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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Christmas Bureau recipients get health care help from volunteers

“This is so great,” said Crhystal Austin, as she and friend Moki Garcia signed up for health care coverage with help from Matthew Olson, of Catholic Charities, at the Christmas Bureau in Spokane last Thursday. (Kathy Plonka)
“This is so great,” said Crhystal Austin, as she and friend Moki Garcia signed up for health care coverage with help from Matthew Olson, of Catholic Charities, at the Christmas Bureau in Spokane last Thursday. (Kathy Plonka)

Mary Englehart lost her health insurance in 2009, shortly after getting an MRI to monitor a cyst on her brain.

”I had bad headaches and I had a seizure,” she said, noting when she still had medical coverage she saw a neurologist who prescribed migraine medication and biannual MRIs to monitor any growth of the cyst.

But Englehart only had two of the diagnostic scans before her insurance ended. Without it, she can’t afford to see the doctor, get an MRI or purchase the medicine that minimized her headaches.

“I stopped taking my meds after I lost the insurance,” she explained, adding that they’re getting worse, which makes her worry that the cyst has grown. She’s also worried about her blood pressure: Last week, the self-service machine in the grocery store showed it at 170/100.

That’s why Englehart stopped by the health insurance table for help after she received a $15 food voucher at the Christmas Bureau, which will help her buy a holiday turkey or the ingredients for her glorified rice recipe.

Funded by community donations and organized by The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America, the Christmas Bureau distributes books, toys and food vouchers so needy families have hope for a merry Christmas. It served more than 30,000 people this season.

With an average reported household income of $1,168 per month, most of the charity’s recipients qualify for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Knowing this, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America, provided four in-person assistors with computers to answer questions, trouble-shoot sign-up issues and walk recipients through the insurance application process on the ACA website for Washington state.

Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America received grant funding from Providence Health Care and Empire Health Foundation, respectively, to help low-income and underserved populations apply for health coverage under the ACA.

“This year at the Christmas Bureau we gave the best Christmas present we’ve ever given in the history of the Christmas Bureau,” said Catholic Charities executive director Rob McCann. “We gave out health care.”

According to Matt Olson, one of three in-person assistors from Catholic Charities who came to the Christmas Bureau, this will help more needy, vulnerable people get appropriate care to prevent and manage disease.

“We’re keeping them out of the ER. Preventative care can keep them from hospital stays,” he explained, adding that accessing appropriate health care is essential to helping people become productive, contributing members of society.

“If you haven’t had medical or dental care, try to get a job,” he said. “You have to have boots before you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps.”

Between the four of them, VOA assistor Jalen Pace estimated they helped about 60 people successfully apply for insurance at the Christmas Bureau. He said they also provided information or application follow-up to more than 500 people over the charity’s nine day run at the fairgrounds, helping people like Englehart get health coverage.

New donations

This year, the Christmas Bureau distributed toys for 15,266 needy children and $15 to $30 food vouchers to 9,218 low-income households. The charity is near the $525,000 needed to fund the books, toys and vouchers given this month, with almost $480,000 received from over 1,400 people, groups or businesses, including the following new donors:

Stella, AJ, Joe, Julia and Colt, of Spokane, gave $9,709.70 via PayPal, to “help those that need it in Spokane. With love and prayers.”

Premera Blue Cross donated $5,000.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $3,000, writing, “Keep up the good work and Merry Christmas!”

JMA Commercial Real Estate, of Spokane Valley, gave $1,500. “In lieu of giving gifts to our clients, customers and tenants of the buildings we manage, we are making this donation on their behalf,” wrote owner Jamie M. Traeger. “We hope this donation will help others have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We truly appreciate your efforts every year to provide as many local families as possible the means to have a happy holiday season.”

Kathy Tubbesing-Lin and Dr. Paul Lin, of Spokane, gave $1,000, as did Richard and Carol Hendershot.

The Inland Northwest Community Foundation and the Jewitt-Gill Donor-Advised Fund also gave $1,000.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $500, writing, “Thank you to the Christmas Bureau for allowing us to celebrate Christmas in a special way with families and their children.”

Spokane donors giving $500 were Gary and Susan Bloom, James and Jean Moore, K. Wendell Reugh, and John Altberg II, who wrote, “This year, in lieu of sending calendars to my clients, I thought it better to direct those resources to help those in need in our community. Thanks for all that you and the volunteers do to brighten Christmas for so many.”

An anonymous Veradale donor gave $500.

Ted and Winnie Allen, of Spokane, gave $300, as did Robert and Marin Cummings, who wrote, “God bless you at Christmas, and all those who have less than we do!”

William and Nancy Henry, of Spokane, gave $300 “in memory of our parents, Bo and Mary Henry and Robert and Marian Heglar.”

