Some days Patti Thompson’s back hurts so much she has trouble picking up her 18-month-old son Kingston. With degenerative disc disease, she said, her chronic pain also makes it difficult to sit or stand for any period.
“It feels like a hot knife in your back,” she said.
Thompson has four kids at home, and she said it’s also challenging to live on disability checks and her husband’s income from a local fast-food restaurant.
That’s why she uses the Christmas Bureau, which gives toys, books and food vouchers to less-fortunate people so Christmas is a bit brighter. The charity is funded by donations and organized as a collaboration of Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review.
“Last year they got some great toys from the Christmas Bureau,” said Thompson, 34, noting all the toys she picked out at the bureau were big hits with her kids. “They go crazy tearing everything open.”
Karma, 11, opened a makeup kit and Lily, 8, received a doll with a bassinet, stroller and clothes. For Lucian, 4, Thompson picked out a tricycle that he still tries to ride even though he’s getting too big for it. For Kingston she chose a toy that lights up and makes noise.
“When they got to open their presents, that was amazing,” said Thompson. “Without the Christmas Bureau I don’t know how we’d do Christmas for them … I hope one day I can give back.”
At the bureau, recipients also receive a food voucher based on family size, so they have a little extra to buy fixings for Christmas dinner.
Due to rising toy costs, vouchers are smaller than last year – $15 for a one-person household; $20 for two people; $25 for three and $30 for households of four or more.
Recipients must bring documentation proving how many people live in a household (see accompanying box).
According to organizers, recipients can use the vouchers to make Christmas better or meet a pressing need. They can’t be used to buy alcohol, tobacco or gift cards.
While Thompson plans to make her traditional orange glazed duck for Christmas Eve, she said she’ll probably purchase grocery staples or diapers for Kingston with the $30 voucher she’ll receive.
“It helps with the odds and ends we might need at that time,” she said. “There are days when I don’t know how I’ll buy bread.”
So far this year, Spokesman-Review readers have donated $34,890.91 for the Christmas Bureau. The goal is to raise $525,000 by Christmas to cover the cost of toys, books and food vouchers.
An anonymous donor from Spokane donated $1,000, writing, “Thanks for what you do.”
An anonymous donor gave $300.
Leslie and Nicholas Zilka, of Liberty Lake, sent $250.
An anonymous donor from Lamont, Wash., gave $200.
Jerome Keller and Neil and Brigid Krause, all of Spokane, also donated $200.
An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $154.
Another anonymous donor from Spokane gave $150, writing “Merry Christmas.”
Lois Richards, of Spokane, sent $150.
An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $100.
Terry and Kathie Bross, of Millwood, gave $100. “Terry and I would like to donate this small amount to help some child smile on Christmas morning … and also in memory of our ‘Momma Rosie’ that we lost this year,” wrote Kathie Bross.
Dr. Clifford Rankin, Jean and Jerry White, Deborah DeMars and Mary and Michael Cronin, all of Spokane, each gave $100.
Margie Byers, of Spokane, gave $100 “in memory of my mom and dad, John L. and Marguerite Cooney and my husband, Ted Byers, who loved children.”
George and Ruth Swan, of Spokane Valley, gave $75.
Jane and Kenneth Trease, of Spokane, donated $50.
An anonymous donor from Spokane sent $40.
Marian Pearson and an anonymous donor, both of Spokane, each gave $25.
Ray and Betty Fall, of Spokane Valley, gave $15.
Genevieve Keeler, of Spokane, gave $5.