Last Monday, when Michelle Whisman and her husband ran into the house for a few minutes, they didn’t expect to return to their vehicle and find all their Christmas presents gone.
“We went Christmas shopping and we had everything in our truck,” she said, describing how the gifts were in the back seat and they’d just put their snow tires in the truck bed. They were planning to head to the tire shop next.
In the span of a few minutes, someone stole the tires, her son’s bicycle, and all the Christmas presents they’d purchased for their children.
“Someone pulled into the business next to our house and came through the bushes,” she said. “We were only in the house a minute. We didn’t expect that.”
While reporting the theft to the Spokane Valley Police Department, Whisman said the officer gave her a great suggestion.
“They knew how devastated we were and they gave us info about the Christmas Bureau,” she said, adding that her kids already expected a tight Christmas, knowing she had medical expenses from several surgeries this summer.
Until the officer suggested the bureau, which distributes toys, books and food vouchers to struggling families, the family planned to use utility bill money so they could buy each child a present.
“That’s all we had left,” she said.
At the bureau, Whisman was able to pick out a gift for each of her children, choose a book for each one and get a $30 food voucher to help with Christmas dinner.
This is possible thanks to donations from the community, with fundraising continuing through noon Thursday. The charity is getting close to the $525,000 needed to pay for the books, toys and food vouchers distributed this year.
For Whisman’s family, who moved to Spokane this spring, the charity and its cheerful volunteers helped restore some hope this holiday.
“I’m just so happy the Christmas Bureau was there,” she said. “They make you feel like everything is going to be all right. They were so kind. To have something like that in your community is just wonderful. The people in Spokane just really need to know how lucky they are to live here.”
Austin James Joe Julia Colt Inc. Industries, of Spokane, donated $9,782.17, writing, “Merry Christmas to all and God bless everyone involved with such a worthy cause!”Maggie Randall, of Spokane, gave $5,000. “Our family lost three very special men this year: Don Dawson, Bill Symmes and Hubie Randall. These three men loved the Christmas spirit. They were all kind and giving men. In honor of them we would like to support the community that these three support in heart and soul.”
J. Stone Trust, of Spokane, gave $4,000.
Kimmel Athletic Supply, of Spokane, gave $3,000. “We are proud to be part of this communitywide display of true Christmas spirit,” they wrote. “The employees of our company are happy to contribute to this program knowing it will provide gifts and good cheer to those less fortunate at this special time of year.”
The employees of the School Support Services Center of Spokane Public Schools donated $1,477.60. “We take pride in supporting public education in Spokane on a daily basis; it is with glad hearts that we also support this very worthy and necessary endeavor within our community. Your efforts to bring a ray of happiness to others each Christmas is a tremendous opportunity for our community to come together and help our own,” wrote George Loos and Wayne Bergstresser, fundraising committee co-chairs.
Their donation was also accompanied by a “Random Act of Kindness” note in memory of Team Blaze Triathlon Club founder Scott Roy, “who believed in paying it forward and enjoying the journey.”
DIVCON Inc., of Spokane Valley, donated $1,190. “DIVCON Inc. and several of our employees want to say Merry Christmas to Spokane,” they wrote, noting employees donate to the charity of their choice with DIVCON matching those donations. LJ Anderson, Eric Badgett, Sean Drury, Scott Graves, Angela Johnson, Andrey Lopachuk, Pavel Lopachuk, Kane Mindermann, Eric Naccarato, Shaun Salazer, Ronnie Schreier, Homer Tollenaere, Eric Wenzel and Dan Wilson each contributed.
The faculty of University High School in Spokane Valley gave $1,040. “We are proud to show our spirit as Titans,” they wrote in a letter accompanying 18 checks totaling $1,040 “to share with the needy in the Spokane area.”
Ron and Georgia Lee Puryear, of Liberty Lake, gave $1,000 in memory of their son, Brian.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $500 “for the happiness of children.”
Other Spokane donors giving $500 were the Wagner family, K.G. Redlin Properties and an anonymous donor, who gave via the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.
