When Christy Zarbok’s husband, David, took a job transfer to Spokane this summer, they didn’t expect the financial struggle they now face. A promised promotion is on hold, their rent jumped 50 percent and the longer travel time to his job servicing cars means their gas bill is also higher.
“We’re really having a hard time,” said Zarbok. With three children, they were struggling to live on about $1,500 a month, so in September the couple began selling blood plasma twice a week to help pay the bills. The Army veteran also hopes to get a job soon to boost the family’s income.
But this month they have little left to buy Christmas presents for their children, Brianna Hendren, 12, Jacob Hendren, 9, and Ava Zarbok, 2. That’s why they turned to the Christmas Bureau.
Funded by community donations and organized by Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, the 68-year-old charity distributes one book for each child through age 14, one gift for children through age 17, and $15 to $30 food vouchers so families like the Zarboks can have a holiday meal.
“It means a lot,” Zarbok said as she picked one book and one gift for each child based on their interests. “We’re struggling to stay afloat, and it makes a difference. If I had any extra money and was able to donate, I would.”
For the past two years the Christmas Bureau has met its $525,000 goal, the amount needed to pay for the books, toys and food vouchers given during the bureau’s nine-day run at the fairgrounds. This year the charity served 30,091 people, 15,266 of them children.
The charity still needs to raise almost $100,000 to cover the gifts already given.
“Some of our bills have to be paid earlier in the year,” explained Christmas Bureau coordinator Judy Lee, noting the volunteer toy buyers shop all year for great discounts on quality, popular presents. “We depend on money that’s collected this season to pay for what’s given out this season.”
Of the money raised, 96 percent goes directly toward the books, toys and food vouchers, thanks to about 400 volunteers who help keep expenses low. According to organizers, this is an act of stewardship appreciated by donors.
So far this season almost 1,400 people, organizations, businesses or civic groups have donated money in the spirit of the season, often sending notes expressing their warm wishes for the recipients.
“It makes me feel good,” Lee said of the number of people who’ve given so generously. “It makes me feel proud of the community and hopeful that we’ll meet our goal and be able to cover our costs.”
Pierce Lane Partners Inc. in Spokane Valley gave $970.70 via PayPal.
Corrected donation from Dec. 12 listing: Terry and Kathy Deno, who’ve contributed to the Christmas Bureau for 40 years, gave $750.
Patrick and Daryl Kleweno, of Endicott, Wash., gave $200, as did an anonymous Millwood donor.
Spokane donors giving $200 include Sammy Ramirez, Scott and Marsha Jones, Gregory Doering, M.D. of Spokane Internal Medicine, an anonymous donor, and Bill and Dorene Reynolds, who wrote, “Thank you so much for what you do for the people of Spokane.”
Burma and Rich Williams, of Spokane, gave $200. “We already gave some but it appears more is needed,” they wrote. “Thanks again for continuing this tradition. No family in need should be without Christmas.”
Margaret Thrailkill, of Spokane, gave $195.84 via PayPal.
Roger Jacky, of Deer Park, gave $150, writing, “Hope this helps. Thanks to an excellent organization and its volunteers. No children will be without a Christmas this year!”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150.
Sarah Wasicek, of Spokane, gave $150 in memory of her husband, Frank Wasicek Jr., and her parents, Jerame and Martina Chandler.
Tim Hatlen, of Spokane, gave $125.93 via PayPal.
Dixie Moore, of Mead, gave $125, as did Neil and Roberta Green.
Alan and Bonnie Stone, of Harrington, Wash., gave $100. “Your articles in the paper have helped to remind us how important it is to help others during this holiday season. Thanks.”
Jerold and Candi Vincent, of Newman Lake, gave $100.
Dorothy and Bob Yohe, of Spirit Lake, gave $100 “in memory of our son, Ken Anderson. Thanks for all the good work you do.”
