The line was long at the Christmas Bureau on its final day.
“We really had a very busy final day, and I’m really glad we were able to serve so many people on our last day,” Judy Lee, special events coordinator with Catholic Charities Spokane, said Saturday.
One of those visiting the Bureau on its last day, a 28-year-old mother of three girls, called it “quite a blessing.”
“I couldn’t afford Christmas presents this year,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve always taken care of my own, but this year I hit a lot of hard spots.”
In the first months of life, her infant daughter has had ear infections and a ruptured eardrum; hand, foot and mouth disease; thrush; whooping cough; the flu and colds. She has been sick constantly, and her mother hasn’t been able to work because she can’t put her child in day care.
The girls’ father is struggling with addiction, so the mother is doing what she can to provide. As she waited to browse the toy room and choose new books and toys for her girls, the grateful woman asked a Bureau organizer how she could volunteer in the future.
“I want to teach my kids the power of giving back,” she said.
Since 1945, the Christmas Bureau has served a vital role in the community, providing those less fortunate with grocery vouchers, new toys, books and more.
This year, the Christmas Bureau issued 7,574 grocery vouchers and assisted 26,012 people in 7,540 households. During the event, 12,226 adults were served, as well as 13,786 children who might not have experienced the joy of Christmas without the Bureau.
Many recipients come from disadvantaged, underserved segments of the population. Some, for example, are mentally or physically ill, elderly and on a fixed income, disabled, unemployed, living paycheck to paycheck, homeless or refugees starting a new life.
Still others are single mothers, students trying to gain job skills or victims of domestic violence trying to escape a cycle of abuse.
Most, like the mother waiting to look for toys Saturday, are doing the best they can to provide for their families but have temporarily fallen on hard times, while others are struggling to escape the cyclical bind of generational poverty.
“Being in the cycle in poverty is a tough thing,” said Rob McCann, Catholic Charities Spokane director. “It’s tough on your heart; it’s tough on your soul; it’s tough on everything. The Christmas Bureau takes away a little bit of that.”
Everyone who visits the Bureau, regardless of their life circumstances, is treated with warmth, dignity and respect.
For some, “this is the one good thing that’s going to happen for Christmas,” McCann said.
“People walk out of here with much more than a toy,” he said. “They walk out of here with hope.”
The Christmas Bureau motto sums it up: “We believe Christmas Bureau recipients may not long remember what they receive, but we trust they will never forget how they were treated.”
“This could be any one of us,” McCann said.
Donations to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund pay for the Christmas Bureau. Catholic Charities Spokane and Volunteers of America organize the Bureau.
The community effort comes together each year with the help of hundreds of dedicated volunteers and donations from individuals and businesses in the region. While this year’s Bureau has ended, donations are still needed to meet a $525,000 goal.
Jim and Maggie Randall, of Spokane, gave $7,500, writing, “The fund has always been an important part of Spokane’s support for those in need in our community. It is our pleasure to be able to help your efforts to make a happy time for the less fortunate families in our area.”
Spokane Regional Plan Center gave $2,500, writing, “Since 1994, the Spokane Regional Plan Center and its members have been proud to donate to this most worthy cause; this year with the enclosed check we keep that tradition. We hope all those in the community that are considering a donation keep in mind the families and children those donations benefit. They are not faceless causes thousands of miles away, but rather our own neighbors. All one needs to do is read the paper each day to see that the needs of those in our community are great, and every donation is vital for the Christmas Fund to meet their goal of providing a happy holiday for those less fortunate. We hope you meet your goal and appreciate the dedication of all those working at the Christmas Bureau, for they make the program a reality. Giving whatever you can, no matter how big or small the donation, epitomizes the true spirit of Christmas and provides a blessing for those in need in our community.”
Claude and Mable Mitson, of Spokane Valley, gave $400.
Richard and Lois Steury, of Liberty Lake, gave $300. Wes and Dorothy Newbill also gave $300, as did Colleen and Gregory Stevens.
Dennis and Patricia Doyle, of Spokane, gave $200, writing, “Thank you for all you do. God bless each and every one of you.”
Richard and Zella Novotney, of Spokane Valley, gave $150.
Patti and Wayne Hibdon, of Spokane Valley, gave $100.
Marv and Marilyn Farver, of Coulee Dam, gave $100, writing, “In memory of our daughter, Brena, who lost her fight with cancer on Sept. 11 this year.”
Blaine Krebs, of Colbert, also gave $100, as did John Tiffany.
Pat and Darlene Reilly, of Spokane, gave $50.
An anonymous donor gave $50.
Richard and Claudia Kroll gave $40.
Gail Kiser, of Spokane, gave $25.
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