The Spokane County Fair and Expo Center buzzed with activity Monday as volunteers rushed to set up the Christmas Bureau and unload semitrucks full of toys destined to be given to local children on Christmas Day.
The bureau opens to the public on Wednesday, when people will start lining up to receive a food voucher and a toy and book for each child.
The carefully planned schedule, staggering the arrival of multiple trucks, was thrown out the window Monday when one semi full of toys arrived early and another arrived late.
“Holy cow, everyone came at once,” said Catholic Charities Christmas Bureau Coordinator Sierra Heinen. “It’s chaos.”
But people got to work. Two forklifts soon created a smooth ballet, one taking a load from the truck while the other dropped off a pallet full of toys, switching places without missing a beat. A small army of volunteers would swarm a smaller truck until it was unloaded by hand, then move quickly to the next.
What was chaos became organized chaos. “It’s typically how it goes,” Heinen said. “I think everyone really knows their jobs.”
A lot of the unloading, sorting and stacking labor was done by a group of about 20 students from Freeman High School. The school sends a group of students to help with bureau setup every year, but it was the first time senior Meg Neely had joined them.
“I think it’s really cool to be able to help our community, even though we don’t see who it’s going to,” she said.
Neely said she has helped distribute toys at the Salvation Army before, so she knows how important the Christmas Bureau is to people. “I just know how much it helps people for Christmas,” she said. “It makes me realize how lucky I am to have what I have.”
The push toward the goal of $525,000 is going forward slowly, with new donations of $15,349.09 bringing the year-to-date total to $136,974.13. Though the daily tally of donations is improving, we’re still significantly behind where we were last year at this time.
Cecil Nuxoll, of Spokane, donated $4,000 “to care for others in memory of those before us,” he wrote. “God bless.”
Richard Dixon, of Spokane, gave $1,500. “Thanks to the Christmas Bureau for continuing to provide a place where we know we can help our friends in need,” he wrote. “I appreciate the opportunity to contribute again this year.” Anthony House, of Spokane, donated $1,000 via PayPal.
Harold Cathcart, of Colbert, donated $500, as did Greg and Ann Hougham, of Spokane. Dick and Trudy Raymond, of Spokane, sent $500. “This check is in loving memory of our relatives and friends who are no longer with us,” they wrote. “Thanks for all you do for our community to help everyone have a Merry Christmas.”
Michael and Carol Wilson, of Spokane, donated $500. “Our gift for the families and children in our region is a reflection of our thanks to our community and hope for good will,” they wrote. William Dinneen, of Spokane, contributed $500.
Diana and Rick Wilhite donated $500. “Thanks for the generous giving for the SR Christmas Fund,” they wrote. “This year we would like to donate in memory of my brother, Larry Peterson, who was always helping others. He was a kind, gentle soul.”
Onions Inc. sent $400 “from our crew.” Robert and Susan Witte, of Spokane, gave $350.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $325 “in memory of my mother, Mary Anderson, who passed away this year.” Linda and Clayton Dunn, of Spokane, contributed $300. “We are happy to support such a worthy and wonderful cause in our community,” they wrote. “Thank you for all you do!”
Marianne Connelly, of Spokane, donated $300 via PayPal. An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $300, writing “Thank you for the wonderful job you do to insure the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ will help those in need to know they are not forgotten. Blessings to you all!”
Patrick Thomas, of Spokane, gave $250. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $250. “My thanks to all who give through donations and those who give by volunteering their time to make Christmas come to those who are in need,” the donor wrote.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $200 and wrote a note recalling a childhood Christmas with broken gifts. “No child should ever have to wake up Christmas morn with no food, no tree and no gifts – like my brother and I did,” the donor wrote. “If everyone that could donated just $10, what a difference it would make! Thank you for all you do to make this happen.”
A second anonymous Spokane donor also gave $200, writing: “We’re so appreciative for the Christmas spirit of the Spokane community and The Spokesman-Review’s annual efforts to make Christmas a little better for those who may be needful during the Christmas season. Thank for the work you do each year to help others.”
Catherine Caskey, of Spokane, donated $200. “What a wonderful thing you organize each year!” she wrote. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $200. Mike and Susan Hawkins, of Post Falls, contributed $200. “Blessings to the Christmas Bureau and all the caring volunteers who richly provide a joyous Christmas for so many families,” they wrote.
Char Thomas and Doug Lanyon, of Spokane, gave $200. “Merry Christmas and thank you for all you do for our community,” they wrote. Carol and Cliff Rankin, of Spokane, sent $200.
Tammy and Larry Reid, of Spokane, donated $150, writing “Thank you for all the good work you do!” Mike and Helen Perrin, of Spokane Valley, gave $120.
The Spokane Branch of the American Association of University Women donated $119.09. “Since our founding in 1909, the AAUW has supported local organizations that help make life better for women and children,” they wrote. “In that spirit, we are giving to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund.”
Richard and Lucille Hallett, of Spokane, gave $110. James and Lisa Northcott gave $100 via PayPal in memory of Andrew.
David Bennett, of Spokane, donated $100. “This donation is in memory of my mother Madeline Bennett who I miss every day but especially at this time of year,” he wrote. “Keep up the good work.” Lorraine Martin, of Spokane Valley, gave $100, as did John and Kathleen McCarthy, of Spokane.
An anonymous donor contributed $100. “My husband and I want to thank you all for your volunteering and assisting all those families with making their Christmases a little bit brighter,” the donor wrote. “I hope when I retire, I will be able to volunteer at the Christmas Bureau.”
Jon and Dana Bowne, of Colbert, sent $100, as did two anonymous Spokane donors. Sharon and John Sutton, of Spokane, gave $100. Hans Bynagle donated $75 via PayPal.
Cal and Carrie Brown, of Greenacres, contributed $50, as did Wayne Swanson, of Spokane. Phyllis Thayer, of Spokane, gave $50. Jean and Kurt Flechel, of Spokane, donated $50. “Thanks for this good work,” they wrote. Mary Nagel and James Gendron each donated $50 via PayPal.
Michael Aleman, of Spokane, gave $35. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $30. “To the Christmas Bureau and the many people who make it possible a bit thanks!” the donor wrote. “This donation is in memory of all those who have gone before us. May we all cherish what the bureau and Christmas Fund represent.”
Mark Morrissey, of Spokane, sent $25. “Thank you for the wonderful service you do for our community,” he wrote. “Here’s a small donation to help.” Sheri Barnard, of Spokane, sent $25. “Thank you very much for continuing your support of the Christmas Fund,” she wrote. An anonymous Veradale donor sent $25.
Curt and Mary Jo Lorenz, of Chattaroy, gave $20, as did Mabel and Robert Rees, of Spokane Valley. Cheryl McDaniel sent $20 via PayPal.
For donations made through Pay Pal, The Spokesman-Review contributed the processing fee.
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