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Christmas Bureau gets technological

Mon., Dec. 3, 2012

Christmas Bureau volunteer Mick Soss checks computer connections on equipment that will be used to process Christmas Bureau vouchers. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Christmas Bureau volunteer Mick Soss checks computer connections on equipment that will be used to process Christmas Bureau vouchers. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Computer program keeps track of recipients, projects future needs

For anyone who’s counting, there are 22 days until Christmas, when kids everywhere will rise before the sun ready to tear into their presents.

That leaves 22 days to raise almost $480,000 so the Christmas Bureau can continue to provide toys, books and food vouchers to less fortunate families in our area.

To date, the charity has received $45,110.51 toward its $525,000 fundraising goal. That means the bureau is one-third of the way through its Christmas fundraising countdown, and less than 9 percent of the needed funds have been raised.

“We have the goal of $525,000 because that’s truly the amount of money we need in order to pay for all of the books and toys and food vouchers,” said coordinator Judy Lee, noting the bureau serves about 35,000 people. “The demand has gone up these last few years. In order to make sure they all receive something we need to meet that goal and even surpass it,” she said.

“If we don’t, we’re faced with the disappointing option of turning people away,” she continued. “We’ve never had to do that and we really hope we don’t have to do that. We hope that everyone who comes, even on the last day, can receive a voucher and book and a toy.”

The Christmas Bureau, which is run by Catholic Charities in partnership with Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, is funded entirely by donations, with almost 400 volunteers helping keep costs low and the Christmas spirit high.

Some of those volunteers have been working in advance to make sure the charity event, held Dec. 12-21 at the fairgrounds, is a success. They’ve bought and organized books and searched out the best deals on age-appropriate toys, among other tasks.

Last week, for example, volunteers spent time setting up and testing the computers, software and printers the bureau will use to process food vouchers given to each household that comes for holiday assistance.

“We put in a few minor changes to the program, and when you put in changes, then sometimes you can accidentally cause a different error to occur,” volunteer Mick Soss said. “It has to be perfect.”

The program, designed by Ben Wadden, tracks each household accessing the bureau by address, to eliminate duplication. It also tracks income and ages, so organizers can project toy and book needs for the next year.

Additionally, it helps volunteers serve thousands of recipients as quickly and efficiently as possible during the nine days the bureau is open.

“The first few days are so packed with people,” Soss said. “It makes you thankful for what you have and the blessings that you have in your life and because you can see these people in front of you represent the hardships of life … they’re in a position they don’t want to be in, but we want to make sure we’re able to provide them with something for the kids and themselves to make Christmas a little brighter.”

Michael Altringer, of Spokane, gave $1,000.

An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $1,000 on behalf of Cal and Debra McKee.

An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $500 in memory of Bob, Keith, Tena, John and Jack.

Dick and Trudy Raymond, of Spokane, gave $500 in memory of their parents, Tom and Marie Raymond and Don and Winnie Thomson. “We thank all the people who help at the Christmas Bureau to bring Christmas joy to the community, and we pray for love and peace for our nation and the world,” they wrote.

An anonymous donor from Spokane donated $200 in memory of Daphne Adams. “The Christmas season was her favorite time of year,” the donor wrote. “She donated to the Christmas Fund for many years and it is an honor for me to continue the tradition.”

Bill Molsberry gave $193.90 via PayPal.

Donald Fitzgerald, of Spokane Valley, gave $150.

Cheryl Hochreiter, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of her son Josh and her grandson Dereck. “My son was always doing things to help other people and even though my grandson was only 10 years old, he was always trying to help everyone also,” she wrote. “They both passed away this year, only three and a half months apart. It has been a very hard year for our family. This donation will hopefully help make someone else’s Christmas brighter than ours will be this year, without those two. I know this is what they would want.”

Franklin Hume, of Spokane Valley, gave $100.

Jean Rose, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $100.

Erik and Julie Ohlund, of Spokane, gave $100.

The Barry and Deborah Cross family, of Spokane, donated $100 in memory of Ryan Cross: “We are wishing all a very Merry Christmas and hope this small donation will help towards that end.”

An anonymous donor from Spokane gave $50.

Jerry and Andrea Felts, of Spokane Valley, sent $50 “in loving memory of our parents.”

Helen Hanshaw, of Spokane, gave $30.

Jean Rabe, of Spokane, sent $30. “I hope this small gift helps some others enjoy Christmas more!” she wrote.

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