Home for the holidays has a deeper meaning than the nostalgic lyrics for Sheena Springer. She’s thankful to have a home this season. Last year, the 26-year-old mother of two was living with her kids at the Union Gospel Mission.
“I’m thankful. Last Christmas we were homeless. We’re thankful this Christmas is better,” she said, while standing in line at the Christmas Bureau with her son Patrick Yallup III.
Organized by Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, the Christmas Bureau provides books, toys and $15 to $30 food vouchers for needy families, funded entirely by donations. It still needs to raise almost $155,000 this season, after serving 9,111 households and distributing gifts for 15,783 children. The average reported monthly income per family was $1,193.
That’s about what Springer and her children get as survivor benefits. Her children’s father died in a car accident in 2010, when Maleigha Yallup, 5, was a toddler. Three weeks after the funeral, Springer learned she was pregnant with Patrick, whom she named after his dad when he was born in 2011.
“It was rough,” she said, describing how she worked as a teacher’s assistant.
The following year, Springer enrolled at Spokane Falls Community College, moving off the Colville Reservation with her kids.
“I wanted to move off the reservation and better my life,” said Springer, who has 10 credits left to earn her associate’s degree in gerontology.
Springer said they had an apartment until it was burglarized. The family moved in with her mom for a time but the commute cost was too expensive on limited student loans. She was faced with a choice: Drop out of school and live on the reservation or move into a Spokane shelter and search for affordable housing.
When the daily challenge affected her grades, Springer said, a professor pulled her aside, wanting to know what was going on. That meeting was serendipitous.
“Her mother was in her 90s. She’d just moved in with her. They had a vacant house in Hillyard,” said Springer, describing how she’d also applied for housing help through the Salvation Army at the urging of her program director.
On Christmas Eve she learned she could move in, with different homeless services supplying the deposit and some basic household goods.
“It was a struggle. The community was a lot of help to me,” she said. “We were blessed. This year has been so much better.”
With a home and a tree this year, Springer didn’t have enough for decorations or presents. She and the children made their own ornaments and she went to the Christmas Bureau for presents.
The long-running charity is the way Spokane donors ensure every area child, like Springer’s children, gets a holiday gift.
At the Christmas Bureau, 3-year-old Patrick accompanied his mom through the toy room to point out possible presents. Then a friend took him out of sight while she selected the toy he’ll open.
His excitement was palpable. When asked about Santa, he jumped up and down, grinning. “I like Santa!” he said.
Acme Concrete Paving Inc., of Spokane, sent $7,470. Employee Laura Anderson gave $100, Steve White gave $40, Tom Mattix gave $200, Dave Kappers gave $125, Michele White gave $200, Dale Reynolds gave $20, Marty McWilliams gave $50, and Robert and Lauri Seghetti gave $500. The company matched the employee contributions with $1,235 and added another $5,000.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $5,000. “Thank you to everyone who volunteers and donates to help all have a merry Christmas. Health and happiness to all,” she wrote.
Kilgore Construction Inc., of Colbert, gave $2,500.
An anonymous Post Falls donor gave $1,000 “in loving memory of Al and Lilian Rudolf who blessed the lives of many with their loving and giving ways. Thank you for all you do for our community,” they wrote.
Spokane donors giving $1,000 were Dupree Building Specialties, Max J. Kuney Co. and an anonymous donor.
The Ashlock/Boyd family, of Liberty Lake, gave $500, as did an anonymous Spokane donor, and T.W. Clark Construction, of Spokane.
Spokane donors giving $300 were Gerald Rein, Colleen and Greg Stevens, an anonymous donor and the employees of the five Spokane Polka Dot Pottery stores, who wrote, “We wish the bureau a very merry Christmas!”
Steve and Barbara Stoyanac, of Mead, gave $250.
Sarah and Emma Vogelman, of Spokane, gave $250.
Richard and Christy Pospahala, of Newman Lake, gave $200.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $200, writing, “Thank you for your many years of helping make a good Christmas for those who really need it!”
Scott and Jennifer Marquis, of Spokane, gave $200, as did Steven and Beverly Chandler.
Jean and Robert Fromm, of Chattaroy, gave $196.
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $160 in memory of Dorothy Gordon.
The Vinje sisters gave $155, an annual donation from these Spokane high school graduates who now live on the west side of the state: Prasti Vinje Purdum and Astrid Vinje (Bush) in Seattle, and Michelle Vinje in Edmonds.
David and Joanne Paul, of Post Falls, gave $150 in memory of Herb, John and Justin this holiday season. “Wishing you a merry and blessed Christmas. Thanks to all the volunteers of this great organization,” they wrote.
Cynthia and Mercedes Tate, of Spokane, gave $150. “Merry Christmas for good little girls and boys in Spokane,” they wrote.
Donald Fitzgerald, of Spokane Valley, gave $140 in memory of Shirley and Maureen.
George and Michelene Weisbarth, of Newport, Washington, gave $100. “Thank you for all you do to help make Christmas more merry for lots of folks,” they wrote.
Spokane donors giving $100 include Charlie and MaryAnn Catchpole, Pat and Katherine Harper, an anonymous donor, and Don and Marie Johnson, who wrote, “Special thanks to all who volunteer at the Christmas Bureau and keep up the good work!”
Gordon and Christa Bledsoe, of Spokane, gave $100. “I remember when I grew up in Germany during World War II and the American soldier gave us children a Christmas party with a bag of goodies and a box of chocolate and cookies. What a treat. We were hungry. I will never forget. I hope you reach your goal and I thank you for what you’re doing for our children and families in need,” Christa wrote.
Jill and Jerry Skogstad, of Spokane, gave $100 in honor of all the people who helped them through Jill’s breast cancer.
Steve and Roxie Palmer, of Spokane, gave $100 “in memory of Chet, Einie, Papa and Merlie, parents who taught us what love is about,” they wrote.
Mark and Janice Lee, of Spokane Valley, gave $100.
Leslie and Scott Huff, of Kingwood, Texas, gave $50.
Spokane donors giving $50 include Jerry and Rozanne Winters, Erline Manning, John Dowd of Spokane Veteran’s Home, Thomas and Elaine Pitzer, and two anonymous donors, one who gave in remembrance of their parents.
Norma Mac Arthur, of Poulsbo, Washington, gave $48.25 “via PayPal, in memory of the Mellick family.”
Nancy Hood, of Greenacres, gave $40.
Gail Kiser, of Spokane, gave $35, as did John and Kathryn Robinson.
Douglas and Marilyn Lloyd, of Spokane, gave $25, as did Preston and Carolyn Smith, and Val Smith and Dan Coyle, who wrote, “Our wishes are for your staff and the relationship your paper has in our house all year long.”
Sheri Barnard, of Spokane, gave $23.97 via PayPal.
Dixie Todd, of Medical Lake, gave $1 cash. “Thank you for helping the greater Spokane area families with holiday needs. It’s not much but here’s a dollar,” she wrote.
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