J & J Drilling Inc., of Greenacres, gave $300, as did Eugene Young, of Spokane.
An anonymous donor gave $300, writing, “God continues to bless me with abundance in dear friends and family that love me. I would like to show my thankfulness by making this anonymous donation.”
Charles McElligott, of Spokane, gave $291.
J. Matthew Lyons, of Spokane, gave $250. “Spokane is my ‘adopted’ hometown – first brought here by God’s grace and the Air Force in 1999, and returned for good in 2007. I’m so grateful to live in such a wonderful place, and especially gratified by the way we honor and respect the military veterans among us,” he wrote. “Thank you for this chance to give and God bless all your efforts to help those in need!”
The Sanwicks, of Spokane, gave $250, writing, “what a fine tradition for the community.”
Lynn Schmidt and Alvin Schmidt, of Spokane, gave a $250 grant from their Charitable Gift Account at Schwab Charitable Fund.
Clearwater Summit Group Inc., of Spokane, gave $250. “Once again, we are happy to participate in this time honored Spokane tradition of helping our neighbors,” they wrote. “This is truly an example of the strength of our community, and all our citizens should be honored for these efforts in helping the less fortunate, not only at this Christmas season, but throughout the year.”
Ronald Sirany, of Spokane, gave $242.45.
Robert and Deborah Davis, of Greenacres, gave $200, as did an anonymous Spokane Valley donor and Gary and Leanne Brosius, of Veradale.
Arlen Ristuben, of Spokane, gave $150, as did an anonymous Spokane donor.
Kevin Hartmeier, of Cheney, gave $145.35 in memory of parents Everett & Melva Anderson & Don Hartmeier.
George and Pam Young, of Colbert, gave $100 in memory of Daniel and Adeline Young.
Paddy and Teri Inman, of Mead, gave $100. “Thank you so much for the incredible joy, comfort and relief you bring to so many in our community every year,” they wrote.
Sandra Czernik, of Medical Lake, gave $100.
Elizabeth W., of Newman Lake, gave $100. “I have wonderful grandsons and I am pleased to be able to donate this on their behalf,” she wrote.
Julie Clark, of Pullman, gave $100 in memory of her father, Poppa, who died in October. “He was always so generous in giving to his family and to those in need,” she wrote. “We were so blessed to have him. Now may others be blessed in his name.”
Jack and Luke Brown, of Spokane, gave $100. “My brother and I had a toy sale and wanted to donate the proceeds to the fund for kids who might not get presents,” they wrote.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100 in memory of Garth Mason and Lisa Portrey.
James and Susan Lee, of Spokane, gave $100.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100 “to show our thanks to all the volunteers and agencies who come together each year to make this annual Christmas event possible for the less fortunate families in our community so they too have a special Christmas.”
Other Spokane donors giving $100 were Dianne Bongarts, Lawrence and Georgina Schrock, James and Sally Geyer, Kathleen Treffry, Spokane Manito Lions Club, Mike and Robin Davis, and an anonymous donor.
Janice Lee, of Spokane Valley, gave $96.80.
Ann Shaw, of Spokane, gave $62.81.
Riverpointe Campus Library gave $55.
The Andersons, of Vancouver, Wash., gave $53.10 in honor of Madeline Kardong.
Charlotte Jelisch, of Spokane, gave $50, as did Bonnie Nelson.
Raelee Easton, of Spokane Valley, gave $50, as did Betty Wolf and Patrick and Laurie Thiel.
Kenneth Duncan, of Spokane, gave $30, as did an anonymous donor.
Kim and Sheri Barnard, of Spokane, gave $25. “We are thankful to be making our second donation of $25,” they wrote. “We look forward to seeing the bureau reach and top its goal!”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $25. “Hope this small amount will help a little. Wish I could give more,” she wrote.
Doug and Marilyn Monson, of Spokane Valley, gave $25.
Daunita Higgins gave $25.
Ron Goblick, of Colbert, gave $20, as did Michele and Alfred Ungaro, of Spokane, and an anonymous donor.
Kevin Gruetzner, of Spokane, gave $10.