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Couples find enjoyment in Christmas Bureau volunteering

Marylu and Emmett Arndt are volunteers at the Christmas Bureau, where they work together in the toy bagging area. (Dan Pelle)
Marylu and Emmett Arndt are volunteers at the Christmas Bureau, where they work together in the toy bagging area. (Dan Pelle)

When parents leave the Christmas Bureau they look a little like Santa, carrying toys and books home in big bags.

That makes volunteers Marylu and Emmett Arndt a little like Santa’s elves. The couple volunteers together in the toy bagging area.

”We really have the pleasure of meeting the folks with their gifts as they’ve finished and we put their things into a bag so they can carry them out,” Emmett Arndt said. “The folks that we meet and talk with are all very grateful and you can just see how they’ve seen the joy the kids will experience when they open up their presents on Christmas.”

The Christmas Bureau, organized by Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review and funded by donations, brings holiday cheer to less fortunate families in the community by distributing food vouchers, books and toys.

It takes an army of elves like the Arndts to run the charity, almost 400. Among them are couples who, like the Arndts, chose to volunteer together.

Linda and Ken Leyde, for example, began volunteering upon retirement.

“We enjoy seeing the people and doing something for the community,” Linda Leyde said. “It’s really nice to see all the people coming through and being helped, seeing the smiles on their faces. It makes us feel good. It’s time to give back.”

Jay Walter and his wife, Kay, decided to volunteer several years ago when Carol Speltz was coordinating the event. “Her husband, Karl, cornered me and said, ‘You need to do this,’ ” recalled Jay with a laugh. “I said to Kay, ‘If I have to do it, you have to do it.’ ”

“We decided to do it together,” Kay corrected, adding that they enjoy volunteering together. “We’ve been married 43 years and we do a lot together,” she said.

Jay added, “We like each other. Actually, we’re best friends.”

Helping at the bureau, said Jay Walter, “makes one appreciate which side of the table they’re on. To be on the volunteer side, you’re very grateful for what you have. On the recipient side you’re there because you’re in dire circumstances … It makes you realize how thankful we should be when we aren’t in difficult times.”

Volunteers, like these three couples, are one way the charity keeps costs low, so almost all money raised buys toys, books and food vouchers for needy recipients.

“Thanks to our many volunteers we’re able to keep costs down to an almost nonexistent percent. Four percent is unheard of in the nonprofit world,” said Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities. “At Catholic Charities, if we can get 10 to 15 percent we’re very happy.”

New donations

John and Kristi Blake, of Spokane, gave $2,500.

Rex and Susan Fuller, of Spokane, donated $750.

Morris D. Wolff, of Spokane, gave $500.

Stephen Scott, of Spokane, donated $250. “Surely, the SR Christmas Bureau is one of everyone’s favorite traditions. Thanks for running it,” he wrote.

Gregory and Alice Prekeges, of Spokane, sent $250.

Phillip B.C. Jones and Christina Marino, of Spokane, gave $200. They wrote, “Thank you for caring for our community.”

Burma and Richard S. Williams, of Spokane, gave $200 with a note: “Thank you for your continuing good work to make Christmas brighter for those less fortunate in our community.”

Frances Waddell, of Spokane, and an anonymous donor each gave $200.

Virginia Jacobson, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $150 in honor of Adam Lindeblad.

An anonymous donor, of Spokane, gave $150, writing, “I am grateful we are able to provide Christmas for our family. I am grateful for your service for those who are unable to do so. God bless you.”

A retired newspaper employee donated $145.

Chris and Kris Mikkelson, of Spokane, Judy Madden and Soroptimist International of Spokane each gave $100.

Linda Cannon, of Spokane, also gave $100, writing, “Wishing you a Christmas filled with peace and joy and many blessings throughout 2012.”

Deborah Walter, of Spokane, gave $100 and wrote, “As always, thanks for all that you do to make Christmas nice for so many.”

David and Karen Trejbal, of Rockford, Diana Flory, of Otis Orchards, and an anonymous donor, of Greenacres, gave $100.

Also donating $100 were Nelson Jalufka, Pamela Comstock, Dolores Ryan and Roger Palmberg, all of Spokane.

Chattaroy residents Linda and Thomas Dunham gave $100.

Jan and Gary Carrington, Ralph and Joyce Prouty, Mel and Gloria McCuddin, and Ryan and Gwen Taylor, all of Spokane, also gave $100.

Marjorie Peterson, Loyce Lewis and Doris Matsch, all of Spokane, each gave $50, as did Connie Vetter and Jerry and Jill Skogstad.

Ray, Liz and Kiley Schatz, of Spokane, gave $49 in memory of Karen Schatz Dunning, who would have turned 49 this year. “Each year since we have remembered her and honored her through our giving to the Christmas fund,” they wrote. “Thank you for continuing to support this community effort to bring a little bit of comfort to so many of our fellow citizens.”

An anonymous donor gave $48.

Patricia and Clinton Degenhart, of Spokane, donated $40.

Tracy Howe, of Spokane, gave $30.

Bill and Dianne Kersey and Victor and Evelyn Buksbazen, all of Spokane, gave $25. “I’m happy to try to make others happy with my small contribution,” Victor wrote. Fran and Dale Mitchell, of Rathdrum, also gave $25.

Leah Brockway donated $23.97 via PayPal.

Tom and Jessie Latimer, of Spokane, gave $20. Joyce Patton, also of Spokane, gave $20 in memory of Larry Dean Hutcheson.

A donor named Sharon sent $3 cash in a card, writing, “wishing you joy and love.”