After a week of fundraising, the Christmas Bureau is a long way from the $525,000 needed to make a merry Christmas for almost 35,000 needy people in Spokane. The charity has raised less than $60,000 so far this season.
Since 1945, individuals, families, businesses and social groups have donated to ensure the bureau can continue giving holiday hope to Spokane’s less fortunate by providing toys, children’s books and $15 to $30 food vouchers.
Last year it served more than 32,000 people, 16,124 of them children. A similar number are expected this year between Dec. 11-20.
“We depend on donations. Our hope is that the community will continue to support the Christmas Bureau as it has for so many years. There’s an ongoing need,” said Christmas Bureau coordinator Judy Lee.
“I’m so aware of how much this program means to the people that access it,” she added. “I get to talk to them on the phone ahead of time, hear their fears, then see them at the bureau and know how much it means to them. Everybody who donates is really making a difference in the lives of other people in the community.”
To stretch those donation dollars and serve as many people as possible, the charity relies on about 400 volunteers as well as corporate sponsors who help keep overhead costs low so 96 percent of the money raised pays for the toys, books and food vouchers that will be given to needy families.
Bunzl, Safeway, Sterling Bank, Justus Bag and KSPS Public Television, for example, all donate plastic bags to bag the books and toys, and Earthworks Recycling picks up all the cardboard left over after thousands of toys are unpacked.
“It helps us tremendously,” said Lee. “If we had to pay for all these additional items that would take money away from what we use for books and toys. I love the fact that it makes it more of a community program. Having more people involved helps increase the community spirit of the event.”
This year the bureau still hopes to find one or more companies to provide candy for the many low-income adults who come for the $15 to $30 food voucher, as well as a little candy for each family that comes through.
Last year they bought more than $600 in small candy canes but ran out by the fifth day. In previous years large candy canes were given out, but the cost became too high. Lee estimated they spent about $6,000.
“We’d like to be able to give a little bit of candy,” she said. “It goes with the holiday spirit. But it became a cost issue for us and we needed the money to go to the books and toys. We’d very much love to have a candy sponsor.”
In addition to the organizations that supply bags and recycling, the following businesses have made in-kind donations to the Christmas Bureau this year.
Dave McGann and Jerry Pederson’s Spokane Valley Arby’s restaurant donates daily lunch for the volunteers during the bureau’s nine-day run at the fairgrounds, 100 each day.
The House of Charity provides homemade soup for the volunteers, and Donut Parade supplies doughnuts each day.
Mike Kight with Pizza Pipeline provides discounted pizza for the volunteer orientation.
Costco in Spokane Valley provides flatbed carts to move toys.
Cravens Coffee and URM supply coffee and cups so volunteers and recipients have hot coffee.
McDonald’s, at 9305 N. Newport Highway, donates a water container and paper cups for recipients.
Jim Custer Enterprises sets up the bureau’s layout, including rooms with red draping, the red carpet line for recipients and holiday décor. LCD Exposition Services and Senske also contribute.
The Spokane Chiefs Hockey Club and Central Valley High School’s TSA club are donating stuffed animals.
The Hoo Hoo Express Club made 800 small wooden trucks for the child care area, which children can take home, if they want.
St. Mary’s Catholic School is donating hundreds of pajamas to give as bonus gifts.
Providence Health Care employees are donating toys.
The Fred Meyer on Thor is providing wristbands for child care security.
ABC Mini Storage gave a reduced rate on year-round supply storage and donates a moving truck for setup and tear-down days.
National Storage Center on Francis donated year-round storage for supplies, equipment, toys and books.
Parsons Construction Co. is donating trucks and labor for setup and tear-down days as well as transportation between the fairgrounds and storage units.
To become a corporate sponsor or underwrite a candy purchase, contact Judy Lee, (509) 358-4254.
Gail and Roberta Keeling, of Otis Orchards, donated $750, writing, “Another Christmas Season and again so many in need. In honor of our three precious grandsons Taylor Merkley (17), Kolby Keeling (9) and Ryan Keeling (8) we send our check so others may have a very blessed Christmas.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $750.
Linda Cannon, of Spokane, gave $500, writing, “Many blessings to all.”
Greg and Ann Hougham, of Spokane, gave $500.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $500. “Thank you for all you do to help make Christmas brighter for those who are having a difficult time,” they wrote. “We are glad we can help a little because everyone needs a boost once in a while, and tough times are easier to bear when one has hope.”
The Assistants, a local women’s volunteer organization, gave $500. “We appreciate all you do for our community!” they wrote.
St. Joseph Catholic Church, of Metaline Falls, gave $300.
Kelly and Calvin Vance, and Nancy Edwards, all of Spokane, gave $300.
Tina Daw, of Chattaroy, gave $250 with a poem: “Thank you children of Spokanetown, for every smile, turned upside down frown.”
Roy and Helen Jeremiah, Stephen Scott, an anonymous donor, and Virginia Harger, all of Spokane, each gave $250. Harger wrote, “to give a helping hand to the needy families in our area. It is a wonderful service indeed. Thank you.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $200 “in loving memory of Daphne Adams, for whom the Christmas season was her favorite time of the year. She donated to the Christmas Fund for many years, and it is an honor for me to continue the tradition.”
Richard and Lucille Hallett, of Spokane, gave $165.
Two anonymous Spokane donors each gave $150. “Thank you for helping so many families in need,” one wrote.
A retired newspaper employee, of Spokane, gave $145.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $125, and an anonymous Deer Park donor sent $100.
Kenneth and Helen Evans, of Mead, gave $100, as did Deborah Walter, of Spokane, writing, “Thanks for another year of making people happy.”
Other Spokane donors giving $100 were Richard Ahlquist Jr., Melanie and Harley Reckord, Richard and Mary Schroeder, Katherine and Pat Harper and the BNSF Veterans Club.
Margie Byers, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of her parents, John L. and Marguerite Cooney.
Edward and Eileen Looker, of Spokane Valley, gave $100, as did H. Earl Davis’ family, who donated in his loving memory. “We hope this will help to make a happier Christmas for someone in need.”
Cyrus McLean, of Spokane, gave $60.
Steve, Gail and Ben Quaid, of Colbert, gave $50, as did J. Casey, also of Colbert; Steven and Nancy Kiss, of Metaline; and Charles and Sharon Preston, of Nine Mile Falls.
Spokane donors giving $50 include Linda Williamson, William Selzer, Kathy Hill, two anonymous donors, and Anna and Richard Collins.
Mr. and Mrs. David Nemitz, of Spokane Valley, gave $50, as did Shirley McKenney, of Spokane Valley, who gave in memory of her husband, Dick McKenney, and her grandson, Nic Clason. “Merry Christmas and God bless the work you do,” she wrote.
Thelma Ostby, of Chattaroy, gave $40.
Dalton and Karen Jassman, of Spokane, gave $30.
An anonymous Liberty Lake donor gave $25, as did Joanne Bouma and Dorene Baile, both of Spokane. “Not much but hope it will help someone,” wrote Baile.
Robert Potts, of Spokane, gave $20.