Paying $1,020 for rent and day care blows a huge hole in Mathew and Shantel VanWinkle’s combined monthly income of $1,200, leaving little left over for bills, let alone Christmas presents.
Thanks to the Christmas Bureau, the couple still can get their kids, ages 1 and 5, something for the holiday.
Needy families come to the bureau to choose a book for each child through age 14 and a gift for each child through age 17. Low-income families and individuals also receive a $15 to $30 food voucher to buy a nice holiday meal.
The bureau is in its final week; the Christmas Fund that buys the toys, books and vouchers still needs to raise more than $270,000 to pay the bills for this year’s event.
The Christmas Bureau “helps a lot,” said Shantel VanWinkle, whose son slept in his stroller amid the noise and bustle of the bureau. “It’s appreciated, not just for us but for everybody who doesn’t have funds.”
As a housing supervisor at a local hotel, Shantel works an average of 32 hours a week. Her husband works as a digital scanner, converting printed documents into electronic ones, making a little more than minimum wage – but not enough to afford much for their kids to open on Christmas morning.
“This is the reason I’m able to provide Christmas presents for my kids,” Mathew VanWinkle said.
It’s an all-too-common story at the Christmas Bureau: Hard-working parents in low-paying jobs are struggling.
“The No. 1 misconception is that people think these are people that don’t want to try and help themselves and looking for a handout. That’s false,” said Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities, which organizes the bureau in partnership with Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review.
According to McCann, many of the families who use the bureau are working at low-paying jobs, doing whatever they can to take care of themselves and their families.
“The number of people who’re trying to abuse, manipulate or freeload is one in 10,000,” McCann said. Most bureau recipients are “clawing and fighting for every inch of stability. They’re trying to work minimum-wage jobs, trying to make a good home for their family. They’re fighting the fight to get out of poverty.”
To help these struggling families, the bureau relies on donations. So far this year, the Christmas Fund has received donations of $254,710.73, including the following new donations:
Barratt Leasing Inc. gave $6,000, writing, “We are grateful to participate along with all the volunteers who work so hard to make Spokane a better place for all of us.”
Moulton Wealth Management gave $5,000. “We are thankful for the opportunity to contribute to such a worthy cause,” wrote Rial and Don Moulton. “In honor of our wonderful clients, and our very special Mother, everyone at Moulton Financial Center hopes this donation helps others better enjoy the Christmas Season.”
Walter and Karin Bussard, of Spokane, gave $3,000.
Bernardo-Wills Architects gave $3,000 in honor of their exceptional clients. “Thank you for operating the Christmas Bureau and providing holiday cheer and blessings to our community,” they wrote.
Chery Hastings, of Spokane, gave $1,456.20 via PayPal.
Delbert Spear and family, of Spokane, gave $1,000, writing, “With joy and thanksgiving we share our blessings and hope this gift provides joy to those in need.”
John Baumhofer, of Spokane, gave $1,000 in memory of his mother.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $1,000 “in memory of Don Kelly for all the love and good works he has done for our community to make the world a better place.”
Ted and Sue Olson, of Spokane, gave $1,000, an “annual gift from ‘Benson on Rockwood Blvd.’ wishing joy, love and peace to all!”
Bill and Sharon Bronson, of Spokane Valley, gave $1,000, writing, “Thank you for your hard work!”
Mark and Sharon Anderson, of Spokane, gave $970.70 via PayPal.
Spokane donors giving $500 include Spokane Production Service Inc., Inland Empire Gastroenterology, an anonymous donor, and Barry and Carole Jones, who wrote, “Thank you for all you do for so many. We are very grateful!”
Dick and Trudy Raymond, of Spokane, gave $500 “in loving memory of our dear nephew, Mitchel Raymond, and in honor of all our other nieces and nephews. Thanks to all the Christmas Bureau helpers. We pray for God’s blessings on our community and the world at this special time of year and always.”
Julie Shiflett, of Spokane, gave $485.20 via PayPal.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $325. “May you continue to spread Christmas joy to those in need,” they wrote.
Robert and Elizabeth Lemoine, of Spokane, gave $300, as did Modern Construction and an anonymous donor.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $275, writing, “We are so glad you keep organizing the Christmas Fund.”
The tennis group “Spokane’s Finest” gave $270.
Kevin and Lila Harten, of Spokane, gave $250, as did a Schwab Charitable grant.
Timothy Devlin, of Spokane, gave $240.
Susan Mincey, of Hickory, N.C., gave $200.
Gary Wolf and Betty Burley-Wolf, of Liberty Lake, gave $200.
Shirlee and Don Simonson, of Spokane, gave $200 “in memory and honor of our mother Ellen, who we had until her 105th birthday.”
