When Washington Irving said “Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart,” he could have been speaking about Spokane.
For the 68th year the Spokane community has kept the Christmas spirit alive by making sure its neediest families have gifts under the tree for their children and a festive meal on the table to share with loved ones.
More than 100 new donors contributed more than $60,000 to the Christmas Bureau, propelling the charity past its $525,000 goal, just in time for the holiday.
“We’re overwhelmed by the generosity of the community that continuously comes through for us. They watch. They listen. They see the stories. They see the great need,” said Ann Marie Byrd, development director of Catholic Charities, which organizes the bureau in partnership with Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review.
Funded by donations, the Christmas Bureau distributed toys, books and food vouchers to 9,218 households this year, including 15,266 children who happily had a present to open this morning thanks to the donors and volunteers intent on spreading seasonal good will.
Two-year-old Shandrea Miller, for example, unwrapped a play set called “Busytown,” complete with a town hall and tiny train circling the city. Her older sister Shyle-Ann received a remote-control car, which is likely circling the living room.
Their dad, Dwaine Miller, didn’t expect anything for Christmas, but he received an early Christmas gift because of the bureau.
After reading Miller’s story on Dec. 16, an area family contacted the paper hoping to make his Christmas even cheerier. They had a motorized wheelchair that had only been used six times before its owner died last year.
“We’ve been trying to find someone who needed it. We kept looking around and weren’t able to find anybody,” said the wife, asking that they remain anonymous. “My family got together and prayed about it. One or two days later, my husband saw the story about Dwaine in the paper. We thought, ‘That’s it.’ ”
For Miller, the offer was an unexpected blessing. He isn’t eligible for a new wheelchair through his insurance for another year, but his own chair had numerous problems.
“It’s basically falling apart,” he said, describing how the wheel locks sometimes pop out of gear, causing the chair to go in circles. And the power button is duct-taped to keep it in place.
“If I lose that, I can’t turn my chair on or off,” he said, adding, “Sometimes when I turn it on and go forward or backward it kicks so hard it’s thrown my 2-year-old off the chair.”
Miller liked to take Shandrea cruising on the chair with him to the grocery store, but when it became unsafe they had to stop their excursions.
That changed Saturday when he received the gently used electric wheelchair, fittingly colored a holiday red.
“The chair is in excellent condition. It’s brand spankin’ new,” said Miller, describing how the Quantum 600 chair is light enough that he and his wife can get it into their van, which isn’t equipped with a lift.
“It’s amazing. I can use it anytime I want, anywhere I want,” he said. “I’ve never had this kind of stuff happen before. They’re some of the sweetest people in the world.”
Not only did the couple and their parents give him the wheelchair, they left a Christmas card with three crisp $100 bills, which Miller said they want to save so they can eventually move back to Oregon, where the rest of their family lives.
“It put us both in tears,” he said of the generosity. “They totally went above and beyond themselves. I’m truly grateful. This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”
The donors said they were just happy the chair would be used by someone who needed it, saying, “It’s such a good feeling to be able to give something. It’s a good feeling to be able to meet a need.”
That’s a sentiment expressed time and again by donors who give generously to ensure the Christmas Bureau continues to make happy holiday memories for the needy families it serves.
“It’s really the Christmas spirit that comes alive through the Christmas Bureau and through these donors who step forward to give so much of their hearts and monetary gifts,” Byrd said. “On behalf of The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America, we give our heartfelt thanks for their Christmas blessing to those who are so often disheartened. … This brings some love, compassion and cheer to their holidays.”
Garco Construction gave $22,270, with $3,955 of that amount coming directly from the employees to assist the less fortunate in our community. “As we have for the past 30-plus years, we at Garco are pleased to be able to give back to this community that has been responsible for much of our success. We thank all of the many volunteers that make this all possible,” wrote James Welsh, Clancy Welsh, Hollis Barnett and James Welsh Jr. “From all of us at Garco we would like to wish everyone a safe holiday season and a happy New Year!”
American West Bank gave $7,500 in honor of its employees. “We’re headquartered in Spokane and it’s important for us to be connected and make contributions where they’ll do the greatest good,” communications director Kelly McPhee said.
Testcomm LLC gave $5,000. “We are honored to continue our participation in this annual event of community and fellowship,” manager Jerry Ensminger wrote.
Brown, Delaney P.S. Certified Public Accountants gave $3,000.
Robert Kendall, of Spokane, gave $2,000.
