” bureau coordinator Judy Lee said at the end of her long day Thursday. “We’re ready.”
The bureau’s toy room – expanded from last year – is stocked with neat stacks of gifts: Barbies, building sets, drums, dolls, skateboards. Towers of toys wait in the wings to replace the ones that go out the door. In all, the bureau has 18,139 toys to give away – batteries included – to kids ages 17 and under.
The bureau’s book tables are lined with colorful covers and arranged by subject and age, from baby board books about trucks on one end to “Pygmalion” and “Pride and Prejudice” on the other. The bureau has 15,972 books available for kids through age 14.
The volunteers – double the number who pitched in last year – gathered Thursday to learn their jobs and reconnect with old friends. For many, working at the bureau is an important part of the holiday season.
“We’re glad to see all the new faces – and all the old ones,” bureau co-chairwoman Bonnie Atkinson told the assembled crew.
Marilee Roloff, president of the Volunteers of America local office, told the crowd the bureau has a history of offering kindness and hope to the people it serves, including those who are angry or discouraged.
“On Christmas morning, I hope you remember the thousands and thousands of children who are having a merry Christmas because of you,” she said.
Newspaper readers’ donations to the Christmas Fund pay for the gifts at the bureau. The Christmas Bureau is organized by Catholic Charities Spokane, the Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review.
The Christmas Fund now stands at $120,820.01.
TESTCOMM, a Spokane company, gave $7,000. “We at TESTCOMM are pleased to continue our tradition of increasing contributions to this most worthy endeavor,” manager Jerry Ensminger wrote. “We are proud to be part of the Spokane community and participate in this annual event of sharing and caring.”
John and Janet Hooper, of Liberty Lake, gave $300 in honor of their great-grandchildren: Bailey, Keegan, Piper, Peyton, Parker, John, Jacob and Adara. An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $300 “in memory of my husband, Bob, my parents, Tena and John, and my children.” Gregg Woods also gave $300.
Burt and Shirley Pendleton, of Spokane, gave $250.
People who gave $200: John and Janet Gray and Gina Reidt, of Spokane Valley; Linda Cannon, of Spokane; Virginia Jacobson, of Nine Mile Falls; an anonymous donor from Cheney; and an anonymous donor from Deer Park.
Sharon Matthews gave $193.90 via PayPal.
Colleen Birchill, of Spokane, gave $150. “This gift is made in memory of Jack Birchill, who always gave to the Christmas Fund,” she wrote. “Thanks to all the volunteers who give their time to help.” Rick and Sharon Myers, of Spokane, also sent $150 and a note: “This is the best check we write all year. Thank you for all you do.” Nancy Schutz, of Spokane, gave $150 and wrote: “The selflessness of Keenan Loughery at age 13 has inspired me to match his donation of $150. What a fine young man!” And Miriam Finnegan, of Spokane, gave $150 “in honor of my husband, John L. (Jack) Finnegan, who passed away Oct. 16.”
Julie and Jeff Morris, of Spokane, gave $125.
An anonymous donor gave $120 in memory of her parents, who supported the Christmas Bureau.
These Spokane residents gave $100: the Milham family; Marjorie Peterson; Daniel and Leann Lohman; Douglas and Susan Richardson; Dolores Williams; Delores Taxter; Richard and Alice Hayes; Lynn Samuels; and Katherine and Pat Harper. Also giving $100: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Colbert, of Spokane Valley; and Albert and Jean Pistorius, of Hayden Lake.
“Ms. Boo and Miss Kiki Kiki,” of Spokane, gave $75.
Spokane residents who gave $50: Claude Hire and Marianne Iwasa; Nancy Secrist; Mr. and Mrs. William Hale; Patricia Clark and William Anderson; and Corinne Hirst. Dave and Freida Cook, of Cheney, also gave $50, as did an anonymous donor.
Christine Bieker, of Spokane, gave $40. “Hope this helps brighten someone’s holidays,” she wrote.
B. and Michael Dooley, of Spokane, gave $25.