When Dwaine Miller was 26 years old he began using a cane to help him walk. By his early 30s he was in a wheelchair.
Born with familial spastic paraparesis and no ankle bones, Miller has chronic pain as well as tight tendons and muscle weakness. It’s a genetic disorder that worsens over time.
“It sucks because I’m not able to do everything with my kids,” he said. “My father had it. It’s hereditary. He’s now deceased. The disability does cut your life short. … It scares me. I’ve got my kids and I want to make sure I’m around to watch my kids become successful.”
Miller and his wife, Karen, have two daughters at home: Shyle-Ann, 5, and Shandrea, 2. The family lives on a fixed income of $1,451 per month, making it hard to afford much for Christmas after paying the bills, especially after the recent cold snap.
“When you live on a fixed income you have to stretch it as far as you can. With the weather we’ve had lately we’ve had to turn the heater on and leave it on. Now, it’s caused our electric bill to go up,” he said.
Though Miller said he used to hate asking for help, he’s learned to speak up when he needs it, especially for his kids. That’s why he came to the Christmas Bureau, where needy families can pick out a book for each child through age 14 and a gift for each child through age 17.
Additionally, low-income adults can receive a $15 to $30 food voucher to purchase fixings for a holiday dinner.
Organized by The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America, the bureau is funded by donations and needs to raise $525,000 by Christmas. Only 4 percent of that goes to overhead because the charity is staffed by more than 400 volunteers who want to spread the Christmas spirit.
At the bureau, Miller said he was treated with dignity.
“The people that volunteer there don’t look at you any differently than they look at themselves or anybody else,” he said. “They’re making sure you have stuff that you need, to make sure that you have a bright, blessed holiday.”
Miller said he’d also like to thank the donors who give to make the Christmas Bureau possible for so many families. It serves about 10,000 households.
“I appreciate what they’ve done, how much they care and are looking out for other people. … It’s about making sure every child is able to enjoy Christmas,” he said.
Spokane Regional Center sent $3,000, continuing a yearly giving tradition of 19 years. “All one needs to do is read the paper each day to see that the needs of those in our community are great; and every donation is vital for the Christmas Fund to provide a happy holiday for those less fortunate,” they wrote. “We hope you meet your goal and appreciate the dedication of all those who make the Christmas Fund a reality. It epitomizes the true spirit of Christmas giving.”
Spokane donors giving $1,000 were Michael Altringer, Roger and Kathleen Chase, and Patricia and Larry Bishop.
An anonymous Hayden donor gave $500.
Michael Flannery and Dean Lynch, of Spokane, also gave $500. “We make this gift in memory of an old and dear friend, Nancy Gillespie. She was a multi-year volunteer at the Christmas Bureau who passed away in February 2013,” they wrote. “Thank you for the fine work you do and the help it provides at this time of year.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $500, writing, “We are so happy to be able to send this donation to the Christmas Bureau. We had many ‘poor’ Christmases when our kids were growing up. The good and loving Lord has blessed us well and we send this in lieu of gifts to our own family. Thank you for doing what you do for others!”
U-District Physical Therapy, of Spokane, gave $500.
Peter and Mary Lou Bach, of Spokane, gave $400, writing, “Thank you for all the good work that you do.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $400. Another anonymous donor gave $350.27.
Donald Moore, of Spokane, gave $350.
Craig and Pauline Soehren, of Spokane, gave $300.
Bob and Lois Banta, of Liberty Lake, gave $250. “We very much hope you can reach your very worthwhile goal,” they wrote.
Mr. and Mrs. Eric Spangenberg, of Pullman, gave $250.
Virgil Duchow, of Spokane, gave $250, as did an anonymous donor.
Virginia Schneidmiller, of St. John, gave $250.
An anonymous Cheney donor gave $200.
Richard and Christy Pospahala, of Newman Lake, gave $200.
Thomas Caldwell, of Spokane, gave $200, as did P.F. and N.K., and Chris and Kris Mikkelsen.
Beverly Honeycutt, of Spokane Valley, gave $200 in memory of her husband, Bill Honeycutt.
