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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Holiday brighter for 32,060 people

A client walks into the Department of Social and Health Services mobile office at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center on Tuesday. The truck has been outside the annual Christmas Bureau. (Jesse Tinsley)
A client walks into the Department of Social and Health Services mobile office at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center on Tuesday. The truck has been outside the annual Christmas Bureau. (Jesse Tinsley)

On Friday, the Christmas Bureau wrapped up its last day at the fairgrounds, completing its quest to make Christmas happier for families in need. This year it served 32,060 people, distributing toys for 16,124 children and providing food vouchers for 9,877 households.

The charity, which is organized by Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, relies on reader donations to continue its 67-year-old tradition of helping low-income families. It still needs more than $75,000 to reach $525,000, the amount needed to fund the books, toys and food vouchers distributed.

In addition to the holiday help, the people who came to the bureau had another resource.

Throughout the nine-day event, a mobile community services office from the Department of Health and Human Services parked between the bureau’s entry and exit doors.

Inside, a steady stream of bureau recipients met with DSHS staff members, applying for aid, reporting changes to avoid gaps in services and getting questions answered.

Just inside the bureau’s exit doors, DSHS also staffed a table connecting people to other programs and resources.

“We’re here to offer services but if someone has an area we can’t help with, we have a chance to provide education on how they can help themselves,” said Josie Mendoza, DSHS program specialist.

As an added service to the bureau, DSHS staff provided ID verification for recipients already in their system.

Along with community events like the Christmas Bureau, the mobile offices are used for outreach, said program administrator Shannon Monroe. Each month they travel to remote communities without local offices, so people who qualify for DSHS-administered services can apply.

“There are a lot approved that don’t use services,” she said, noting the agency wants to connect people to the help they need: food, medical or disability assistance, aid for children and the elderly, or any of the other services it provides for people who struggle to meet basic needs.

These events, Monroe said, are always done in partnership with other service providers in the community, such as food banks, health clinics and senior centers.

This made the Christmas Bureau a fitting partner. This year, recipients reported an average monthly income of $1,128.72 per household.

“DSHS has helped many, many people,” Christmas Bureau coordinator Judy Lee said. “It’s a good opportunity for the recipients to talk to the DSHS people about their needs and for DSHS to have one point, one location for the people they want to talk to.”

New donations

Metals Fabrication Co., of Spokane, donated $5,000, writing, “We appreciate the efforts your organization is making on behalf of the less fortunate in our community.”

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $2,000.

Patrick and Kelley Rusnak, of Spokane, gave $1,000.

An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $1,000, writing, “Bless all who are giving their time to those who will have a better Christmas.”

Greg MacDonald and Nancy Evans, of Spokane, gave $750. “We wish you success in reaching your goal and thank you for the kindness you show to those who need it most,” they wrote.

Randy and Mary Martin, of Spokane, gave $500 in memory of their mother, Kim Martin. “Thanks for doing a tremendous job for our community!” they wrote.

Jim and Jean Moore gave $500.

Sharon Anderson, of Spokane, gave $485.20.

An anonymous donor gave $350, with $100 of the donation on behalf of the donor’s grandsons, Spencer and Nathan.

Fred and Sharon Clark, of Chattaroy, gave $300 in memory of Sarah Anne Clark. Jim Bankston also gave $300.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $250 in honor of her granddaughter Allie. “To all of the amazing volunteers and donors to this effort – thank you for all you do,” she wrote. “It is this type of taking care of the members of our community that makes Spokane such a wonderful place. I am truly humbled every time I read about the people involved – whether the volunteers or the parents patiently waiting in line to make Christmas better for their families.”

Bill and Susan Bealer, of Spokane, gave $250 in memory of Bill’s parents, Bill Sr. and Jan Bealer.

Wilbur Yates gave $250.

Dennis Hughes, of Deer Park, gave $200.

Walter and Michelle Wrench, of Spokane, gave $200 in memory of their grandson and parents. “We would like to wish all the children in the Spokane area a very Merry Christmas.”

Jud and Beverly Heathcote, of Spokane, gave $200.

The officers and members of the American Italian Club of Spokane gave $200. “We appreciate your dedication to the community. We wish you and all those that work and volunteer for your organization a wonderful holiday season and great success in 2013.”

Gary Crooks gave $150.

Prasti Purdum, Astrid Vinje and Michelle Vinje, from Lakewood, Ohio, Seattle and Edmonds, Wash., respectively, gave $140. “We hope this annual donation from our three adult daughters, all graduates of Spokane high schools, will help bring joy to a few families,” wrote their parents, John and Erna Vinje.

Other Spokane donors giving $100 were Patrick and Jeannine Kelley, Brian and Christine Cronin, an anonymous donor, and Philip and Toi Mulligan, who gave in memory of their friends Kay Morse and John Rodkey.

Rich and Terry Hagelin, of Spokane Valley, gave $100, as did Norma Echelbarger, who wrote, “What you are doing is so wonderful – proud to be a part of it.”

MaKayla, Christopher, Christen, Micheal and Tyler Hatch, of Fernley, Nev., gave $100 in memory of Grandpa PT and Grandma Carolyn.

Dolores “Dee” Lund, of Veradale, gave $100 in memory of her husband, Chuck Lund: “He enjoyed being a volunteer at the Bureau.”

Kristin Nester, of Cheney, gave $72.52 in honor of Coach Karin.

Two anonymous Spokane donors gave $50, one in memory of Elinore Biermann, Margie, Donna and Linda.

Meryl and Marylin Bauer, of Spokane, gave $50, as did Dean and Mary Nagel.

Donna Cowee, of Cusick, Wash., gave $48.25.

Barbara Barthoumes, of Spokane, gave $25 “to help a little bit in such a worthy cause.”

Other Spokane donors giving $25 were Jarrett Lange, Gregory and Melodie Olsen, Marie and Lawrence Smith, and Charles Heitman, who gave “to help a needy family and bring some holiday cheer.”

Gary and Cheryl Allen, of Spokane Valley, gave $25.

An anonymous donor gave $20 in memory of her husband, “who was always generous in giving when he was alive. I wish I could give more,” she wrote.

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