As Stephanie Graham waited in the ID verification line at the Christmas Bureau on Wednesday, she swayed and tapped her fingers in time to the music, an arrangement of “I’ve Got Sunshine,” as the line of recipients sang along. Jimi Finn, who plays and sings at Gibliano Brothers, was the volunteer entertainment act for the morning.
“I love it,” said Graham. “The atmosphere is sweet. It’s calm. Nobody’s rushing to get ahead. That’s the first thing you see and the first thing you hear … This is a blessing from God.”
Throughout the Christmas Bureau’s nine-day run, a host of volunteer entertainers come to provide festive ambiance for the families who wait in line to receive a toy and book for each child and a $15 to $30 food voucher for Christmas dinner.
The charity, which has served 27,246 people this year, is funded by reader donations. Organizers hope to raise $525,000 by Christmas to pay for the gifts.
“The entertainment adds another level of festive feeling for everybody,” said bureau co-chair Christy Folkins. “Once they’ve been here, they always want to come back. We all know it could be us standing there and be the person in need.”
Finn said he had so much fun playing for the Christmas Bureau recipients the first day, he signed up to perform several more days, playing popular tunes like “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Piano Man.”
What surprised him, he said, was when the listeners gave him tips, which he donated back to the bureau. So far he’s received $14.
“It amazes me that somebody would give me a dollar. They don’t have much money to spare,” he said. “It says that music does something for them. It touches their heart.”
The entertainment covered a range of acts, from Finn’s classic rock style to school musical groups like the St. Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic School choir to the contagious movement of the Blazen Divaz dance troupe.
The Blazen Divaz performed the stage version of their toy wooden soldier parade routine as well as a Christmas version of the Macarena and other routines.
“It’s the most impressionable event that we do,” said Julia Parmann, describing how some of the children danced along.
“It’s unbelievable how many people out there are trying to make a nice Christmas for their children,” she said. “There are so many people standing in line. If we can touch one person and bring joy and a smile to one person it makes our whole year.”
On Tuesday, the St. Aloysius choir of seventh- and eighth-grade students sang a combination of carols and performance pieces.
“We ended our season this way, going out to a place where people really need the Christmas cheer,” said director and Assistant Principal Andi Kane. “I think it was really eye-opening for a lot of them. I think it’s important for them to go into Christmas realizing there is so much that goes on in the community outside of their own homes and own school.”
Jensen Distribution Services employees and retirees, of Spokane, donated $6,186. CEO Michael Jensen wrote, “We wish for everyone a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $5,000. “As a senior citizen residing at Fairwood Retirement Center it is my pleasure to be able to again contribute to your worthy cause. Hope you reach your goal of making Christmas a happy time for all,” she wrote, adding, “Merry Christmas to all the hard-working volunteers.”
An anonymous Creston, Wash., donor gave $1,000, as did two anonymous Spokane donors.
Lauretta (Laurie) Byrd, of Spokane, gave $1,000 in loving memory of her husband, Dr. Richard Byrd, “who had tirelessly dedicated his life in helping and giving to others.”
Spokane’s “Benson on Rockwood Blvd.” gave $1,000 in an annual tradition, writing, “Joy, love and peace to all.”
Reamer Family Dentistry, of Spokane Valley, gave $970.70 in memory of Ron Clark.
Charm and Franklin Stanek, of Spokane, gave $500.
Marie and Don Davidson, of Spokane, gave $500 in memory of her husband, Don, who passed away in August. “Giving thanks for the many blessings in our lives. Thank you for the wonderful service to the community.”
Chris and Christine Ashenbrener, of Spokane, gave $400 on behalf of their grandchildren Anna and Evan Ashenbrener, “who want everyone to have a happy Christmas. We appreciate the work of Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America, The Spokesman Review and the many volunteers who help bring a bit of Christmas cheer to so many people.”
Robert and Elizabeth Lemoine, of Spokane, gave $400, as did Peter and Mary Lou Bach, who wrote, “for those in need at a time when jobs are hard to come by. What a great organization! Thank you for all that you do.”
Linda and Mark Nelson, of Spokane Valley, gave $400.
Patricia MacNeill, of Spokane Valley, gave $300 “in memory of our daughter, Mary Austin, and grandson Kevin Austin and Dr. Charles MacNeill.”
An anonymous Colbert donor gave $250 “dedicated to the many friends that have passed.”
Francis Goodman and Patricia Ahern Goodman, of Spokane, gave $250, as did an anonymous donor and Denise Fox, who gave in memory of “my wonderful husband Gary Fox.”
Providence Sacred Heart / Gonzaga University Master of Anesthesiology Education Program also gave $250.
Robert Bauerle, of Colbert, gave $200, as did Colleen and Gregory Stevens, of Spokane, and two anonymous Spokane donors.
