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Christmas Bureau donations a blessing for those in need

Shirley Cameron, of Spokane, will receive a grocery voucher from the Christmas Bureau. (Dan Pelle)
Shirley Cameron, of Spokane, will receive a grocery voucher from the Christmas Bureau. (Dan Pelle)

For Christmas Bureau recipient Shirley Cameron, 78, kids are everything.

That includes her own two children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. It also includes other people’s kids – she volunteered for years as a reading tutor for Spokane elementary students. Cameron said she’s always been a “kid person.”

“They’re real,” she said. “They don’t put on much. If they’re happy you know why, and if they’re not happy, you know why.”

Cameron will be among about 400 low-income housebound residents who’ll receive grocery vouchers from the bureau in the mail next week. The charity – paid for by newspaper readers’ donations to the Christmas Fund – distributes grocery vouchers, toys and children’s books over 10 days at the Spokane County fairgrounds. It distributes the early vouchers to people who can’t make it to the bureau.

The 400 vouchers – being processed Wednesday by bureau volunteers – will go mostly to low-income seniors and to some low-income residents with disabilities, said Judy Lee, Christmas Bureau coordinator. Most of the recipients were referred by social service coordinators or social workers at agencies including Elder Services and Meals on Wheels.

Single residents receive $18 grocery vouchers. Couples receive $25.

“That $18 to them is a big deal,” Lee said.

Cameron lives in a small apartment at Fahy West, a low-income apartment complex for seniors and people with disabilities. In the past she’s put her bureau voucher toward turkey or ham for her family’s Christmas dinner.

“It makes me feel good to be able to contribute,” she said.

Darlene Stewart is the social service coordinator for Fahy West and Fahy Gardens, both affordable-housing complexes on West Dean Avenue in north Spokane.

The majority of residents in the complexes’ approximately 90 apartments are able to leave home only occasionally, if at all, she said.

Those who receive grocery vouchers from the Christmas Bureau tell her they buy food like bread and milk – the basics.

“They don’t have a lot for fancy stuff,” Stewart said.

Last year, Marlyn Locke used her voucher for “sensible things,” like soup.

Locke, 65, uses an electric wheelchair. She leaves her home at Fahy West mostly for medical appointments, she said. Her caregiver will take her to a grocery store to redeem the voucher.

Last year, her gift from the Christmas Bureau “just meant I was able to pick up a little bit more,” she said.

New donations

Thanks to gifts from readers, the Christmas Fund now stands at $41,644.93. The goal is to raise $525,000.

An anonymous couple from Spokane gave $1,200 and wrote: “Thank you for this service you provide for our community.”

Christine Johnson and Carlyle Griffin, of Spokane, gave $1,000.

Two anonymous donors from Spokane gave $500 each.

St. Joseph Catholic Church, of Metaline Falls, gave $300, as did Jim and Jeanette Koppa, of Spokane Valley, who wrote: “Happy holidays to all! We are thankful to share with those less fortunate this holiday season!” Orval and Anita Janssen, of Spokane, also gave $300.

An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $250, as did Gregory and Alice Prekeges, of Spokane.

Frances Waddell, of Spokane, sent $200. Retired and on a fixed income, she wrote, “I have never been able to give very much, so a couple of years ago I got the idea of starting in December or January and putting aside a set amount each month for the fund. … It is a painless way to help others who are in need.”

Other Spokane residents who gave $200: William and Deborah Pierce; and two anonymous donors each, one of whom donated in memory of Daphne Adams. “She donated to the Christmas Fund for many years, and it is an honor for me to continue the tradition,” the donor wrote.

Also donating $200: Timothy and M. Camille Schmidt, of Valleyford; Bonnie and William Swannack, of Lamont, Wash.; and Jan Darc, of Coeur d’Alene.

David and Barbara Floyd, of Newport, Wash., gave $150.

Donald Fitzgerald, of Spokane Valley, gave $135. “Merry Christmas to those who are temporarily down on their luck this season,” he wrote.

Spokane residents who donated $100: Melanie and Harley Reckord; an anonymous donor; Jim and Jackie Vroman; Robert and Carol Lingow, in memory of their daughter Carrie Lingow; Ruby Simonson McNeill; Jud and Beverly Heathcote; and William Bell.

Spokane Valley residents who gave $100: Lee and Kathryn Irving; an anonymous donor; and Sally and Walter Bonsack. An anonymous donor from Deer Park also donated $100.

S.K. Czernik, of Medical Lake, gave $75.

Michael Rooth and Julie Yahnke, of Spokane, gave $50, as did Deborah Walter, of Spokane. Virginia Michel, of Odessa, Wash., also gave $50.

Nancy and Steve Kiss, of Metaline, Wash., gave $40.

Pam and J.A. Yarwood, of Seven Bays, Wash., donated $30, as did Jean Rabe, of Spokane.

Ed and Pauline Carlson and Lori Massey, of Spokane, gave $25. Other Spokane residents who gave $25: Preston and Carolyn Smith; Billy and Ruth Youngs; Cynthia Dusek, who wrote: “Thank you for all you do”; and an anonymous donor. David and Nonie Kingma, of Deer Park, also donated $25.

Sue Scroggie, of Spokane, gave $20. Jill and Ken Severns, of Spokane, gave $20.

Paul and Dorothy Butler, of Cheney, gave $10.

John and Janet Peterson, of Spokane, gave $6.