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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Avista Corp. employees love their time volunteering at the Christmas Bureau

Christmas Bureau volunteers from the accounting department at Avista, left to right: Morgan Loosmore, Keri Meister, Cheryl Kettner, John Wilcox, Jenny Berg, Marta Tosic Defenbach and Carolyn Groome. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Christmas Bureau volunteers from the accounting department at Avista, left to right: Morgan Loosmore, Keri Meister, Cheryl Kettner, John Wilcox, Jenny Berg, Marta Tosic Defenbach and Carolyn Groome. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A group of about 10 Avista Corp. accounting department employees led by Carolyn Groome has been spending a day volunteering at the Christmas Bureau every year for years and they’re all looking forward to going back again.

Cheryl Kettner said the annual effort was started by her old boss, Tami Judge. “Our old manager, she always kind of organized us to do it as a team bonding, fun thing to do,” she said.

Kettner has been going for 13 years and she vividly remembers an experience she had early on that still has the power to bring her to tears. She was helping a recipient in the toy room one year and the woman was meticulously going through the toys searching for the perfect gift for her daughter.

“I had seen this doll earlier behind the scenes,” Kettner said. “I pulled it out and handed it to her and she started crying.”

Morgan Loosmore said she has always been impressed that the toy recipients can choose from some of the same toys she would give her children.

“The quality of toys that these parents are able to get for their children and the pride they have in picking them out is amazing,” she said.

John Wilcox said he vividly remembers his first time volunteering as well.

“I was overwhelmed by the amount of people,” he said. “I had no idea there were that amount of people in our community in need.”

Groome said she’s seen families with several children who have nothing to give them for Christmas. “It is very, in some respects, heartbreaking, too,” she said. “I thought everyone had a Christmas.”

Jenny Berg said she enjoys the bond the shared experience creates with her coworkers.

“We come back from it closer as a group and I think it does help us at work,” she said.

Berg said she sees long lines every year she goes.

“They spend a good amount of their day there,” she said. “To see that many parents spend that amount of time for their kids is really cool.”

This is the first year that Marta Tosic Defenbach will be volunteering and she’s looking forward to it.

“I just joined this group,” she said. “I’m not having any expectations. I’m just excited to be a part of it and help the community.”

Keri Meister said she likes to volunteer in the toy bagging area.

“I really enjoy the toy bagging, I think, because I get to interact with everyone in that position,” she said. “It’s a happy position.”

Wilcox said Avista is supportive of employees who want to volunteer in the community and he looks forward to his time at the bureau every year.

“It’s great to actually see the impact the organization is having on the community,” he said.

“We’re hoping all the people will support the Christmas Bureau because there is a big need,” Tosic Defenbach said.


New donations of $4,725 toward the goal of $525,000 have brought the year-to-date total to $74,115.04.

Avista Corp. donated $3,000 on behalf of its employees. “Each year during the holidays, we come together as a community to make sure that families can celebrate with the warmth and joy of food and gifts,” Avista CEO Scott Morris wrote. “The Fund brings together a wonderful partnership of community resources and volunteers that truly exemplified the spirit of the season. Many thanks to you and The Spokesman-Review for your continued commitment to this holiday tradition of helping others.”

Stephen Scott, of Spokane, gave $400. “Merry Christmas, everyone!” he wrote. “I hope this will be a record year for contributions to the fund.”

An anonymous Spokane donor sent $250. Jan Eastman of Spokane Valley contributed $150. Joyce and James Stefanoff of Spokane donated $125. Another anonymous donor contributed $100. Kim and Anita Eccles of Spokane gave $100, writing “Thank you for all you do.”

Rebecca and John Severinghaus of Spokane contributed $100, as did W.H. and V.A. Selzer of Spokane. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $100. Patricia and William Howard of Liberty Lake contributed $100.

Maxine Kinzer of Spokane donated $100. “Merry Christmas to all!” she wrote. “I’m 97 years old and maybe I’ll be writing you a check when I reach 100 years.”

Audrey and David Nemitz of Spokane Valley gave $50, as did Mabel Morrison of Spokane.

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