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Bureau helps promote reading

Sun., Nov. 25, 2012

Donations make it possible to give book to every child

Books have the power to entertain, educate and enrich lives. Like a vehicle, they transport the reader to another place or time, making current cares fade to the background. They’re magic.

They’re also great Christmas gifts.

That’s why, in addition to one toy per child and a food voucher for each needy family that comes to the Christmas Bureau, the charity gives one book to each child age 14 or younger.

The Christmas Bureau is a philanthropic partnership among The Spokesman-Review, Volunteers of America and Catholic Charities. It’s funded by donations from local businesses and individuals who want to make Christmas a bit brighter for those less fortunate.

This year the charity aims to raise $525,000 by Christmas so about 35,000 people in need can experience the spirit of Christmas.

Along with generous donors from our community, the Christmas Bureau has several sponsors who help keep costs low with in-kind donations and specific grants. Fred Meyer, for example, has donated $25,000 for the second year to help underwrite the book room.

“It’s fantastic that Fred Meyer believes in the importance of reading,” said Marilee Roloff, executive director of Volunteers of America. “I can’t tell you why reading is important. It just is,” she said.

Fred Meyer employees and check-stand collection boxes fund the company’s donation, said Fred Meyer spokeswoman Melinda Merrill. The Christmas Bureau, she said, is a good fit for the company’s giving strategy.

“We focus on youth development,” she said. “We enjoy finding nonprofit partners that focus on reading and education because reading is a key part of development and success.”

In 2011, Christmas Bureau organizers approached Fred Meyer about sponsoring the charity when they realized more than half of the grocery vouchers distributed at the bureau were redeemed in Fred Meyer stores.

“It’s an event and organization that’s important for our customers,” Merrill said. “This was a wonderful place to put our donation dollars.”

Donations like Fred Meyer’s help the Christmas Bureau defray costs so that the charity can make Christmas a happy occasion for as many families as possible, organizers say. To that end, the bureau continues to seek cash and in-kind donations to help offset organizational and overhead costs. Because they offset specific costs, such targeted donations are not counted toward the community’s $525,000 fundraising goal.

In addition to the Fred Meyer funds, this year the book room is receiving a boost from a $1,500 Build-A-Bear Workshop grant, funded through sales of Read Teddy and received shortly after the bureau closed last year.

Build-a-Bear Workshop looks to “provide direct support for children in literacy and education programs such as summer reading programs, early childhood education programs and literacy programs for children with special needs,” according to the company.

The Fred Meyer and Build-a-Bear Workshop funds helped purchase the more than 16,000 books that will stock the book room at the bureau between Dec. 12 and 21.

“It matters, especially with low-income children who can’t afford to buy books for their homes,” Roloff said. “When mom and dad have money to buy them something, they don’t buy a book.”

When the bureau receives grants, she said, it “means that we can go on giving books no matter what. It’s incredibly important that we encourage reading in our families.”

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