The Heinemanns, of Spokane Valley, gave $200. “We are grateful to the many volunteers who make the Christmas Bureau a reality,” They wrote. “Thank you all!”
Ruth and Delbert Mattix, of Veradale, gave $200. “Growing up during the great Depression I know the feeling of not having enough food or clothes for my parents to afford Christmas presents for us four kids, so my heart goes out to the less fortunate who seek help at the Spokesman Christmas Bureau,” they wrote. “My gratitude and thanks to the many volunteers who make this project a success. You are all angels.”
Ron and Darlene Adams, of Veradale, gave $200.
The Central Valley High School Technology Student Association gave $170.56
Vicki and Gary Erikson, of Medical Lake, gave $150.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150, as did Douglas Richardson.
Raymond Zimmerman, of Spokane, gave $145.35 via PayPal.
Erna and John Vinje, of Spokane, gave $145 “from our daughters Prasti Vinje Purdum, Astrid Vinje Bush, and Michelle Vinje, all living in Seattle, all graduates of Spokane high schools.”
Michael and Doreen Lewis, of Spokane Valley, gave $127.
Chris Powell and Ruth Reynolds, of Spokane, gave $125 “in memory of Hazel Powell and Bill and Elaine Reynolds.”
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Hudson, of Clayton, Wash., gave $100.
Patricia Dretke, of Kettle Falls, Wash., gave $100.
Pete Sherve, of Northport, Wash., gave $100.
Louise Sievers, of Spangle, gave $100, writing, “keep up the good work to help someone have a better Christmas.”
Jerry and Rozanne Winters, of Spokane, gave $100, “a gift for the needy people.”
James and Marianne Connelly, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of Don Kelly.
Other Spokane donors giving $100 include Pamela Comstock, Marcy and Mark Majeski, Delores Taxter, Rita Purkett, Jennifer Stucker, Dick and Marnie Wands, three anonymous donors, Gregory and Amy Meyer, and Lee and Julie Fish, who wrote, “Thank you for all your devotion and work on this wonderful Christmas Blessing for the needy of our community.”
Paul and Melanie Delaney and Bill and Pamea Cunz, of Spokane, gave $100 “in honor of Herb and Jeanette Cunz whose spirit of giving, especially during the holidays, brought joy to many.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100 in memory of George and Norma McNally.
Roland and Cindi John, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “so thankful we can contribute to such a worthy cause. Thank you for all you do.”
Spokane Valley donors giving $100 include Mary Cameron, Don and Joan Morse, William Young Jr., Linda and Gary Faire, Bob and LeeAnn Hanke, and Sue and Duke Cornell, who wrote, “Merry Christmas and a big thank you to all the volunteers that make this possible.”
An anonymous Veradale donor gave $100 in memory of Chuck Lund.
Henry Greer, of Spokane, gave $99.91 via PayPal.
Marcia Isherwood, of Spokane, gave $96.80 via PayPal, “on behalf of Kevin Isherwood, the most wonderful man in the world!”
Mary Barbara Traynor, of Spokane, gave $96.80 via PayPal, “in memory of the love of my life, John Traynor.”
Colleen Cashon, of Spokane Valley, gave $96.80 “via PayPal, “in Memory of my grandmother Cressye Faye, who would have given the shirt off her back to anyone in need.”
Spokane donors giving $75 were Joan Pribnow and Nancy MacKerrow.
Jacqueline Eide, of Odessa, Wash., gave $50.
Spokane donors giving $50 include Monica and Eddy Nagashima, Mary Peer, Sue and Dan Harris, James and Ruth Johnson, Mary Hahn, and an anonymous donor.
Pat and Darlene Reilly, of Spokane Valley, gave $50, as did an anonymous donor.
Gary Mundel, of Spokane, gave $48.25 via PayPal.
Rose Marie Rogers, of Spokane Valley, gave $35 in memory of Dale Rogers.
Todd and Barbara Heaton, of Lincoln, gave $30.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $30, as did Bob and Belen Gardella, and Dave and Carole Youngman.
Ed and Pauline Carlson, of Spokane, gave $25, as did Marie Holliday.
Ray and Betty Fall, of Spokane Valley, gave $25.
Shanna Davis, of Spokane, gave $23.97 via PayPal, as did Abraham Minkler and Cortney Litwin.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $20, as did Cecil and Norma Jean Loveland.
Ruth Mae Haas and D.H. Edwards, of Spokane Valley, gave $20.
Riley Owens, of Spokane, gave $19.12 via PayPal.
Jim Caddis, of Spokane, gave $15.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $10.
Rose Brackenidge, of Coeur d’Alene, gave $3.