Today the Christmas Bureau opens, kicking off a nine-day event that epitomizes the Christmas sentiment of “good will to men.”
Needy families can come to the bureau, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, to pick out a quality toy and a book for each of their children. In addition, each household receives a grocery store voucher of $15 to $30, depending on household size.
Coordinated by Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, the charity is an opportunity for people in the Inland Northwest to take care of their less-fortunate neighbors. The community has supported this event for 67 years.
“For a city the size of Spokane to serve 35,000 people in nine days is virtually unheard of,” said Rob McCann, Catholic Charities executive director. “That’s a big-city program.”
From Thanksgiving through Christmas, Spokesman-Review readers donate so struggling families can put a nice present under the tree for each of their children, and buy a few fixings so they have something special to eat, whether it’s a holiday ham or a batch of fudge.
These may seem like simple things, but they’re beyond the budget of thousands who have difficulty paying for rent, heat and grocery staples. The average monthly household income of Christmas Bureau recipients in 2011 was $1,041.59.
“We’re seeing so many families that wouldn’t have considered the bureau in the past,” said Ann Marie Byrd, Catholic Charities development director. “For most of these families it means the difference between being able to celebrate Christmas morning.”
The Christmas Bureau, she said, “gives families and children peace of mind and hope that there are individuals who care about them in their time of need, and they hope they can be on the other side of the table and the check someday.”
To finance such an endeavor, the charity relies on donations of all sizes from individuals, families, groups and businesses.
“Whether they’re giving $10 or $10,000, they’re helping a Christmas miracle to happen,” McCann said. “No gift is too small. Everything counts. Donors should feel good about themselves and our community.”
This year’s fundraising goal is $525,000, with about 35 percent of that raised to date. About 96 percent of the money raised goes directly toward toys, books and food vouchers. The rest covers overhead expenses, which are small thanks to almost 400 volunteers who donate their time, energy and enthusiasm to make the bureau a festive, efficient testament to Spokane’s “good will to men.”
The bureau has a few changes this year, mostly to combat increasing costs:
Food vouchers are smaller than last year: $15 for a one-person household, $20 for two people, $25 for three and $30 for households with four or more. Previously vouchers ranged from $18 to $40.
The bureau is not providing food vouchers to shut-ins, but Catholic Charities is exploring other ways home-bound individuals can receive holiday help.
The bureau is open nine days, rather than 10 as it has been in the recent past.
Third-party vendors, solicitors or other organizations are not allowed at the bureau, in the parking lot or in the recipient lines. This isn’t a new policy, but it will be enforced by security.
Cochrane & Co. and its employees donated $7,500. “We are a family-owned organization based in Spokane that is blessed to be able to make this annual donation to this worthy cause,” wrote Veronica Stevens, an employee.
Avista Corp. also donated $7,500. “Each year during the holidays, we come together as a community to make sure that families can celebrate with the warmth and joy of food and gifts,” wrote CEO Scott Morris. “We are all fortunate to live in a region that cares for families, children and our more vulnerable neighbors who are in need of a helping hand.”
Thomas Kasson, of Spokane, gave $2,000.
JMA Commercial Real Estate, of Spokane, gave $1,500. “During this holiday season, in lieu of giving gifts to our clients, customers and the tenants of the buildings we manage, I am making this donation on their behalf,” wrote Jamie Traeger, owner. “I hope this donation will help others have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
Don and Donna Rockstrom, of Spokane, gave $1,000. “We feel so blessed to be able to support our community through the wonderful efforts of the Christmas fund,” they wrote.
The Spokesman-Review Freebie Sale contributed $972.15.
An anonymous donor gave $509.
Jack and Patricia Russell, of Spokane, gave $500. “Thank you for the good your volunteers do for the community! We have been blessed and wish to share – ‘it is in giving that we receive’ – Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $500 in memory of family and Christmases past.
Spokane Production Service Inc. gave $500, as did an anonymous Spokane Valley donor and Steve and Karen Darling, who wrote “Christmas is our favorite time of year! Thank you for making sure everyone in Spokane feels the joy of the season and knows they are not forgotten!”
Keith Kadel donated $485.20, as did Diane and Ronald Kaufman. “This gift, given on behalf of my wife Diane and myself, is in response to God’s many blessings,” Ronald Kaufman wrote. “Thank you to the Christmas Bureau’s commitment to our area’s disadvantaged and Merry Christmas!”
The Association of Retired Avista Employees gave $463.
Gust Abariotes, of Spokane Valley, gave $400.
Karen and David Crouse, of Hauser, gave $300.
William and Nancy Henry, of Spokane, gave $300 in memory of their parents, Bo and Mary Henry and Robert and Marian Heglar.
Kenneth Vorhees, of Spokane, gave $300. “The Vorhees family has much to be thankful of this year and pray that all members of our community are equally blessed this Christmas season.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $300, as did an anonymous Spokane Valley donor, writing, “I have been giving since 1953. Keep up the wonderful good work.”