Spokane donors giving $100 include Arveta Boone, Cheryl Sherick, Diane and John Latta, Gay and James Canning, Charles Horgan and Andrew Sharps, Frank and Jeanie Neeri, Jeff Clausen at Blue Dog Marketing, Janna McGlasson and Gerald Hartley, Joe and Jeanie Hensley, and two anonymous donors, one who gave in memory of their parents.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100 “to bring a little joy to the less fortunate families in our community so they too can have a special Christmas. A big ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers and agencies who make this annual Christmas event possible every year. I love reading the stories in the paper each morning.”
Karen Harrington, of Spokane, gave $100 “in honor of my grandchildren, Ava, Hudson, Milla and Greyson. What a great cause.”
Rita and Bob Mecham, of Spokane, gave $100 “in memory of the beautiful Koko Pelle.”
Shirley Keller and sons, of Spokane, gave $100 “in memory of ‘Toni’ Savalli, a friend for 50 years and a devoted part of the main Spokane Public Library.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100, writing, “Thank you for all you do in helping people have a wonderful Christmas!”
Another anonymous Spokane donor also gave $100. “We so appreciate all the volunteers that make this such a success,” they wrote.
Other Spokane donors giving $100 include John and Judith Brown, Karen and Brian Jones, Mike and Julie Take, Paul Vuletich and Mariah Burk-Vuletich, Robert and Linda Wigert, Rose Veach, Steven and Wanda Daehlin, W. Fasbender, and Harold Dexter, who wrote, “Hope this helps a little bit.”
Dave Nightser, of Spokane Valley, gave $100 “in memory of my loving wife Louise.”
Lesley Greiner, of Liberty Lake, gave $96.80 via PayPal, as did Molly French.
Darla Malone, of Hayden, gave $75 in honor of her mother, Maxine Malone, and in memory of her father, Richard B. Malone.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $75.
Gaylord Olson, of Colton, Wash., gave $60 in loving memory of his late wife, Karen. “I hope this $60 will make at least one family a little ‘happier’ this Christmas,” he wrote.
Jeanne Matlack, of Spokane, gave $60.
The N.W. Treasure Hunters Club gave $50.
Danny O’Dell, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $50, as did an anonymous Spokane donor.
Soroptimist of Spokane, a global volunteer organization that works to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment, gave $50.
Jordan Thaxton, of Spokane, gave $50 in honor of Andy Hannon and Christa Thaxton.
Margaret Pansie, of Spokane, gave $50 in loving memory of her husband, Dick Pansie.
Other Spokane donors giving $50 include Scott and Andrea LaPlant, Wayne and Nancy Wright, and Virginia Robinette, who wrote, “Thank you for the Christmas Bureau. It gives us an opportunity to help others, especially at Christmastime.”
Laurie and Patrick Thiel, of Spokane Valley, gave $50, as did Joan and Kerry Orcutt, who wrote, “Many thanks for helping to make it possible for so many to enjoy the Christmas holiday.”
Larry and Bonnie Owens, of Spokane Valley, gave $50. “We are so blessed with family. Hope this helps make someone else’s Christmas,” they wrote.
Theresa Schimmels, of Spokane Valley, gave $48.25 via PayPal and an additional $48.25 in honor of Gary and Myrna Schimmels.
Janet Knapp, of Oldtown, Idaho, gave $37 “in memory of my loving daughter, Dawn Hunt, who passed in 1999 at the age of 23, and my dear mother-in-law, Anna Matzinger, who left us in August this year at the age of 93. They both loved Christmas so much. May this money help bring smiles to the children out there. God bless.”
Dave and Nonie Kingma, of Deer Park, gave $30 in honor of Nelson Mandela.
Glenn Gannon, of Spokane Valley, gave $30.
Margaret Muat, of Liberty Lake, gave $25 as did Jean Supinger, of Medical Lake.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $25 in honor of dear friend Raelene Albinson.
Terri Savitz, of Spokane, gave $25, as did Ruth Miller, who wrote, “wish it were much more!”
Dan and Debbie Carlson, of Spokane Valley, gave $25.