December 10, 2013 in City

Volunteers warm up stocking toys for Christmas Bureau

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Rachel Fricke, 16, from Gonzaga Prep, holds a box of toys as classmates pass toys to her for stacking while volunteers set up for the Christmas Bureau at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center on Monday. Some 18,000 toys were organized.
(Full-size photo)

To donate

• By mail: Spokesman-Review Christmas Bureau, P.O. Box 516, Spokane, WA 99210

• Online: Online donations can be made with a PayPal account or credit card (a processing charge of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents will be deducted from such donations).

• In person: Deliver your donation to the guard in the lobby of the S-R offices in Spokane at 999 W. Riverside Ave. or in Coeur d’Alene at 608 Northwest Blvd.

How to donate

By mail: Spokesman-Review Christmas Bureau, P.O. Box 516, Spokane, WA 99210

Online: Online donations can be made with a PayPal account or credit card (a processing charge of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents will be deducted).

In person: Deliver your donation to the guard in the lobby of the S-R offices in Spokane at 999 W. Riverside Ave. or in Coeur d’Alene at 608 Northwest Blvd.

If you go

Where: Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, 404 N. Havana St.

Time: 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Dates: Dec. 11-20, excluding Sunday.

ID requirements: Each adult and child who receives holiday support from the Christmas Bureau must meet identification requirements. Income is not verified.

• Adults must bring photo ID for themselves and every person older than 18 living in the household. Additionally, each adult must show proof of address, such as a current utility bill, phone bill or rent receipt listing their name and current physical address. (P.O. boxes are not accepted.)

• For children, bring a document from a school, day care center, DSHS office or another social service agency verifying each child’s name, address and date of birth. WIC folders are accepted as ID for children. Social Security cards are not valid identification.

Like excited kids dressed for a snowball fight, Christmas Bureau volunteers arrived at the fairgrounds Monday morning decked in coats, hats and gloves, ready to unload toy trucks in a warehouse that wasn’t much warmer than the single-digit temperatures outside.

No matter the weather, the spirit in the warehouse was warm.

“I wore three layers of gloves and I still can’t feel my fingers,” said Brock Bayley with a laugh while he waited for a forklift to lower the next pallet of toys. “I’m just unloading trucks and drinking cocoa.”

The Gonzaga Prep senior came with students from Knights and Ancilla, the school’s community service clubs, joining about 80 volunteers to unload and organize 18,000 toys that will be distributed over the next 10 days for needy children.

“I think it’d be really cool to see the surprise on their faces,” Bayley said of the children who’ll receive the presents their parents pick out from the Christmas Bureau’s toy room and book tables.

The Christmas Bureau, a 68-year-old charity organized by Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, helps families in need have a merry Christmas by providing toys, books and food vouchers for the holiday.

It’s funded by donations from the community and needs to raise $525,000 by Christmas so it can continue serving almost 10,000 low-income households.

For Rogers High School sophomore Kaitlyn Thomson, 15, volunteering during setup was a fun way to give back.

“It’s really good what they’re doing,” Thomson said of the charity. “When you help people you feel like you’ve made someone’s day and made them smile.”

Volunteer Pinky Culbertson was all smiles as she and Joy Gill organized aisles of games and sporting goods, counting and marking the inventory on their clipboards and testing toys with batteries to make sure they worked.

“This is my favorite volunteering,” Culbertson said. “It gets you in the Christmas spirit.”

“And it makes you appreciate what you have,” added Gill, describing how the sad circumstances she hears about while working the ID table make her especially grateful and glad to help.

Once the last truck was unloaded and the heat was turned on, the warehouse warmed up. Still, the chill is a concern for organizers who don’t want recipients waiting in the cold. On the first two days of the bureau it’s common for the line to stretch outside, sometimes all the way to the parking lot gates.

“The thing I worry about the most is the weather,” said Rob McCann, Catholic Charities executive director. “I’m watching for the first forecast. Is it going to snow?”

Since the bureau has well-organized inventory control, organizers suggested if recipients can wait a couple of days, the charity will still have plenty of books and gifts to choose from but shorter lines with less chance of waiting outside.

“By day four the line dies down,” Christmas bureau coordinator Judy Lee said. She estimated the bureau can fit several hundred people in the line inside and said they have extended the covered walkway outside to offer partial protection from the elements to more people.

“The line can sometimes be two hours long, and these are folks who’re struggling to get by. They don’t always have coats,” McCann said. “We don’t want people to be cold and we don’t want people to not come because it’s cold or snowy.”

New donations

Don and Eleanor Limmer, of Liberty Lake, donated $200.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100.

William Lockwood, of Spokane, gave $96.80 via PayPal.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $67.67 via PayPal.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $20.

Barbara and Larry Anderson, of Spokane, also gave $20, as did George Morris Sr., of Spokane.

There are six comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email