The Christmas Bureau has many loyal volunteers who return year after year and that includes a group of employees who work for Cenex Zip Trip.
The company is among several local organizations that routinely send groups of employees to spend all or part of a day helping the Bureau run smoothly. Their annual tradition of volunteering was started more than a dozen years ago by then owner Ian Johnstone, who thought it was important to give back to the community, said IT employee James Caraker. Johnstone died in 2015.
Caraker began going to the Bureau in 2004 and is grateful that Johnstone emphasized volunteering. “He made me a better person because of this,” Caraker said.
He likes to help out in the toy room, where he helps fathers pick out gifts for their children. “I have seven grandkids,” he said. “I’m kind of an expert on toys.”
Environmental, health and safety manager Jim Alford said he usually helps parents carry bags to their cars.
“I really enjoy that because I get to talk to them for a while,” he said.
Spending time at the Christmas Bureau has an extra meaning for Alford, who has been volunteering for five years. Years ago, when he was both newly divorced and unemployed, he visited the Bureau to provide a Christmas for his five children. “It makes it a little more special,” he said.
Administrative assistant Lou Hamersky organizes the group volunteer effort, signing employees up for shifts. This year, two dozen employees are signed up. “There is a core of us who do it every year,” she said. “Some stay all day.”
Parents are often in tears as they leave the Bureau because they are so grateful, she said.
“I enjoy going and helping others and making them feel special,” she said. “It’s just a good feeling that you get when you give.”
Other Zip Trip employees also volunteer, but they do it on their own, Hamersky said. She’s aware of one woman who takes a day off every year so she can spend it volunteering at the Christmas Bureau.
This year’s group of volunteers will include Johnstone’s wife, Angela. She has been coming every year since her husband died, Hamersky said. “She keeps up the tradition,” she said.
Today’s contributions total $1,995, bringing the year to date total to $79,696.86. The goal is to raise $525,000 for food vouchers, toys and books that will be handed out at the Christmas Bureau this year.
The Morales family, of Medical Lake, donated $300. Linda and Steven Swartley, of Spokane, sent $250, as did Bob and Debbie Glaza. Dallas and Corrine Dixon, of Spokane, donated $200. Renae Younker donated $150 via Pay Pal.
An anonymous Spokane donor sent $125 along with a note that read: “Wishing every child could have happy memories of Christmas.”
Delores Crabtree, of Spokane, contributed $100, as did Mari-Lynn Sonner, of Spokane, Kathy and Pat Harper, of Spokane, and James and Jacqueline Vroman, of Spokane. James Carollo donated $100 via Pay Pal. Rovella Vawter, of Spokane Valley donated $70 and wrote: “You do so much for families in need. You are doing a great service.”
The Northwest Treasure Hunters Club sent $50. John and Rebecca Severinghaus, of Spokane, donated $50. Betty Saxton, of Spokane, donated $25, as did Cheryl Scheideman, of Spokane.
For donations made through PayPal, The Spokesman-Review contributed the processing fee.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter