Five-year-old Aidan Marin believes in Santa. His mom, Fran Marin, hopes to keep it that way.
“Believing in Santa was magical for me growing up,” she said. “Every child should wake up with a little something under the tree.”
Thanks to the Christmas Bureau, which uses reader donations to provide toys, books and food vouchers to low-income families, the Marin home will have a little of that magic this Christmas.
“It takes a lot of anxiety away from me, knowing that’s going to happen,” said Marin. “That’s why I want to give back. When I go back to work, I’m going to be one of those donors, making sure kids have a present under the tree and food on the table.”
Marin, 41, lost her job in February. Since then she’s spent every day looking for work while trying to keep the atmosphere positive at home for her husband and three kids.
“I apply for everything I can,” she said, adding that her husband works in a grocery store and is considering looking for a second job.
“Our income basically got cut in half but our bills didn’t change,” she said. “We can barely pay our bills and there’s really nothing left over. It’s just day by day but we try to keep everybody upbeat. If someone gets sad we’ll do something silly to make each other laugh.”
While Marin said her two older kids understand money is tight and have scaled back their expectations, she still wants to give them the magic of presents on Christmas morning.
“My kids are very grateful, happy with anything they get,” she said, her voice catching. “I’m really lucky. This year my oldest told me if I didn’t get him anything for Christmas it would make him happy to make sure I took care of the younger ones. … I gave him a big hug and told him I love him.”
This year, Marin said, it’s been hard to get into the Christmas spirit. On top of the financial stress of unemployment, her family is facing a second Christmas without her dad and stepmom, who both died in 2010.
“It’s been tough on the kids. They were really close,” she said. “It’s still fresh for everybody, so when the holidays hit it’s emotional for us all. … I have a hard time getting into it because I’m worrying about everything. Am I going to get a job? Am I going to be able to give the kids a Christmas? Am I going to be able to put food on the table?”
To keep those worries at bay, Marin said she’s looking hard for work while trying to focus on making good memories, like putting up Christmas decorations as a family, including the ones they inherited from her parents. It also helps, she said, that she can go to the Christmas Bureau.
“I know it’s going to put a smile on my children’s faces. I know they aren’t going to wake up to an empty Christmas tree,” she said. “It will keep my littlest one’s belief in Santa. He doesn’t have to think, ‘How come that family got Christmas presents and I didn’t?’ ”
Next year, Marin said, she’s going to call early enough to make the bureau’s volunteer list and donate if she can. “Everybody who has donated to the Christmas Bureau, and all the volunteers, I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of them,” she said. “If it wasn’t for them, things wouldn’t be as magical as they are for my kids. Hopefully next year I’ll be on the other side.”
The Delbert Spear family, of Spokane, donated $1,000. “We are thankful for our loved ones and the many blessings in our lives. It is with deep gratitude and joy that we share with others.”
An anonymous Deer Park donor gave $300 “in memory of Milton and Fay Echelbarger.”
Dan and Peggy Jeremiah, of Spokane Valley, gave $300, as did Steve and Lorrie Menuit, of Spokane.
Joe and Pam Ridlington, of Mead, gave $250. “Thank you to all the volunteers who are helping to make Christmas brighter for all,” they wrote.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $200, writing, “Thank you to all of the people and volunteers who help with this very worthwhile community cause.”
Margaret Miller, of Spokane, gave $179 in honor of her parents.
Keith and Sara Gehr, Leslie Hall, Ellen Ostheller, P.F. and N.K. Cottrell, John Dowd, James and Mary Dunn and an anonymous donor, all of Spokane, each gave $100.
Mavis Baum, of Newman Lake, gave $100.
The Wednesday Bridge Club, of Spokane, sent $100, writing, “We hope this will help make someone happy.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $50.
Thomas Pope, of Spokane, gave $50, as did Charles and Rose Carver.
Virginia Czechowski, of Spokane, gave $50 “in memory of my husband, Ted.”
Jay, Debbie, Zack and Jenna Humphrey, of Spokane, gave $40 in memory of Frank and Vera Romero.
Claudia and Rich Kroll, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $30.
Leonard and Linda Grant, of Mead, gave $25, as did Marie Holliday, of Spokane.