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Spokane County fairgrounds provide warm, spacious home for the Christmas Bureau

The Christmas Bureau has only closed once for weather – in 2008, pictured in this photo of Craig Crocker and Lee Ann Thompson. As it was then, the bureau will be housed this year at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Christmas Bureau has only closed once for weather – in 2008, pictured in this photo of Craig Crocker and Lee Ann Thompson. As it was then, the bureau will be housed this year at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The Christmas Bureau has had many homes over the decades, often using a vacant building donated by the space’s owner.

But there were years when a home was hard to find, and volunteers found themselves scrambling to come up with housing on the fly. In the late ’90s, an empty grocery store at Sprague and Sullivan served the function for a few years. Before that, the Bureau was held in a former department store at the former University City Mall.

In the mid-’90s, the Bureau spent a couple years in downtown Spokane in an old drug store at Main and Post. That location had the added problem of limited parking, which had to be paid for by recipients of the Bureau’s services.

Ever since 2000, however, the Christmas Bureau has been held at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, where the parking is free and plentiful.

Volunteers set up the spacious Agricultural Building, which offers enough room for the toys and books and other donated items to be handed out. The regular volunteers know just where everything goes, and how to lay out the full spread in order to get the maximum use out of the space, facilitating crowd flow from one station to the next.

As an added bonus, the space is large enough that at least some of the people waiting in line can be inside out of the cold weather.

Over the years there have been many times when people stood in lines in the bitter cold, driving rain or falling snow. An epic winter storm actually shut the Bureau down for two days in 2008.

So far the weather for this year’s Christmas Bureau doesn’t look bad, said National Weather Service forecaster Andy Brown. The extended forecast is calling for normal or below-normal temperatures, but not a lot of precipitation, he said.

When the Bureau opens this weekend, the weather should be dry, Brown said. Highs will be around 30 degrees, so people should plan to bundle up in case they have to wait outside for an extended length of time.

But no matter the weather, the Bureau’s volunteers will be there to help families have a good Christmas.

New donations of $2,670 have made the year-to-date total $82,366.86. The goal is to raise $525,000 by Christmas to pay for food vouchers, toys and books for people who need help for the holidays.

Julie Cronnelly of Coeur d’Alene donated $1,000 via Pay Pal. Stephen Scott of Spokane sent $350, writing: “Cheers to everyone working for the Christmas Bureau!” Anne and Scott Baumgartner of Spokane contributed $250.

An anonymous donor in Spokane sent $250. “This donation is made in loving memory of Daphne Adams, for whom the Christmas season was her favorite time of the year,” the donor wrote. “She donated to the Christmas Fund for many years, and it is an honor for me to continue the tradition.”

An anonymous donor from Lamont, Washington, sent $200. Fred and Gayle Fox sent a check for $160. “Thank you for your good works!” they wrote.

Al and Vicki Falkner of Spokane donated $100 in memory of Carol Speltz, a longtime volunteer with the Christmas Bureau. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor contributed $100 in honor of Dorothy Marvin. John and Jody Beck sent $100.

Sue and Eugene Blankenship of Newman Lake donated $50, as did Donna and Charles Pierce of Cheney. Samaritan Lodge #52 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellow also donated $50. Pat Thomas of Spokane donated $10.

For donations made through PayPal, The Spokesman-Review contributed the processing fee.


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