Tim and Ann Riordon, of Veradale, gave $200.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $195.
Scott and Connie Brunell, of Spangle, gave $150.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150 “in memory of Mother and Nana who wanted everyone to have a little Christmas! Thank you for this fund and all you do.”
Meredith and Leslie Hilby, of Liberty Lake, gave $125. “It is our privilege again this year to be able to donate to this wonderful program. There is nothing better than neighbors helping neighbors,” they wrote. “Our best wishes go to you, your very special volunteers and your entire clientele.”
Robert and Eva Akers, of Spokane, gave $125, writing, “with this gift we wish a merry Christmas to all the little ones.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $105 in memory of their parents.
Laverne Linder, of Spokane, gave $101.
Jon and Dana Bowne, of Colbert, gave $100, as did an anonymous donor who wrote, “Thanks for your work in providing Christmas for so many.”
An anonymous Deer Meadows donor gave $100, writing, “God bless all you do for the community.”
Doloris and Nels Nelson, of Liberty Lake, gave $100 “in memory of Brandon and his favorite holiday.”
Alan and Sandra Fruetel, of Mead, gave $100 “in memory of Debbie Peppones, who loved children.”
Mark and Julie Clark, of Pullman, gave $100 “in memory of my parents, Bob and Mary Lou Harwood. They gave my siblings and me many gifts and they always made Christmas extra special. It’s a pleasure to honor them.”
Spokane donors giving $100 include Luella Palmer, William and Gloria Stronks, Patricia MacDonald, Thomas and Elaine Pitzer, Bob and Kathy Bohlen, two anonymous donors, and D.J. and Karen Merritt, who wrote, “We do what we can to help those who are in need. We would hope that others could do the same.”
Other Spokane donors giving $100 were Valarie and Michael Adams, Mary and Timothy Cronin, Janice and Wayne Swanson, Erlene Manning, Donna and Delvin Topoll, and Miriam Finnegan, who wrote, “I love to do this every year. Bless you all!”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $76.
Robert and Barbara Kuntz, of Spokane, gave $75.
Cathy Heider, of Spokane, gave $75, $50 in memory of Joe and Irene Lynch of Coulee Dam, Wash., and $25 in memory of Don Morley of Grand Coulee, Wash.
Erin and Mary McGrail, of Spokane, gave $75, writing “Keep up the good work!”
Mr. and Mrs. James Abrahamson, of Cheney, gave $50, as did Gerald Krumbholz, of Liberty Lake, and Beverly Hayes, of Nine Mile Falls.
Ralph Walter, of Spokane, gave $50 in memory of Carol Walter.
Jeanne Anderson, of Spokane, gave $50, writing, “Hope this helps in meeting your goal and will make some family have a merrier Christmas.”
T. Ray and Judy Looper, of Spokane, gave $50.
Jane Courtright, of Spokane, gave $50.
Annetta and Donald Farr, of Spokane, gave $50.
Spokane donors giving $50 include Louise Ellis, Kent and Jackie Richardson, Cindy and Keith Bunnell, two anonymous donors and Jean Flechel, who wrote, “Thank you for years of good work.”
Norene and Thomas Green, of Spokane Valley, gave $50, as did Chuck and Janet Hafner.
Douglas and Marilyn Lloyd, of Spokane, gave $40.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $30 “in memory of Roy and the Christmas he loved and wanted to share.”
Spokane donors giving $25 were Cheryl Scheideman, Steve Reed, Marg Swanson, T.J. and B.P. Pope, Andy Caster, two anonymous donors, one of whom gave in memory of Don Kelly, and Juanita and Allen Ward, who gave in memory of their son Jeffery Jon Ward.
Paul Swinehart, of Tacoma, gave $25.
Jane Lacock, of Deer Park, gave $20 “so a child can have a better Christmas.”
Connor Yerkes, 11, of Cheney, gave $16 with a handwritten note. “To the Christmas Bureau. I saved over 32 pounds of aluminum cans in order to donate the money so a kid could have a present. I hope you and everyone has a great Christmas.”
Laura Slentz, of Spokane, gave $15.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $10, and another anonymous donor gave $5.