An anonymous Veradale donor gave $300, writing, “Thank you, thank you for your service to this community.”

Gary and Monica James, of Spokane, gave $250, as did Chimney Rock Mortgage.

Spokane donors giving $200 include Nita Alexander, Noreen and Eugene Sivertson, The American Italian Club of Spokane, Lodge #2172 of the Order of Sons of Italy in America, and an anonymous Spokane donor who wrote “with thanks to all who work so hard to make Christmas a happy time for so many. God bless.”

Ed Sharman, of Spokane, gave $200 “in memory of Linda and Christianne Sharman.

Jerry, Dorie, Kylie and Drew, of Spokane, gave $200 in memory of Don Kelly.

Jim and Kerry Zimmer, of Spokane, gave $200, writing, “Thank you for all you do and for all our many blessings.”

Janet M. Gillespie, of Spokane, gave $193.90 via PayPal, “in honor of our Blessed Mother.”

Carol and Joe Henscheid, of Newman Lake, gave $150.

Hope and Gary Roszell, of Spokane, gave $150, writing, “Spokane is filled with extraordinary people living ordinary lives. Thanks to the Christmas Bureau for helping some of those Spokanites.”

Ida and Norma’s Draperies, of Spokane, gave $150, as did Johnson and Associates, CPAs, PS.

Ruth and Brian Sullivan, of Spokane, gave $150 “in remembrance of our Jesse, who loved Christmas as a boy and never lost that joy.”

Charles and Rose Carver, of Spokane, gave $125.

An anonymous Coeur d’Alene donor gave $100.

Spokane donors giving $100 include Donna Troyer, Lorraine Duffy, Mary Regina Jett, Peter and Charlotte Yocom, two anonymous donors, Steven and Elizabeth Hitch, and Charles and Bonnie May Millham, who wrote, “The area is much blessed by your efforts. May the peace and guidance of our Lord be with you in the coming year.”

Jim and Linda Hunt, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “Our thanks to all the donors and volunteers in passing along some Christmas joy to those in need.”

Pamela Young, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of Daniel and Adeline Young

Ruby and Robert Wohrle, of Spokane, gave $100. “You do a wonderful job. We hope this small amount will help you reach your goal.”

Theresa Hansen, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “To all the volunteers. Merry Christmas and thanks for all you do.”

Wilma Mahoney, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of Tom Mahoney, Ken Trent and Jack Bradley - three good friends.

The Riders, of Spokane Valley, gave $100, writing, “Thanks for the good work.”

Jason W. Overholser, of Spokane, gave $96.80 via PayPal, as did Michael Gurian, and Theodore Ketcham.

Carol and David Borodin, of Rathdrum, gave $75 “in memory and honor of Don Kelly and all he did for the Christmas Fund.”

Brian and Julie Lehman, of Spokane, gave $75 “in honor of my employer, Colleen Stevens, who is the most caring and generous person I’ve ever known.”

Donald Gale Jr., of Spokane, gave $75.

Phyllis Hanson, of Spokane, gave $65.

Brenda Himelspach, of Spokane, gave $60.

Spokane donors giving $50 include Dan Coyle and Valerie Smith, Ronald Doyen, two anonymous donors, and Lance Weaver, who wrote, “You are doing a wonderful thing for the people of Spokane and Spokane county.”

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $50, writing, “to help less fortunate children have a merry Christmas,” she wrote. “I send this in honor of my great-grandchildren, who are blessed with great parents and a joyous Christmas to look forward to. Thank you and bless all who make this worthy endeavor continue.”

L. Hughes, of Spokane, gave $50, writing, “Thank you for everything you do every year. It is truly amazing that you are able to help all the people you do. Merry Christmas and may God bless you!”

Thomas Parisot, of Spokane, gave $50, writing, “Merry Christmas and a peaceful, stable New Year to all of you and your recipients.”

Alan and Diane Bisson, of Spokane Valley, gave $40 in loving memory of Allan and Dolores Bisson.

Carla Peperzak, of Spokane, gave $36.

Treva Adema, of Liberty Lake, gave $35.

An anonymous Colbert donor gave $25. “God bless all that the wonderful volunteers do for our community. And God bless all those who receive.”

Spokane donors giving $25 include Mary Richardson, Stephen Tilque, and an anonymous retired couple who wrote, “Thank you for making Christmas brighter for so many people.”

Joyce Thompson, of Spokane, gave $25 in memory of her husband, Arnold, who passed away this summer. “He always made sure and sent a donation to the Christmas Bureau,” she wrote.

Mabel Rees, of Spokane Valley, gave $20.

An anonymous St. Maries donor gave $19.12 via PayPal.

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