Steve and Barbara Stoyanac, of Mead, gave $250.
Spokane donors giving $250 were Sidney Nicholson, Hugh Lackie, Paulette and Jerry Firor, and two anonymous donors.
An anonymous Spokane Valley donor also gave $250, as did Caldwell Concrete, of Veradale, in memory of Dr. Abrams and Craig Caldwell. “The tradition of this great charity is truly the bright spot in our holiday,” they wrote.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $210.
Patrick and Daryl Kleweno, of Endicott, gave $200.
Bob and Lois Banta, of Liberty Lake, gave $200.
John and Janet Hooper and their nine great grandchildren – Bailey, Keegan, Piper Jo, Adora, Payton, Parker, John, Jake and Matt – of Liberty Lake, gave $200.
Mary and Brian Smith, of Spokane, gave $200 in memory of Denny Sulpizio and Ken Marcus. “We sincerely hope this helps brighten someone’s Christmas,” they wrote.
Spencer and Rebecca Bringhurst, of Spokane, gave $200, as did an anonymous donor and Susan Mincey.
Steve and Karen Heaps, of Spokane Valley, gave $200.
Colleen Gamroth gave $193.90 in memory of Pat and Judy Ryan.
John and Alexis Chasse, of Spokane, gave $150, as did Marcia and Tom O’Leary.
Erlene Manning, of Spokane, gave $125.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $120.
Elmo and Mariam Bartlett, of Cheney, gave $100 in honor of their grandchildren.
An anonymous Deer Meadows donor gave $100.
Darla Malone, of Hayden, gave $100 in honor of her parents, Richard and Maxine Malone.
Blaine Krebs, of Mead, gave $100, as did Jerry and Lucy Cesaratto, of Nine Mile Falls.
Gwen Horvath, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $100 in memory of W.S. Horvath.
Corinne Hirst, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “I am lucky to have my wonderful family. This is a little to help someone else.”
Other Spokane donors giving $100 include Sharon Grimmer, Bruce and Frances Rogers, Mel Griffith, Dick and Marnie Wands, Hope and Gary Roszell, Del and Donna Topoll, Eddie and Sharon Cassens, Freida Johnson, Fred and Gayle Fox, Suzanne Grainger, Charles and Caroline Johnson, Karen and Richard Steele, Jack and Sharon Sutton, five anonymous donors and Verna Winton, in memory of her husband Marvin Winton. “In life, he was a supporter of and a volunteer at the Christmas Bureau. Merry Christmas to all those who carry on this effort,” she wrote.
Phyllis Robison, of Spokane, also gave $100, writing, “Every year I fear you won’t make your goal. But, sure enough, at the last minute a very generous business or corporation and caring individuals put the fund over the top. Best wishes.”
Glenna Bayne, Spokane Valley, gave $100 in memory of Brian Bayne.
Nancy Stone, of Spokane Valley, gave $100, as did Tom and Ruth Conklin, writing, “Best wishes to all the volunteers who make the Christmas bright!”
Tom and Sue Eastman, of Spokane Valley, gave $100 in honor of “our beautiful grandchildren.”
Gatlin Carter, of Spokane Valley, also gave $100.
Michael Pearson gave $96.80, as did Janet Monaco.
Marcia and Leonard Parks, of Spokane, gave $75.
Anne Franke gave $75.
The Onion Creek School Board and Administration, of Colville, gave $50, as did Andy and Sally James.
Rob and Barbara Bly, of Newman Lake, gave $50.
Spokane donors giving $50 include Erlinda Fry, Lynn Wells, Barry Newberry, John and Natalie DuPree and Jo Campbell, Jean and Kurt Flechel, Phil Schumaker, Karol Kaye, South Hill Jewelers, Cyrus McLean, Candace Murray, and John and Mary Benham, who wrote, “sharing with the MaLones in San Antonio, SF, and LA.”
Rovella Vawter, of Spokane, gave $50, writing, “I really appreciate the work of many volunteers for the needy.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $50 “to help struggling families have a blessed Christmas.”
Mary Peer, of Spokane, gave $50 in memory of her husband Denny Peer.
Kevin and Catherine James gave $48.25 “In honor of Grandma and Grandpa Hunt who refuse Christmas gifts for themselves.”
John Myers gave $48.25.
Lawrence Main, of Spokane, gave $40, writing, “We live in a city which is good about helping the less fortunate.”
Jill Beth, of Veradale, gave $40.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $30.
Spokane donors giving $25 include Margaret Swanson, WG Phipps, James and Arty Scott, Betty and Max Saxton, and an anonymous donor.
Marjorie Sporn and an anonymous donor, of Spokane Valley, each gave $25.
Helen Macgregor and Jean Osterberg each gave $20, as did Myra Horton, of Lind.
Two anonymous Spokane donors gave $11 and $10.
Evelyn Stewart, of Spokane, also gave $10.