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

Buying Christmas Bureau toys is a full-time job

Samalia Moreang, 3, follows her parents through the toy room at the annual Christmas Bureau in this photo from Dec. 13, 2017. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

There were years when buying toys for the Christmas Bureau could be accomplished by two volunteers over a couple of months, but now it takes four volunteers working nearly full time all year to accomplish the mammoth task.

Bill Kuch, a toy buyer for White Elephant, handled the toy buying for the Christmas Bureau for nearly 30 years. The bureau has been struggling to replace him since he retired, toy buyer Cheryl Taam said. Kuch died in 2016.

“It’s been a little tricky,” she said. “For the last few years, we have struggled with Fisher Price and Mattel because you need a brick and mortar store. We have had to go on our own, contact various distributors and vendors just to get what we want.”

Taam has since connected with a toy broker who helps connect her to toy vendors. “A lot of times she doesn’t even take her commission or reduces it,” she said. “She helps us find vendors.”

Taam said she used to work with just a handful of vendors and now works with more than 20. “We had to become, in a sense, our own toy store,” she said.

Though she has more connections, several factors are putting a squeeze on her budget. A toy that cost $20 last year is now $30. One vendor increased its shipping price 60 percent last year and another 79 percent this year, Taam said.

“It’s the new rules and regulations they’re doing with the trucking industry,” she said. “It caused an increase in expenses.”

More changes may be on the horizon for next year’s toy buying. “We’re wondering how the tariff situation will affect us,” she said. “That’s going to be another cost.”

But Taam is determined not to sacrifice the quality of the toys the bureau gives out to families. She works to get discounts whenever she can, sometimes contacting the manufacturer directly.

“We wanted kids to have better toys but not increase our costs,” she said. “I think the parents and the kids are going to be really happy with the toys this year.”


New donations of $2,885 have been received, pushing the year to date total to $69,390.04. There is still a long way to go to meet the goal of $525,000.

Scott and Shannon Sevigny, of Spokane, donated $1,000. John and Janet Peterson, of Spokane, gave $500. Heidi and Harold Clarke, of Spokane, sent $200.

An anonymous donor gave $100. Phillip Brown, of Spokane, donated $100 via Pay Pal. George and Ruth Swan, of Spokane Valley, contributed $100, as did Bruce and Ann Dentler, of Spokane. Mel and Gloria McCuddin, of Spokane, gave $100, as did Dave and Mary Larsen, of Spokane.

John and Jody Beck, of Spokane Valley, gave $100. “Cheers to the Mayor and Toots,” they wrote. An anonymous Deer Park donor contributed $100, as did Cynthia Miles, of Spokane Valley.

Lydia and Jose Vila, of Lake Forest Park, Washington, gave $100 via Pay Pal on behalf of the larger Hatch family. “Thank you S-R Christmas Fund, your annual program makes a huge difference to the Spokane community,” she wrote. “Happy holidays.”

Raymond and Elizabeth Schatz contributed $55. “We give again this year in memory of our sister, Karen Schatz Dunning, who would have been 55 years old this year,” they wrote. “Thank you for continuing this wonderful outreach to our community.”

Marcia Downing, of Spokane, contributed $50 via Pay Pal. Lawrence Smith, of Spokane, sent $30. Glennavon Medley, of Spokane Valley, donated $25. Patricia Scott, of Spokane Valley, donated $25 via Pay Pal.

Editor’s note: The following donations totaling $2,051 were mistakenly omitted from Wednesday’s print story. The donations are already reflected in the year-to-date total.

Gail and Roberta Keeling, of Otis Orchards, donated $1,100 in honor of their grandsons, Taylor Merkley and Kolby and Ryan Keeling.

Janice Dare, of Coeur d’Alene, donated $400. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150, writing, “We are on a fixed income, but I always budget to include the Christmas Fund each year. God bless everyone involved in the Christmas Fund – workers, volunteers, recipients and donors.”

Lane Klees, of Spokane, contributed $150, writing, “God bless your efforts!” Corliss Newman and John Bodinger, of Spokane, contributed $100. Jay Jordan, of Spokane, donated $100. Steve, Gail and Ben Quaid, of Colbert, gave $50. An anonymous donor gave $1.

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