Friends for 20 years, Joy Allen and Kimberley Lesky sat together for lunch at the Christmas Bureau one day, taking a break from helping the charity that helps them.
They’ve been through a lot together
– kids, illness, poverty. They met through the men in their lives – Allen’s husband and Lesky’s longtime boyfriend – and they hit it off. The get together and talk, do crosswords, watch TV, share meals.
Allen (at right in the illustration above) is 61, and Lesky is 37. “She kind of took me under her wing,” Lesky said.
This year Lesky worked in “line control,” greeting recipients at the door and answering questions. Allen worked in the toy room.
And they were both among the bureau’s 35,000-plus recipients this year.
“I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the coin,” Lesky said. “I know that if it wasn’t for the Christmas Bureau, we wouldn’t have our Christmas dinner.”
Allen, of Springdale, first walked into the Christmas Bureau when she was 16 and a new mother. She used to work as a caregiver. Now she receives disability benefits, she said, because of breathing problems.
Lesky, of Deer Park, works as a caregiver and fills in delivering Sunday newspapers.
At the bureau, Lesky picked out a gift for her son, 16. She planned to spend her grocery voucher on a ham.
She started volunteering about five years ago. “I come here every year and get treated golden,” Lesky said. “Even though I can’t give back monetarily, I can give my time.”
Golden means: “You’re not looked down upon because you’re poor or homeless or down and out. Everyone is treated with warmth and dignity.”
As a recipient, Allen received a voucher she’ll use in place of food money she spent on gas to get to the bureau to volunteer.
As a volunteer, she remembered helping one mother in the toy room who wept in gratitude.
“This makes me the happiest I am,” she said.
The Christmas Fund now stands at $453,030.19.
The fund – a collection of donations by newspaper readers – pays the bills at the Christmas Bureau, an annual 10-day event that gives toys, children’s books and grocery vouchers to low-income people.
The employees and retirees of Jensen Distribution Services, of Spokane, gave $6,511. “We wish for everyone a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years,” wrote Michael Jensen, chairman of the board.
The Few family, of Spokane, gave $5,000. “May God use this money to brighten the hearts of families that may be going through rough times,” they wrote.
AmericanWest Bank, of Spokane, also gave $5,000. “I recently joined the team at AmericanWest Bank and in doing so relocated to Spokane,” wrote Keith Western, the bank’s Northwest president. “I am enjoying getting to know this close-knit community and the many ways in which we care for one another. That’s why it was my pleasure to be the one to make the gift on behalf of our hard-working employees.”
A resident of the Fairwood retirement community in Spokane also gave $5,000. A donor since 1986, she wrote: “It’s been an honor to continue to help make the true spirit of Christmas happen for those less fortunate. Many thanks to all the volunteers for their help.”
Julia Libby, of Spokane, gave $1,000.
The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental & Reinforcing Iron Workers, Local No. 14, also gave $1,000.
Witter Family Dentistry, of Spokane, gave $628.05.
The following donors gave $500: Charm and Frank Stanek, of Spokane; Kathleen and Dr. Keith Mackenzie, of Spokane, and the office of Rehabilitation Associates; Ibex Construction, of Spokane; and Kathleen Smith, of Spokane.
A group of donors teamed up to give $375. An anonymous donor gave $350.
Ken Gerard and Lynda Ensign, of Clayton, Wash., gave $300. Michelle Mullin, of Spokane, gave $300 in memory of her parents, Bud and Jean Mullin.
Sam and Jane Joseph gave $291 via PayPal.
The Spokane Masters & Tri swim team gave $250.
R. Bedford, of Spokane, gave $200, as did two separate anonymous couples from Spokane. Lorraine Burghard, of Moses Lake, gave $200 “in memory of my daughter. Through the lives of little children her memory lingers.” Gary and Susan Bloom, of Spokane, also gave $200.
Jim and Josephine Lloyd, of Otis Orchards, gave $150.
Marilyn and Jim Kirschbaum, of Spokane, gave $130.
Christopher and Karen Sherfeys, of Spokane, gave $125.
The following Spokane residents gave $100: Don and Ann Foss, in memory of Gayle Burrows and Ace and Yvonne Edmunds; Lorna Stevenson; Michael and Carol Lynn Nissley; Marge and Bruce Kerwin; Bob and Lenore Romney; and Stanley and Becky Carlson.
More Spokane residents who gave $100: Charles Horgan and Andrea Sharps; Ruth Reynolds and Chris Powell, in memory of their parents; Robert and Elizabeth Lemoine; Richard Steele; and an anonymous donor.
Other donors who gave $100: Norma Echelbarger, of Spokane Valley, in memory of Ike; Diane Brennan, of Spokane Valley; an anonymous donor from Davenport, Wash.; an anonymous donor, in memory of Benjamin J. Wasson; and Terri and Marilee Roloff, in honor of their mother, Donna, “who loves books.”
Christine Cronin gave $96.80 via PayPal, as did John Cooper.
Spokane residents who gave $75: Stanley Burris; Carol Phelps; and Robert and Janet Rowles. The Rockford Women’s Club also gave $75. Questar Marketing and the Bekken family gave $75 “in honor of all our customers.”
Alan and Cheryl Kane, of Bellevue, gave $50 in honor of Bill and Harriet Plucker. Others who donated $50: Tony M., of Spokane; Gary and Jane Graham, of Spokane; Verda Coryell, of Spokane Valley; Alan Hastings, of Spokane Valley; and Jim and Arlene Mowatt, of Cheney.
King and Yvonne Yim, of Spokane Valley, gave $40. “We are glad that we live in such a caring community,” they wrote. Char and James Hitter, of Liberty Lake, also gave $40. The Zorich family, of Spokane, gave $40 “in honor of Grandma Betty and Grandpa Verle Haddon, who made Christmas so merry, for so many, for so many years.” And “Aunt Helen and all the family” gave $40 in memory of Kurt Leathead, an Alaskan fisherman who “left Earth but must be in Heaven showing others how to catch them.”
Those who gave $25: Daunita Higgins; Betty Saxton, of Spokane; Barbara Debing, of Spokane, in memory of her mom, Julie Rotau; Dick and Shirley McKenney, of Spokane Valley, “in memory of our grandson, Nicholas Clason, who died in July at the age of 30”; Jim and Pauline Furman, of Harrington, Wash.; and an anonymous donor.