Many Christmas Bureau volunteers are drawn back to the event year after year because of the friendship and camaraderie that develops through the shared goal of serving others who are in need.
“It’s a really good feeling to be able to come here and volunteer and help so many people this time of year,” said Mick Soss, who has been volunteering at the bureau for 18 years. “There’s so many wonderful volunteers, it’s like a reunion when we come back every year.”
The Christmas Bureau kicks off Thursday and runs through Dec. 17, providing grocery store gift certificates, toys, books and more to thousands of those less fortunate during the holiday season. The service of dedicated long-term volunteers is part of the reason the bureau runs so smoothly each year.
At an orientation Wednesday, volunteer coordinator Brigid Krause told the large group of volunteers to look around the room.
“What you see is the Christmas Bureau,” she said. “You are what makes the Christmas Bureau. We could not do this without you.”
One longtime volunteer, Maxine Adamson, has been volunteering since she married her husband, Davy Adamson, in 2007. Both are 82 years old. When they met, they immediately hit it off. They both love to fish, garden, go dancing and help better the lives of others however they can.
“I love being with people, to help people,” Maxine Adamson said.
She estimated her husband has been volunteering at the bureau for the last 25 years.
“He introduced me to the Christmas Bureau,” she said. “This is something we do every year. It’s just a great bunch of people to work with. Once you start, you’re hooked.”
Seeing the need of the thousands of recipients who line up early at the bureau out in the cold is what motivates her to keep coming back. She recalled seeing a child one year at the bureau without a coat or shoes on his feet.
“It breaks your heart,” she said.
Adamson’s friend, Sally Olson, 70, has volunteered 11 years.
“You just love the people,” she said. “It’s kind of like coming home.”
Like many other bureau volunteers, she and her husband, Randy, started after retiring and have been dedicated to returning each year.
“I said ‘we are not going to sit around in our rocking chairs. We’re going to get out and do something,’ ” said Olson, chuckling. “If we have to come in with our canes and crutches, we will.”
Another group of longtime bureau volunteers, all in their 70s, sat at a table in the lunchroom Wednesday, chatting and laughing together as they caught up on each other’s lives during a break from their orientation.
Their friendship goes back 50 years.
“We’ve been friends for so many years,” said volunteer Robert R. Brown. “You don’t find that too often in life.”
Brown, Robert Brown and Dean Duncan met when their wives, Pamela Brown, Darlene Brown and Mary Duncan, studied together at Sacred Heart School of Nursing.
About a decade ago, the group of friends discovered they were all bureau volunteers by happy coincidence.
Both the Browns share not only names, but birthdays as well, and they both have sons named Robert.
And like all of the volunteers, the group of friends shares a love of service, and the mutual joy that flows between bureau recipients and volunteers.
“What you see building up here is a community,” Dean Duncan said.
Donations to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund pay for the Christmas Bureau, which is run by Catholic Charities Spokane and Volunteers of America.
One anonymous donor, who gave $5,000, summed up the spirit of community the bureau manifests.
“My wife and I have been part of this community for almost 30 years now,” the donor wrote. “This yearly event is a beacon of hope for all of us, and reminds us why we are community. As neighbors, we exist to give to one another, not just to share the joy of good times, but to ease the burden of struggle. We are all in need in some way or another. Thank you for all you do to give hope to all during this season of Christmas.”
Other new donations
Harriet Goebel, of Spokane, gave $2,000.
Wray Farmin, of Spokane, gave $1,000.
Association of Retired Avista Employees and Jean Osterberg, William and Shirley Phipps, Molly Wendle and Jan Wendle, gave $836, writing “The Association of Retired Avista Employees is pleased to continue its tradition of donating to your worthy project.”
An anonymous donor gave $800.
Bill McInerney gave $750 via PayPal, in fond memory of Ed and Lucille McInerney and Robert and Teresa Kuhn.
Peter and Gay Witherspoon, of Spokane, gave $500, as well as John and Janet Peterson, and CR and Diana Wilhite.
Anita Lamp, of Spokane, gave $400 in honor of Father Frank Bach, writing, “He has dedicated his life to helping the poor and the homeless, and has been a welcoming and comforting presence at the Christmas Bureau for many years.”
Fred and Norrine Potts, of Spokane Valley, gave $300, writing, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”
Pam Ness and an anonymous donor gave $300 each. Roofers Local #189 also gave $300, writing, “on behalf of our member and Christmas Bureau volunteer, Fred Preston.”
Mr. and Mrs. Magoo, of Greenacres, gave $250 via PayPal.
Judith R. Hudson, of Spokane, gave $250, writing, “In memory of Bob Lamp who gave his time, talent and treasure each year.”
Beverly Massie, of Spokane, gave $250, writing, “In memory of my hubby Alan, who so loved the work that you do each year. I am so blessed to be a part of it.”
Mary and Dawes Eddy gave $250, as well as Bruce and Kathy Bixler, and Virgil Duchow.
Donald and Eleanor Limmer gave $225.
Karen Mager and Helle Aaes-Jorgensen gave $200 each via PayPal.
Members of the Spokane County/City Bomb Squad gave $150 via PayPal.
Leslie and Meredith Hilby, of Liberty Lake, gave $125, writing “In this season of peace and goodwill, we are pleased to make a contribution to your wonderful fund. We wish joy and happiness to all who come to your doors and a great big THANK YOU to Judy Lee and all of her volunteers.”
George and Barbara Stevens, of Spokane, gave $110, writing, “Thank you one and all for all the good you do. Making it our pleasure to send you a check every year. Thank you again!”
Jim Kershner gave $105 via PayPal.
Bruce and Ann Dentler, Barry Chapman and Jessie Norris, and Alan and Deanna Eppinger, gave three $100 donations.
Bruce and Sharon Anthony, of Spokane, also gave $100, writing, “Thank you for having this community event each year.”
The Kuch Family, of Spokane, gave $100 “In memory of a loving husband and father.”
Sally and Walter Bonsack, Marilyn and John Miller, and Douglas and Marilyn Rider, all of Spokane Valley, gave three $100 donations.
Five donations of $100 were made via PayPal by Craig Aldworth and Katherine Ann Hobbs, Richard and Kay Brightman, Donald Barden, Jim and Peggy Ellingson, and Amy and Bob Lutz.
James Clanton gave $100.
Gary Fiscus, of Liberty Lake, gave $50, as well as Jacklyn Boardman, writing, “In honor of my parents who volunteer for the Christmas Bureau.”
Janet Culbertson, gave $50 via PayPal, writing, “In loving memory of my Dad, Uncle Ron and Puna.”
Catherine Martin, gave $50, as well as an anonymous donor who wrote, “In the name of Bernie Loomis.”
Frances Mann, of Liberty Lake, gave $40 “In remembrance of husband Bob.”
For donations made through PayPal, The Spokesman-Review contributed the processing fee.
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