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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Christmas Bureau helps grandmother raising five grandchildren

Volunteer Clarence McCloud preps batteries for toys on the opening day of the Christmas Bureau, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

Lesley Stevenson learned three years ago that sometimes life doesn’t go the way you planned. At the age of 70, she came into custody of five grandchildren and has been raising them on her own ever since.

Stevenson, now 73, said she didn’t hesitate to take the children in, even though it’s been a long time since she was a single mother to five boys.

“They’re really, really sweet,” she said of her grandchildren. “They’re not puppies. You don’t get rid of them.”

Stevenson has become an expert at finding help to make ends meet on her social security income and food stamps. She’s learned to use food banks, WIC, Coats for Kids, Teen Closet and other charitable organizations. She heard about the Christmas Bureau last year from a social worker.

Last year, Stevenson came expecting to leave with a few cheap toys, but that’s not what she found. “I was so shocked to walk in there to see the quality to choose from,” she said. “It was almost impossible to choose.”

This year, she came early enough to get new pajamas for each child, who range in age from 3 to 13. There’s only a limited supply of pajamas available. “We desperately needed pajamas,” she said. “That was wonderful.”

She was also impressed with the quality of the books given to each child. “I feel like we made out like bandits,” she said.

Last year, she waited in line outside in the cold, but this year she arrived early and was able to wait inside the Ag Building at the Spokane County Fairgrounds. “It’s worth the wait,” she said. “I couldn’t appreciate anyone more.”

While five kids can be a handful sometimes, Stevenson said the children are doing well. “Yeah, things are hard, but that’s just the way it is,” she said.

She volunteers as much as she can at her church and her grandchildren’s schools as a way to give back. When the 3-year-old twins get older, she said, she’d like to volunteer at the Christmas Bureau.

“I think this would be a really neat place to give back to,” she said.


Donations continue to come in slowly, with today’s total of $10,260 bringing the year-to-date total to $176,290.95. There are only two weeks to go until Christmas, leaving little time to collect the needed amount of $525,000.

Rial and Don Moulton, of Moulton Wealth Management, sent a donation of $5,000 along with a short letter. “Our family’s Christmas will be forever changed, as we lost our beautiful mother this year,” they wrote. “Your Christmas Fund was a cause she truly loved. And so in her honor was are happy to again contribute, hoping it helps bring joy to many needy families. We would like to thank our wonderful clients and excellent staff, without whom this wouldn’t be possible. And Mom, we miss you each and every day. God Bless and Merry Christmas to all.”

Michael Altringer, of Spokane, donated $2,000. Rick and Diana Wilhite sent $600 with a note that read: “To the many volunteers at the Christmas Bureau, thank you for all you do and a wonder filled holiday to all.”

Bryce and Cheryl Backus, of Spokane Valley, sent $500. “This donation is in memory of our mom Patricia Clark who passed away this year,” they wrote. “She always made our Christmas special and felt every child deserved a Christmas. We can’t thank the Christmas Fund enough for all that you do and the joy you give on each child’s face Christmas morning.”

Peter and Mary Lou Bach, of Spokane, gave $400. “May this bring some joy to families in need,” they wrote. An anonymous Deer Park donor gave $300. Burt and Shirley Pendleton, of Spokane, contributed $250.

Gary and Sharon Randall, of Colbert, donated $225 in memory of their parents Pres and Margaret Cleveland and Les and Clara Randall. Ralph and Debra Prouty, of Spokane, gave $200. John and Donna Leaming, of Spokane, donated $150.

Ann Smith, of Spokane, donated $100 via Pay Pal “in honor of Don Kelly and his tireless effort in volunteer work to the Christmas Bureau as well as many other Spokane area nonprofit organizations.”

Leslie and Emil Wunderle, of Spokane, donated $100. Daunita Higgins sent $100 via Pay Pal. Mike Schmeltzer and Shani Marchant, of Spokane, donated $100 in memory of their parents, Butch and Maureen Marchant and Charles and Irvine Schmeltzer.

Clyde Ylitalo, of Coeur d’Alene, donated $50, as did Virginia Piper, of Spokane Valley. An anonymous Spokane donor also gave $50. William Curts, of Newport, Washington, contributed $40. Theresa Hansen, of Spokane, gave $25 via Pay Pal. Curt and Mary Jo Lorenz, of Chattaroy, contributed $20.

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