Integrus Architecture gave $2,000. “A little over 60 years ago, two young architects joined together to design great projects in Spokane and beyond,” wrote board Chairman Gerald Winkler, noting Bruce Walker and John McGough were committed to excellent design and community support, building the firm that now flourishes in Spokane and Seattle. “Integrus is still committed to helping keep our community great. … Thank you for all that you do.”
Employees from Spokane Public Schools maintenance, warehouse, facility services and purchasing departments gave $1,850.52. “While we take pride in supporting public education in Spokane on a daily basis, it is with glad hearts that we also support this very worthy and necessary endeavor within our community,” wrote Wayne Bergstresser and George Loos, co-chairmen of the fundraising committee. “Your efforts to bring a ray of happiness to others each Christmas is a tremendous opportunity for our community to come together and help our own.”
“The Sisters” gave $1,000 in loving memory of Mom, Dad, Peggy, Rick, Craig and Jeff. “To all the wonderful people who make this exceptional Christmas bureau work, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Plastic Surgery NW PLLC gave $1,000.
Wagstaff Inc. gave $1,000.
Spokane donors giving $500 include Larry and Kathy Dilley, an anonymous donor, Mark Wagner, T.W. Clark Construction, and Tim and Sally Quirk, who gave via Schwab Charitable Fund in memory of Nancy Gillespie, who volunteered every day at the bureau for many years.
Jerry and Paulette Firor, of Spokane, gave $451.
An anonymous Deer Park donor gave $350, writing, “Thank you for all you do to help families in need during the Christmas season. Please accept our donation to help others feel the love of our savior in their lives.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $350.
Two anonymous Spokane donors gave $300, one writing, “Thank you to all who work, plan and give. This is a wonderful opportunity to thank God for all the blessings this last year.”
The Morales family, of Spokane, gave $300.
DIVCON Inc. and employees LJ Anderson, Eric Badgett, Jared Bailey, Owen Donnely, Kevin Reiber, Shaun Salazer and Ronnie Schreier gave $290. The company matches individual employee donations. “Merry Christmas to Spokane,” they wrote. “As a Spokane general contractor we appreciate your support of local families.”
Elaine Cullen, of Chattaroy, gave $250. “A community must be judged by how it takes care of its vulnerable members. Spokane is so blessed to have the Christmas Bureau to help us all remember what is important.”
Molly and Charles Vanmarter, of Goodyear, Ariz., gave $250, writing, “From Arizona, we wish you every success in achieving this year’s goal. Our thanks to all bureau supporters and workers for making this holiday special for so many. We applaud you from the sunny southwest.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $250. “Thanks for doing all you do during the Christmas season. Sorry this is so late,” they wrote.
Lynn St. Louis, of Spokane, gave $242.45 via PayPal.
Charles Slater & Mary Douthitt, of Spokane, gave $203.61 via PayPal.
Daniel and D. Lorraine Klobucher, of Chattaroy, gave $200.
Spokane donors giving $200 include Ag Energy, Flo M. Fiveash, Gary and Donna Trowbridge, Paul Grubb, Vincent Cherel and an anonymous donor.
Julie Cornell, of Nashville, Tenn., gave $193.90 via PayPal on behalf of Duke and Sue Cornell and Ardith Divine.
David Cobb, of Priest Lake, gave $193.90 via PayPal in memory of his parents, Ann and Gunny Janecek.
Donald Storey, of Spokane, gave $193.90 via PayPal.
Daniel and Robyn McGinnily, of Colbert, gave $150.
Gary Crooks, of Spokane, gave $150 “from Carly and Calvin in memory of mom.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150 “in honor of all the great workers for the bureau and all the wonderful donors who make it possible. Thank you Spokesman-Review and Catholic Charities for starting it and keeping it going,” they wrote.
Other Spokane donors giving $150 were Brian and Jodie Mitchell, Kit and Karen Sherfey, Eileen and William Dittman, and Aaron and Kristi Theisen, who gave in honor of their son Owen. “Thank you for organizing this,” they wrote.
D.N. Fitzgerald, of Spokane, gave $140, writing, “Thanks to the S-R for the wonderful effort to bring joy to those who need help this yuletide. Looking forward to the time when this help is no longer needed by so many.”
Sunshine Disposal and Recycling in Spokane Valley gave $133. “After reading our listing in the paper for our employee’s contribution, our company owner offered to match that amount,” wrote Adrienne Choate, director of special projects. “Thank you so much for helping those who need it most!”
MBI Ladies, of Spokane, gave $125.
Tamara Boettcher, of Clayton, Wash., gave $100.
Mike and Norma Sullivan, of Colbert, gave $100. “Thank you for making this time of year a happy one for so many,” they wrote.
Dennis and Bernice Nelson, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $100 in honor of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “Treasure all children,” they wrote.
Mary Ellen and Joe Flores, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $100, writing, “Great work by all those volunteers.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100. “Thank you for managing this charitable organization which provides the vehicle for others to support members of our community. We are happy to submit this donation anonymously.”
Spokane donors giving $100 include Bill and Jody Franks, Dalene and James Boone, Gary Michel and Janis Carrington, Jo Merwin, Hans and Gladys Johnson, Jeff and Becky Olson, Jeff and Christine Stevens, Karen and Tom Harkins, and two anonymous donors, one of whom gave in honor of Kathy and Greg Hicks and Sally and Tim Quirk. “Thank you for your service to the needy,” they wrote.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100 in memory of Robert “El Biggo” Switzer.
Curt and Sheila Schillinger, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of their loved ones.
Edith Coleman, of Spokane, gave $100. “When so much is needed, I’m happy to share my blessings. Merry Christmas,” she wrote.
Oscar and Lois Thomason, of Spokane, gave $100 “in honor of all the good the bureau does for our town and area.”
Randy and Sharon Micek, of Spokane, gave $100 “in memory of our dear friend Don Kelly.”
Other Spokane donors giving $100 include Richard and Danette Schroer, Pam and Randy, and Patricia Davis, of Spokane, who gave $100 “in memory of H. Earl Davis.”
Spokane Valley donors giving $100 include Dean and Liz Grafos, Doug and Marilyn Monson, JR and JK Scott, Richard and Kaye Dickerson, and Norma Echelbarger, who gave in loving memory of Ike Echelbarger.
Pat and Marietta Parvey, of Spokane Valley, gave $100 “in memory of my daughter Sheila Clark who died by domestic violence in July, and my husband’s daughter Debra Parvey who died three months later of aggressive cancer,” Marietta Parvey wrote. “Also the rest of our family. Thank you for helping those in need.”
Terry and Kathleen Bross, of Spokane Valley, gave $100 “in memory of our Momma Rosie we lost in 2012 and our Daddy Otto we lost this year,” they wrote. “Thank you, for all you do!”
Daunita Higgins, of Newport, Wash., gave $96.80 via PayPal.
Spokane donors giving $96.80 via PayPal were Dale Soden, Douglas Jayne and Lindsay Morgan.
Mildred Musselman, of Post Falls, gave $75.
An anonymous Davenport, Wash., donor gave $57.96 via PayPal.
Michael and Kristin Nester, of Cheney, gave $50, as did Harry and Beverly Hammack, of Coeur d’Alene.
Mike and Vic Roberts, of Kennewick, gave $50 on behalf of their Grandma Bonnie Roberts.
Scott and Leslie Huff, of Kingwood, Texas, gave $50.
An anonymous Mead donor gave $50, as did Mark Johnson, of Nine Mile Falls.
Brian Donahue and Tracey McHenry, of Spokane, gave $50, as did Ellas Kranse.
An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $50. “We count it a blessing to participate in this huge community outpouring to those less fortunate,” they wrote. “We pray that you’ll always keep ‘Christmas’ in your signature Spokesman-Review Christmas bureau.”
Mr. and Mrs. D. Heimbigner, of Spokane Valley, gave $50 “in memory of my mother, Grandma Dene, who loved Christmas and loved giving,” they wrote. “Thanks for all you do to help those who need it most.”
Vivian Zagelow, of Spokane Valley, gave $50.
Stewart Randall, of Spokane, gave $49.95 via PayPal, as did James Favre.
Claire Quiel, of Spokane, gave $40.
Mary Knudsen, of Spokane, gave $38.54 via PayPal, to celebrate Mary Alice Nelson’s 80th birthday.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $30.
Two anonymous Spokane donors gave $25, one writing, “Thank you for all you do to make Christmas a happy occasion for those who are in need in our community.”
John and Donna Delehanty, of Spokane, gave $25, as did Robert Becker, and Thelma Woods.
Jane Wright, of Mead, gave $23.97 via PayPal in memory of Kristin and Shelby.
James Littrell, of Spokane, gave $23.97 via PayPal.
Eleanor Ball, of Deer Park, gave $20.
Susan Hennige, of Rathdrum, gave $20.
Liz and Mike McGarr, of Spokane, gave $20, as did the Filanoski family.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $5.