There are only 12 days until Christmas. While an old English Christmas carol lyrically describes fantastical gift giving over 12 days, in Spokane, holiday magic happens in 10 at the Christmas Bureau.
“I enjoy watching first-time recipients walk into the toy room. The look on their faces. It’s ‘Wow! Everything is going to be OK.’ A Christmas miracle just happened and you can see it on their face,” said Rob McCann, Catholic Charities executive director.
Organized by Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, the Christmas Bureau distributes books, toys and food vouchers for about 9,000 needy families over 10 days, excluding Sunday. During the first three days, the bureau served 3,315 households and provided gifts for 6,551 children.
The charity is funded by donations from the community and still needs to raise another $353,421 of its $525,000 goal this season. About 96 percent of the funds raised pays for those books, toys and food vouchers during the 10 days the bureau is open, since about 400 volunteers keep overhead costs low.
Each day at the bureau, families listen to live entertainment while they wait up to several hours in line to pick out a book and gift for each child. Organizers hope those lines will diminish over the coming years.
“It’s our goal to serve less people; to get people out of the cycle of poverty,” McCann said. “Our hope is to have people come through but not need to come through at some point in their lives.”
McCann said over the past year, he’s seen a step toward that goal because more of the people Catholic Charities serves are getting medical care, many of them for the first time in years.
“The big change in the world of poverty is with health care. People are seeing doctors for things that have ailed them for years. … It’s a profound change that they can access health care,” he said, predicting that this could help reduce the number of people living in poverty over the next decade.
Marilee Roloff, Volunteers of America executive director, added that increased access to mental health care and substance abuse services is another improvement, but stagnant wages are impeding the path out of poverty.
“People are still making $9 an hour,” she said.
Working full time for the Washington state minimum wage of $9.32 adds up to less than $1,500 per month, not nearly enough to support a family and afford Christmas presents.
But thanks to the generous donors and volunteers who make the Christmas Bureau possible, every area child can have something nice to open in 12 days.
Justus Bag Co., of Spokane Valley, donated $5,000 in memory of the company’s founder, Roland “Curly” Justus. “The entire staff at Justus Bag Company is pleased to, once again, contribute to The Christmas Fund. We are aware of the fact that there is even a great need this year and we are hopeful every need will be fulfilled and families will be able to enjoy the holiday season,” Darin Justus wrote.
Moulton Wealth Management, of Spokane Valley, gave $5,000. “With great pleasure and hope we again contribute to your worthy cause and hope it brings joy to many needy families. It would not be possible without our wonderful clients, excellent staff and our very special Mother. God bless and merry Christmas to all,” Rial and Don Moulton wrote.
Mike and Rita Gibson, of Spokane, gave $1,000.
Patricia and Larry Bishop, of Spokane, gave $1,000.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $500. “We hope this will bring smiles and hope for someone who is having a difficult time, who is lonely, or who is in need of someone who cares.”
Joyce Millerbernd and Vincent Rogers, of Spokane, gave $500.
Norrine and Fred Potts, of Spokane Valley, gave $500.
Dorothy and Robert Putz, of Spokane, gave $250 in memory of Jack, who believed in the magic of Christmas. “Hopefully, this donation will bring joy to some needy families at Christmas,” they wrote. “Special thanks to the Review and all the volunteers who help make this possible.”
Judy Boyer, of Spokane, gave $250. “May my gift help to bring peace and joy to families on Christmas Day.”
Frances Waddell, of Spokane, gave $240. “Once again, I have set aside $20 each month so I can give as much as possible on my limited income. Bless you and all the volunteers who make Christmas possible for so many needy,” she wrote.
An anonymous Cheney donor gave $200, as did an anonymous Spokane donor.
American Italian Club of Spokane gave $200. “Thank you for the wonderful work you do for the welfare of our community,” they wrote.
Connie and Scott Brunell, of Spangle, gave $150, as did Deborah Demars, of Spokane, Tom and Marcia O’Leary, of Spokane, and an anonymous Spokane Valley donor.
Michael and Doreen Lewis, of Spokane Valley, gave $127.
Leslie and Meredith Hilby, of Liberty Lake, gave $125. “Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers. Blessing to all the clientele and Merry Christmas to all!” they wrote.
Charlotte and Paul Hudson, of Clayton, Washington, gave $100.
Fred Fox, of Spokane, gave $100. “Thank you for all the work you do for the community. We are happy to contribute,” they wrote.
G.E. Sharman, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of Linda and Christianne Sharman.
Other Spokane donors giving $100 include George Schroeder, Janet and Paul Bostian, Mabel Morrison, Miriam Finnegan, Sharon and Ed Cassens, Wanda and Adrian Nichols, William and Rita VanCleve, and Jennifer Wengeler.
Jeffrey Danner, of Spokane Valley, gave $100.
Treva Adema, of Liberty Lake, gave $50 in memory of Henry J. Adema.
Northwest Treasure Hunters Club, of Post Falls, gave $50.
Spokane donors giving $50 include Charles and Kathy Huggins, an anonymous Spokane donor, Esther Westlund, John and Sharon Hopper, Nancy Martin, and Wileva Damon.
Cherie and Douglas Foss, of Spokane, gave $50 in memory of Lydabeth. “We miss you!” they wrote.
Kris Spelman, of Spokane, gave $50 in loving memory of her grandmother Violet Burgunder and great aunt Elsie Altin.
Michael and Dorothy McMurtery, of Spokane, gave $40.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $25. “It is good you can make Christmas a little better for so many people. Thank you for all your efforts,” they wrote.
Two anonymous Spokane donors gave $20 and $10 respectively.
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