Bishop Blase Cupich of the Spokane Catholic Diocese toured the Christmas Bureau Wednesday, the first day of the annual holiday charity’s nine-day run.
“What gets me,” said Cupich, gesturing at the line of people snaking out of the building and into the morning drizzle, “is that, in an age of immediacy, these people are enormously patient and grateful. It humbles us … and it shows they love their kids.”
Melonie Myers stood in line for about two and a half hours so she could pick out a book and toy for each of her three children, ages 1, 4 and 6. She also received a $30 grocery voucher.
She was one of the 6,078 people served at the Christmas Bureau on Wednesday.
The bureau, a philanthropic partnership of Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, provides toys, books and food vouchers to families in need. It’s staffed by about 400 volunteers and funded by reader donations so about 35,000 adults and children can have a happy holiday.
“I feel completely grateful because without their support I would have barely anything for Christmas,” Myers said.
The bureau wasn’t something she ever thought she’d need. But this summer, Myers’ 4-year-old daughter experienced a trauma that upended their lives.
“There was no way I could continue working,” said Myers, describing how she spends more than 20 hours each week getting her daughter the help she needs, with visits to doctors, lawyers, counselors and therapists.
“That takes so much time and energy and effort. I’ve been pouring my life out for my daughter right now,” she said, adding that she’ll return to work after her daughter completes trauma counseling and no longer needs such focused time and attention.
Until then, they’re scraping by on an income that plummeted by 70 percent. The family quickly drained savings “just paying bills,” with nothing left to buy winter clothes or Christmas presents, Myers said.
Myers’ family represents the reason the bureau exists, because she lives in a community that wants to make her Christmas better.
The bureau, Cupich said, “shows the folks who are in need that our city really does care. People really care about them, so it gives everybody hope.”
At the bureau Myers said she was warmly welcomed and she found toys each of her children would enjoy opening on Christmas morning, after sleeping under the tree the way Myers did as a child.
She’ll wrap the presents and wait until the children are asleep to sneak the gifts under the tree, knowing they’ll probably rise before the sun. It’s a happy anticipation.
“This has made our Christmas. I’m able to see their faces light up when they get something they’ve asked for,” Myers said. “I don’t think words can express. I’m extremely grateful.”
Cupich said helping people like Myers through the Christmas Bureau does more for the donors and volunteers than it does for the recipients. “It’s good for us to see them. They add so much to us,” he said. “There are smiles on their faces. It’s a time of great joy and thanks. They’re reminding us what Christmas is about.”
Justus Bag Co., of Spokane Valley, gave $7,500 in memory of the company’s founder, Roland “Curly” Justus. “The entire staff at Justus Bag Company is pleased to, once again, contribute,” they wrote. “We are aware of the fact that there is even a greater need this year and we are hopeful every need will be fulfilled and families will be able to enjoy the holiday season.”
Barratt Leasing Inc., of Spokane, gave $5,000. “We are pleased to be able to participate in this wonderful community service and applaud the efforts of all the amazing volunteers who give so much of themselves to help others during this Christmas season,” they wrote.
The Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund donated $3,000.
John Baumhofer, of Spokane, gave $750, continuing a tradition in memory of his mother.
Georgene Patten, of Spokane, gave $640, saying it was her family’s wish to honor her husband, Les Patten, as well as his longtime tennis partner, Mick Soss.
Tim and Jackie Randall, of Cheney, gave $500, as did Harold and Sharon Cathcart, of Colbert, and Alison and Linda Ashlock, of Liberty Lake.
Spokane donors giving $500 were Sean and Gretchen LaSalle, Jean and Douglas Edwards, and an anonymous donor.
Peter and Gay Witherspoon, of Spokane, gave $400.
An anonymous Chattaroy donor gave $315.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $300.
Dr. Richard Steury, of Liberty Lake, gave $250.
Harrt Fuhs, of Spokane, gave $250.
Ken and Vicky Moland, of Valleyford, gave $250 in loving memory of their son-in-law, Tri Tran.
Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Smith Rivard, of Spokane, gave $200 in memory of Mavis Procter and Dee Sparrow.
Other Spokane donors giving $200 were Barbara and Roger Tompkins, Bill and Dorene Reynolds, and three anonymous donors.
Ruth and Harold Bates, of Veradale, donated $200.
Colleen Birchill, of Spokane, gave $150.
Fitzgerald Realtors and Pampered Pets, of Spokane, gave $150. “We at Fitzgerald Realtors and Pampered Pets on behalf of our customers would like to thank the fund for their commitment to making the holidays a more festive time for all in the Spokane community,” wrote Neil Fitzgerald and Debbie Klassen.
Ron and Naomi Franklin gave $130.
Delores and Merle Gilmore gave $125.
Donald and Tina Daw, of Chattaroy, gave $100, as did Robert and Donna Syron, and George and Kathy Bombel, both of Clayton, Wash.
Sandi King-Hunt, of Medical Lake, gave $100 in loving memory of her husband, Randy Hunt.
Tom and Bette Gates, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “We know there is a great need at this time of year. We are certain you will put this gift to help the many less fortunate families around the area.”
John and Marcia Magnuson, of Spokane, gave $100 in honor of their parents, Mrs. Bernice Kienholz and Dr. Richard F. Miller.
Cleve and Brit Pemberthy, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of Adeline Pemberthy and Ingebrigt Eidsmo.
D.J. and Karen Merritt, of Spokane, gave $100 to help a family have a better Christmas.
Other Spokane donors giving $100 include The Dance Center of Spokane, Michael and Konni Dietz, Richard and Christy Pospahala, Dave and JoAnn Schwartz, Teri Hansen, Robert Breidenbach, William Bell, Jerry and Helen Gillory, Don and Vicki Gorder, Maxine and David Breshears, Gary and Andrea Gunning, Ray and Klea Copeland, Dean and Mary Duncan, two anonymous donors, and Eva and Robert Keith Akers, who wrote, “wishing a merry Christmas for the little ones, who Christmas means so much.”
Jackie Howerton, of Spokane Valley, gave $100 “in memory of Ray Howerton our beloved ‘Papa, Dad, and my husband.’ This was one of his favorite charities. We are always glad to help every year.”
Mary Ann Gilpin Gordon, of Sun City, Ariz., gave $100 “in loving memory of our parents – Dorothy Gordon and H.W. ‘Gil’ and Eva Gilpin.”
Elise and George Bozzo, of Veradale, gave $80.
Joan Pribnow, of Spokane, gave $75.
Mary Ann and Bush and N. Joseph, of Spokane, gave $60.
Cherie and Doug Foss gave $55.
Nancy Hood, of Greenacres, gave $50, writing, “thanks for spreading joy in our community.”
Bill, Karen and Spencer Morse, of Spokane, gave $50 in loving memory of Kazbria Morse.
Other Spokane donors giving $50 were John Kent and Jacqueline Richardson, Heather and Harold Vanderpool, Wileva Doman, Martin and Margie Phillips, Northwest Treasure Hunters Club, Greg and Jeanne King, Shirley Birchak, and three anonymous donors.
Barbara Johnson, of Spokane Valley, gave $50 in memory of Ron Clark.
Jerry Hubbard gave $48.25.
John and Bush Field gave $40.
Mary Sherrill, of Liberty Lake, gave $30 in honor of her dad’s 87th birthday, writing, “Thank you for your assistance in helping those who are less fortunate!”
Spokane donors giving $25 were Mr. and Mrs. Walter Deil, Gail Kiser, Cynthia Dusek, an anonymous donor, and Stephanie Zoldak and Alex and Ethan Luce, who gave in memory of Terry H. Tate, “a man of singular courage and caring, a gentleman and a gentle man.”
Rick Lawson gave $23.97.
Don and Kelli Jay, of Spokane, gave $20, as did an anonymous donor.