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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

Teenage helpers’ skills are priceless

Volunteers provide child care for clients

Christmas Bureau volunteers come from all walks of life.

Some have never had to worry about affording to feed their families. Others, at some point while the bureau was open, stood in line and received help like the almost 35,900 other recipients.

Many are retired and were there to dedicate their time to a worthwhile cause. Others are the parents of young children, teenagers or college students who wanted all kids in Spokane to have presents to open Christmas morning, like theirs will. Some don’t have children, so for 10 days they nurtured the 17,877 youths the bureau served this year.

One group of volunteers – the dozens of teenagers that either came with their volunteer parents or were part of an organized high school group – proved invaluable to the bureau.

“We couldn’t do this without them,” said Patricia Garvin, who volunteers in the child care area where recipients leave their young children as they select Christmas gifts in the toy room. Almost 800 mostly preschool-age children spent time in the bureau’s carpeted playroom over the course of 10 days.

“The parents are very grateful they can go into the toy room and take their time,” Garvin said. “And then, the present is a surprise.”

Garvin said she enjoyed working with the high school volunteers who, she joked, are more nimble than she is.

“I can get down on the floor, but I can’t get up,” she said.

The teens cheerfully played with the young children who sometimes didn’t want to be away from their parents and other times had a hard time leaving the playroom once their families came to retrieve them. “Redirecting them” by giving them a wooden toy truck, made and donated by members of the Hoo Hoo woodworking club, usually made it easier for the little ones to say goodbye to the playroom and their temporary baby sitters, Garvin said.

The Christmas Bureau is an annual event that wrapped up Saturday at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center. It distributes food vouchers, toys and books to needy families and is organized by The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America. The program is funded by donations from the community.

Another group of Spokane-area teenagers helped the bureau in a different way last week.

Students in Barb Revenig’s honors English classes at Mt. Spokane High School passed around a basket and raised $130 for the fund.

“It’s a tough year out there,” Revenig said. Even in the relatively affluent Mead district, “we’re seeing it more and more.”

She said the school staff keeps a close eye on students this time of year, knowing “home isn’t always a nice place” and the prospect of being away from school – which provides safety and stability – can be upsetting.

The teachers often ask counselors to check in on particular students and find out, “Are they going to have Christmas this year?” Revenig said.

“No one is immune.”

New donations

Thanks to $8,890 in generous new donations, the Christmas Fund now totals $328,758 and is making progress toward this year’s $500,000 goal.

Consolidated Billing Services Inc., of Spokane, gave $5,000 in lieu of holiday gifts for clients.

“While I greatly appreciate each and every client, I hope they will agree that this money is put to a better use through this charitable donation,” wrote President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Ulrich. “In the current economic climate, programs that support those less fortunate need community support. I encourage other Spokane businesses to do the same.”

Spokane resident Doug Dominey, of Spokane, sent $500, as did Spokane residents Bruce and Ann Dentler, who wrote, “This community has been such a blessing to us and our family, it is a privilege to share some Christmas joy when the need is great”; and Timothy and Jackie Randall, of Cheney, who wrote, “Thanks for everything you do. God bless.”

Marian Cummings donated $400.

An anonymous donor sent $300 “in honor of our great kids, Karen, Laura, Nanci and Holly and the wonderful grandchildren they have given us.” Two anonymous donors gave $250 and $200 each, and Spokane residents G. William and Georgette Savitz donated $200.

An anonymous donor sent $150, as did Bill and Dorene Reynolds, of Spokane.

Mt. Spokane High School’s honors English 10 class donated $130.

An anonymous donor sent $100, as did Jeff and Theresa Utesch, of Spokane Valley; Mary and Dave Seagrave, of Medical Lake; and Dennis and Bernice Nelson, of Nine Mile Falls, who gave in honor of their “five children, their mates, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We feel blessed for our family and wish to help other families celebrate the holidays.”

The following Spokane residents donated $100 each:

Fred and Linda Anderson, in the name of the Bill Knight family; Joe and Carolyn Schauble, in memory of their parents Robert and Mary Schauble and Carl and Edna Magee; and Merlin and Joyce Jespersen, who wrote:

“As we age we are more mindful of good things and good people that have helped us along the way. Maybe this small check will help someone who is in need this year.”

Davy L. Adamson, of Spokane, donated $75.

Two anonymous donors gave $50 each, as did “Grandpa John and Grandma Therese” in honor of their daughter Ginger and granddaughter “little Emma Violet”; and Rod, Lois and Penny Hathaway, who wrote, “Hope this helps in your good work.”

An anonymous donor sent $25, as did Jerry Hubbard.

Glenn Gannon, of Spokane Valley, sent $10 with a note: “May God bless you all, and Jesus’ peace be with you!”

Megan Cooley can be reached at (509) 459-5489 or
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