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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Christmas Bureau volunteer knows firsthand a little help can go a long way

Brenda Parker, a Christmas Bureau greeter, is pictured with her son, Charles Moore Jr. Parker, 51, of Coeur d’Alene, is taking several vacation days off from her Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center phlebotomist job to volunteer at the bureau. She hopes to spread smiles and offer hugs as someone who years ago faced a bleak Christmas as a single mom.
Brenda Parker, a Christmas Bureau greeter, is pictured with her son, Charles Moore Jr. Parker, 51, of Coeur d’Alene, is taking several vacation days off from her Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center phlebotomist job to volunteer at the bureau. She hopes to spread smiles and offer hugs as someone who years ago faced a bleak Christmas as a single mom.
Treva Lind treval@spokesman.com, (509)459-5423

Head to toe, Brenda Parker will wear holiday bling galore while working eight days as a greeter at the Christmas Bureau.

Two felt reindeer will sway on her headband. She’ll wear bright holiday sweaters and elfish shoes with bells on her toes, all with the hope to bring smiles. She’ll also offer up plenty of hugs, and a dance or two to live Christmas music.

Parker, 51, of Coeur d’Alene, is taking four vacation days and four regular days off from her Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center phlebotomist job to volunteer. It’s become her passion to bring compassion to the thousands of needy families at the bureau, with the perspective of someone who about 20 years ago faced a bleak Christmas herself as a single mom.

“I’m a hugger,” Parker said. “At the Christmas Bureau, I’ll hug someone when it feels right. You can tell just by looking at people if they’re having hard times, because it will show in their eyes, in their face.

“Sometimes, it’s giving them some reassurance that the hard times are going to pass and you just have to have faith; mostly they have to believe in themselves. I know, because a lot of times I lost faith in myself, and I can kick myself for those times.”

Fleeing from pain and past abuse two decades ago, Parker received the comfort of a charitable act that filled her cupboards and brought extras just before Christmas for her kids, then in second and third grades.

“There was more food in the house than I had in a long time, and the kids had probably the best Christmas they’ve ever had,” Parker said.

Other holidays were equally difficult, because her mother died on the night of Dec. 25, 1988.

“I had about 10 really hard years of dealing with the holidays, but I tried to stay strong for my kids,” she said. “My kids have always been that bright light for me no matter what.”

This time of year, she enjoys spending days with her son, Charles Moore Jr., 30, and daughter, Tina Dulay, 29, in addition to her son-in-law and a 6-year-old granddaughter. Parker is used to being surrounded by family, growing up in Valleyford as one of 11 children.

“Christmas to us meant we didn’t get a lot, but we had plenty. My dad worked at Kaiser Mead, so the money was there, but 13 mouths to feed is a lot. No matter what, we were grateful for what we had.”

Two years ago for the Christmas Bureau, she was urged by a co-worker to spend a day among Providence volunteers. One day in 2013 turned into two days last year, and then bureau coordinator Judy Lee asked Parker this year to supervise the greeting and line control areas.

Parker jumped at the chance. “I’m taking vacation days, but to me it’s not a sacrifice. Seeing the looks on people’s faces when they get there and to know they’re going to get help, it warms my heart to a degree I can’t explain.”

Although she’s come a long way from her struggles as a single mom, Parker said she also knows helping others at the bureau is still helping her heal.

“The Christmas Bureau lets me know the holidays are what we make of them,” she said. “I was brought up to believe if you see someone who needs a hug, give them one, because all you’re going to do is brighten their day. At least they know someone is there.”

Each year, thousands of Spokane donors are there for more than 9,000 needy families who turn to the Christmas Bureau for a brighter holiday.

The bureau opens at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center next Thursday, running for nine days through Dec. 19, except for Sunday.

Families are able to select one gift for kids up to age 17, and one book for each up to age 14. Additionally, families receive a $15 to $30 food voucher for each household, based on family size.

The event is a collaboration of Catholic Charities Spokane and Volunteers of America, and between now and Christmas, The Spokesman-Review is collecting donations to cover the bureau’s costs. Any amount is welcomed.

Recent Christmas Fund donations include the following:

The Bergquist Foundation, of Spokane, gave $2,500, with the note, “The board of directors of the Foundation trust that your nonprofit organization will put this money to good use in carrying out its worthy purposes.”

The Assistants, a nonprofit serving Spokane since 1961, gave $500. “We are so happy to support this wonderful community project. God bless and Merry Christmas.”

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $500.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $250 in memory of Howard and Allene Hayden and Kemp and Betty Slaughter, writing, “Thanks for all you do! Merry Merry!”

Donna Dieckman, of Spokane, gave $200.

Tim and Marcia Dorwin, of Spokane, gave $200.

Dave and Mary Larsen, of Spokane, gave $200.

Ken Lalonde, of Spokane, gave $165.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150.

Lois Richards, of Spokane, gave $150.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $136.

Roy and Joey Schmidt, of Cheney, gave $100 with a note, “A hearty thank you to all of you volunteers who make it possible for so many needy people to have a special Christmas. Happy Holidays to you and yours.”

Ronald and Cindy Loomis, of Colbert, gave $100.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100.

Mr. and Mrs. Dean Duncan, of Spokane, donated $100.

Micheal and Valerie Adams, of Spokane, donated $100.

Sharon Coffey, of Spokane, gave $50.

Thelma Border, of Spokane, gave $25.

Greg and Illa Jean Swanson, of Spokane Valley, gave $25.

Tim and Jacquelynn Henney, of Ponderay, gave $20.

Robert Potts, of Spokane, gave $20.

Bonnie and Oscar Nelson, of Spokane, gave $20 in memory of “Dean” Johnson.

Note: For donations made through PayPal, The Spokesman-Review contributed the PayPal processing fee.

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