Steve and Gerri Elixman, of Spokane, gave $193.90. “Thank you for helping those in need in our community at this very special time of year. God Bless.”
An anonymous Lacrosse, Wash., donor gave $150, as did Connie and Scott Brunell, of Spangle.
Don and Mariann Heinemann, of Spokane, gave $150, as did Karen and Christopher Sherfey.
Don and Linda Falkner, of Spokane, gave $145.35.
John and Sherry Gaiser, of Spokane, gave $110.
An anonymous Colbert donor gave $100, writing, “Thank you for everything you do!”
Gene Carpenter, of Mead, gave $100, as did Vicki and Craig Popp, of Nine Mile Falls. They wrote “We believe in all the good that your fund provides, especially for the children.”
Leo and Geraldine Walsh, of Otis Orchards, gave $100 in memory of her mom, Mary and El. “There was a time when my husband was laid off, our son was only 6. If not for Catholic Charities and organizations such as this, our Christmas would have been very bleak!” she wrote. “Thank you for filling this unfortunate need!”
Helen Marksbury, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of Bob.
Donna and Buell Hollister, of Spokane, gave $100. “We send this small token of support with deep concern that we have incredible wealth in this country in the face of so much dismaying poverty. Surely, as a society, we can do something about this condition.”
James and Lisa Northcott, of Spokane, gave $100 “in memory of our son Andrew.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100, as did Lynn Olson, who gave “to help for a merry Christmas.”
Other Spokane donors giving $100 were Pat Martin, Richard and Sherrill Dietz, Mary Jane and Dave Broom, Kirk and Angela Rowbotham, Gary and Amanda Livingston, Kim and Jack Morse, and Lenore Adams, who wrote, “God bless our city.”
Spokane Valley donors giving $100 were Dorothy Hart, Robert Oberst, and Ronald Bruce.
George and Hilma Bloomsburg, of Worley, gave $100.
Arthur Fry, of Airway Heights, gave $96.80.
Charles Horgan, of Spokane, gave $96.80.
Ralph and Geraldine Reifenberger, of Fairfield, gave $75, as did the Central Valley High School Technology Student Association.
Eleanor Lathem and Joan Schwab, of Spokane, gave $75, as did Lois and Paul Christensen.
St. Mary’s Pinochle Group gave $75.
Mike and Christine Carbery, of Spokane, gave $70.
Mike and Vic Roberts, of Kennewick, gave $60 in the name of Grandma Bonnie Roberts, who lives in Spokane.
An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $60.
Mike and Jan Martin, of Medical Lake, gave $53.10. “As we grieve for the children who died in Connecticut, we feel blessed to be able to help local children have a Merry Christmas with this small donation,” they wrote.
An anonymous Newman Lake donor gave $50, writing. “Thank you for organizing this wonderful project!”
Janet Lane, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $50 in honor of Bob Griffin.
Spokane donors giving $50 were Robert and Susan Anselmo, Joel and Joan Rogers, Gregory and Susan Rambo, Cindi and Raland John, Sid and Catherine Johnson, and Bruce and Marge Kerwin, who gave in the name of Donald Steady.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Colbert, of Spokane Valley, gave $50, as did Diana and Robert Elder.
Julie Lehman, of Spokane Valley, gave $50 in honor of Colleen Stevens.
Gratia Hasness, of Spokane, gave $48.25 in honor of Terry and Paul Giordanella.
Sue Watson Persyn, of Priest River, gave $41 in memory of Auzzie Watson, “who would have been 41 this year (died age 4). He was a generous child and surely he would be sharing with others still.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $40 in honor of Kathy Hicks, principal of All Saints Catholic School.
Terry and Margie Bonk, of Medical Lake, gave $30 in memory of George Salo.
Irvin and Shirley Scheller, of Spokane, gave $30, as did Shirley Keller.
Spokane donors giving $25 were Gary and Jan Hugueni, Rodney Michalson, Arnold and Joyce Thompson, Preston and Carolyn Smith, Christine Bieker and Theodore Stetzik, “Betty Riekers and friend,” and Ann Carey and Patty Rable, who donated for the 15th year in memory of their dad, Ken Rabel.
Shirley Schrawyer, of Sequim, Wash., gave $23.97. “For the little children of the Spokane area, in memory of my precious, always remembered, young son, Erik Jon Wells,” she wrote
Anne Marie Hamilton, of Coeur d’Alene, gave $20, as did Rosemarie Lehmkuhl, of Spokane, and an anonymous Spokane Valley donor.
Barbara DiAdamo, of Moscow, gave $19.12.
Jimi Finn donated the $14 he received in tips while he played the piano and sang at the Christmas Bureau.
An anonymous donor gave $5.