When Ronald and Shirley Schoenberger decided to give a small donation to the Christmas Bureau 26 years ago, they pledged to increase their gift annually by 10 percent. This year they sent $1,250.
“I decided if I prospered, I’d let the community prosper with me,” said Ronald Schoenberger, who is a semi-retired insurance broker. “My wife says, ‘Cast bread upon the water and it will multiply and return back to you, larger than you started with.’ ”
Donations like the Schoenbergers’ pay for the toys, books and food vouchers the Christmas Bureau distributes to about 35,000 people in need between Dec. 12 and Dec. 21 at the fairgrounds. To cover expenses, the charity, which is organized by Volunteers of America, Catholic Charities and The Spokesman-Review, needs to raise $525,000 by Christmas.
“It’s nice that I can share,” said Schoenberger, who has experienced leaner years himself. As a child growing up by Underhill Park, he said Christmas was limited, though filled with warm memories.
“We had no money. Most of the stuff we got was clothing,” he recalled. “Our Christmas tree consisted of popcorn.”
For winter entertainment, he and his five siblings put water on the park’s tennis court so they could ice skate, or they went sledding. “We’d make bobsleds out of a piece of tin and curl it up in the front, then ride down the hill in the snow,” he said. “We made our own fun.”
Now 77, Schoenberger’s seasonal traditions include giving to the Christmas Bureau, in part so low-income children can open a toy on Christmas morning. “It’s nice I can share. I just hope I can make it another 10 years and get that number up higher and higher,” he said of the couple’s annual donation. “As long as I live, I’ll increase it. I hope it becomes a lot of money. I hope I live a long time.”
Like the Schoenbergers, many donors say that the Christmas Bureau is an opportunity to share their good fortune with those less fortunate.
Last year residents at the Upper Falls Condominiums decided to use a credit card that offers reward points to pay expenses like power bills, and then donate the cash back to local charities. This week they donated $1,000, minus PayPal processing fees, to the Christmas Bureau.
“Our Avista bill is huge, so we get a lot of points,” explained Bob Sweat, association president. “It’s a great place to live downtown, right there by the Flour Mill. We overlook the river. I’ll be honest with you. Everybody that lives in here can afford to give a little bit to charity.”
With $1,500 to donate, the association board asked residents in the 31 units for charity suggestions. The Christmas Bureau topped the list. The association also gave $500 to the local Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“The Christmas fund was probably the most popular response we got,” Sweat said. “It’s a wonderful charity and it stays local and it helps people that are in our community.”
The Schoenbergers, of Liberty Lake, gave $1,250. “Your continued commitment to the citizens of our wonderful community makes this a better holiday season for thousands of people who might not otherwise receive a gift. Thank you,” they wrote.
NAI Black, of Spokane, donated $1,000. “We’re having a good year and we figured we ought to share that with some of the children of the community. Not only children, but some of the needier people,” said Thomas Hix, senior vice president.
Upper Falls Condominium Association, in Spokane, gave $970.70 via PayPal.
Roger and Kathleen Chase, of Spokane, gave $750.
The Assistants, of Spokane, sent $500. “We have usually made a larger donation, but our fundraising activities and other donations were not as large this past year,” they wrote. “Our organization continues to help with other projects and organizations throughout the Spokane community by donating our time and energy in addition to our monetary support. We thank you for your continued efforts within the Spokane community.”
An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $500.
Margot Fitzgerald, of Spokane, gave $200.
Michael and Kathy Eaton, of Spokane, sent $150.
Donna Roloff, of Spokane, gave $125.
Two anonymous donors, one from Spokane and one from Tekoa, each donated $100.
Mr. and Mrs. Cowdery, of Spokane, gave $100, as did Debbie Reinbold, also of Spokane.
Thomas Caswell, of Spokane, contributed $50.
Margaret Dingle, of Spokane, gave $50. She wrote, “Please use this for toys, food or where it is most needed.”
Two anonymous donors from Spokane each gave $25.
Helen Watson, of Spokane, gave $20. She wrote, “My angels helped me so much last Christmastime! Hope it helps someone have a nice Christmas.”