Jan Staeheli taught preschool and kindergarten for 37 years.
She’s retired now, but continues to work with children as a volunteer in the child care area at the Christmas Bureau, bringing with her decades of experience working with children.
“It was just a natural thing to come work with the little ones,” she said. “You can’t get them much sweeter than this. I wish we had them longer.”
Offering child care on-site allows the thousands of parents who visit the bureau to drop off their children while they go choose a new toy and book. That way, it can be a surprise come Christmas morning. Families take the gifts they’ve chosen from the bureau in opaque black bags so the kids can’t see what’s inside.
It can be difficult and costly for some families to find child care, and offering it at the bureau is yet another way organizers strive to serve recipients and make their experience there as pleasant as possible.
Staeheli, along with other volunteers, supervised kids as they played with blocks, a rocking horse and a toy kitchen Thursday at the bureau, which is held at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
“It’s hard for them when they first get here because they don’t want to leave Mom, but once they’re in here and playing they don’t want to leave,” she said.
But the kids don’t leave empty-handed; the Hoo Hoo Express Club of Brookdale Place at Harbor Crest makes and donates little wooden trucks for the kids, which they can take home.
“That helps with the transition,” Staeheli said.
Not only is it fun for the kids, but recipients can rest assured their children are in good hands while they’re away.
“We’re really careful with the check-in and check-out process,” said child care supervisor Tammy Walker.
Rosanna Witherell visited the bureau to get gifts for her four kids. She said she was grateful the child care was available.
“It helps out a lot,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard when you’re trying to shop but you’re chasing after your kids.”
Since 1945, the Christmas Bureau has served a vital role in the community by providing assistance to those less fortunate during the holiday season. Donations pay for the bureau, which provides grocery store gift certificates, toys and books to thousands of low-income individuals and families. Today marks the last day of this year’s bureau.
The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund raises money for the program, and Catholic Charities Spokane and Volunteers of America organize it.
So far, less than half of the $525,000 needed has been raised to fund the bureau so that it can continue to brighten Christmas for thousands of children around the region.
Klaue Family Foundation, of Spokane, gave $5,000, writing, “The foundation is once again blessed to be able to contribute to the Christmas Fund. We are very thankful we are able to continue to contribute and be a part of a program that brings joy, brightness and many blessings to the families and organizations in need. The spirit and generosity of the Spokane community has helped many families experience the true meaning of Christmas. The benevolent providence and gift of giving to assist those less fortunate is rewarding, especially in the unprecedented economic times.”
Kile Machine and Manufacturing Inc., of Rosalia, gave $2,500 in memory of Bill Kuch.
Randy and Sharon Fosseen gave $1,000, writing, “In honor of Brigid Krause, who has made this her personal mission each year for many years. Thanks for making this season a bit happier for all the people you serve.”
The Suburbanites gave $500, writing, “The Suburbanites were started in 1959. We are a group of women dedicated to serving the children of our community through fundraisers. Therefore, we are donating $500 to the Christmas Bureau to provide books and toys to children.”
Celia Garceau, of Spokane, gave $500, writing, “Thank you for all you do for the families in our community.”
Gretchen and Sean Lasalie, of Spokane, also gave $500, as well as an anonymous donor.
Tim and Jackie Randall gave $500, writing, “Wishing a merry Christmas to all of Spokane County. And may we have peace and goodwill to all here and abroad.”
Bob and Dorothy Putz, of Spokane, gave $300, writing, “In memory of Jack, because he cared.”
Harvey and Dorothy Lochhead, of Spokane, gave $230 in memory of their nephew, Mark Dimond, and niece, Sherry Mercer.
Joyce T. and George Schroeder, of Spokane, gave $200. Stanley Sargent also gave $200.
Roundys, of Spokane, gave $150.
Scott and Connie Brunell, of Spangle, gave $150, as did the Schultz family.
John E. and Beverly A. Johnson, of Spokane Valley, gave $100.
Robert and Susan Anselmo, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “In honor of our children and grandchildren.”
Margie Byers, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “In memory of my parents, John L. and Marguerite Cooney.”
Betty Frost, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “In memory of a loving husband, Jack E. Frost Sr., and our son Jack Jr.”
Marie Dawson gave $100, writing, “Blessings to all who work to bring Christmas cheer to those in need.” An anonymous donor also gave $100, as well as Craig and Linda Lenhart, of Spokane.
Kent-Jackie Richardson, of Spokane, gave $50, as well as an anonymous donor, and Freese Builders gave $50.
Nancy Hood, of Spokane Valley, gave $40, writing, “Thanks for doing this service for the community each year.”
Gordon Landberg, of Spokane Valley, also gave $40.
An anonymous donor gave $25.