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Christmas Fund behind last year; gifts still rolling in

Organizers confident needs will be met

The good news: The Christmas Fund is more than halfway to meeting its goal to raise $525,000 for the Christmas Bureau, a 10-day, volunteer-fueled event that distributes toys, children’s books and grocery vouchers to thousands of Spokane-area people in need.

The other news: The Christmas Fund – made of donations of all sizes from newspaper readers – is running behind, compared to this point last year. And it has further to go. And there’s less than a week and a half left until the fund closes for the year.

A couple of big donations helped put the fund at $276,423.59. Cochrane & Co., of Spokane, gave $7,500, and the physicians at Northwest Orthopaedic Specialists gave $7,250.

But today’s tally, on the fund’s 24th day, stands about $10,000 behind compared with the same point last year.

And, anticipating greater need in the community, organizers set a higher goal.

Rob McCann, executive director Catholic Charities of Spokane, said volunteers this year have seen more people in a “new demographic” – people who are new to need because of job loss or other hits from the recession’s aftermath.

It’s a group that started coming to the bureau two years ago, he said. The wait to be served and the fairgrounds environment are new to them, he said, and volunteers often take extra time to help ease their anxiety.

They join an already sizable crowd. After the bureau closed Saturday, it had served 30,606 people, including 15,228 children.

It had distributed vouchers totaling $279,744 to 9,354 households. Each voucher is good for $18 to $40, depending on the number of people in the household.

“It’s a steady stream each day,” McCann said. “My guess is we will get close to or have a record number of people this year.”

Some dates to keep in mind for those who plan to give:

• PayPal donations should be made by noon Friday, to allow time for online processing.

• Donations made in person should be delivered by Dec. 27.

Donations made by mail should arrive by Dec. 28, so they should be mailed at least a couple of days before that.

Donations received later will be counted as part of next year’s fund.

While there are no income or geographic residency requirements to receive help at the bureau, most recipients are poor and live in or close to Spokane. In 2010, the average monthly income of households served was $1,003. Of the 10,700 households served last year, 9,000 had Spokane addresses. Most of the rest were in surrounding communities.

In past years, he said, community members have come through for the bureau – even in the last few days before Christmas.

“The incredible faith we have in the Spokane community is rewarded every year,” McCann said. “The incredible generosity in the community never ceases to amaze me.”

For Linda Hummel, of Springdale, Wash., the bureau was a place to choose a gift for her 13-year-old son – an A student and a mountain climber, she said.

Hummel, 50 and single, said she is unemployed.

Her son “doesn’t ask for much,” she said. “I just want him to have something under the tree.”

Catholic Charities, the Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review work together to organize the Christmas Bureau.

New donations

The Christmas Fund now stands at $276,423.59.

Cochrane & Co.’s $7,500 gift came with a letter thanking the people and businesses who have donated time and money to make the Christmas Bureau a success.

“With the Christmas season here, it’s important to recognize that many families in our community continue to struggle in our difficult economy,” the letter read. “As a family-owned business, we place great emphasis on children, family, generosity and being supportive of the community we live in.”

The physicians at Northwest Orthopaedic Specialists gave $7,250. Dr. Patrick Lynch, president, wrote a letter to “express our best wishes to the Spokane community.” The Christmas Fund “represents the true spirit of giving back to those in need,” he wrote.

Ken Roberts Investment Management, of Spokane, gave $1,000. “We are thankful for your efforts on behalf of those that need assistance, and we appreciate all the donors and volunteers of Spokane that work together to make our community a better place for all,” read an enclosed letter.

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

William and Merilee Dinneen, of Spokane, gave $500, as did Greg and Ann Hougham, of Spokane.

Linda and Craig Bertholf, of Spokane, sent $300 “in loving memory of our mom and grandmother – who loved the holiday season – Evelyne Alley. From Craig, Linda and all your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.” An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $300.

The “Mt. Vernon Place homeowners” gave $225.

Alan and Marian Morrison, of Spokane, gave $200. Other Spokane residents who gave $200: Wilbur Yates; Robert and Judy Lee; and Mary Kay and Dawes Eddy. The American-Italian Club Lodge No. 2172, of Spokane, gave $200 and wrote, “We truly appreciate the work you and your volunteers do to provide for needy families.”

Others who gave $200: Cindy and Mark Finke, of Medical Lake; the Inland Empire Nurses Association; and an anonymous couple from Spokane Valley.

Lois Richards, of Spokane, gave $150, as did Jon Gordon, of Lacrosse, Wash.

An anonymous donor from Spokane Valley gave $100.

Beth Camp and Allen Dorfman, of Spokane, gave $75.

Spokane residents who gave $50: Charles and Judy Smith; Lynn and Bruce Wagner; an anonymous couple; and another anonymous donor. Others who gave $50: an anonymous couple from Spokane Valley; Phil Schumaker; and Charles and Rose Carver, of Medical Lake.

Gary Fiscus, of Liberty Lake, gave $30.

June Sheldon, of Spokane Valley, gave $20.

An anonymous donor gave $5.

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