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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Christmas Bureau is a holiday tradition for longtime volunteer

Jan House, a longtime Christmas Bureau volunteer, poses for a photo at her Spokane home on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Jan House, a longtime Christmas Bureau volunteer, poses for a photo at her Spokane home on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Jan House had to check to figure out that she’s been coming to volunteer at the Christmas Bureau for 11 years. It’s an annual tradition for her, just like it’s tradition to decorate her home with two stuffed reindeer she’s had for 30 years and a Christmas Village that lines her windowsill.

“It’s been fun,” she said. “It’s very boots-on-the-ground volunteering. Everybody has a job.”

When she first wanted to volunteer, she called in December to sign up, but it was too late. She said she’s done a lot of volunteer work in the past but it’s been mostly serving on boards or policy work.

She began volunteering while she was working as a microbiologist at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, often taking days off to volunteer. She retired in July after a 36-year career and is delighted to help out at the bureau even more.

“I have a little more time now to work more days,” she said.

She’ll spend some shifts bagging gifts, but she’ll spend two full days in the child care area where parents can leave their children while they shop for gifts. That’s where her experience as a grandmother comes in handy.

“That’s a great place to work,” she said.

She’s often helped by volunteers from local high schools.

“Some of them have said they were there as children,” she said. “That was very touching.”

Children are checked in and out of the child care area by their parents. The adults and the children are given numbered bracelets to wear. “Sometimes they’re in there for 10 minutes; sometimes they’re there for an hour,” House said.

But her favorite part of the Christmas Bureau is the set-up days, when volunteers unload piles of toys and books.

“The garage door opens up and the truck backs in,” she said. “It’s like you’re 4 years old and you’re waiting for a truck full of presents.”

House said she loves working with the other volunteers.

“There are people from all walks of life there,” she said. “There are people there who used to be recipients.”


The amount of new donations to the Christmas Bureau is rising, with $6,008 coming in for today’s tally. The goal of $525,000 is inching closer, with new donations bringing the year-to-date total to $83,958.04.

Evergreen Cosmetic and Family Dentistry of Spokane Valley donated $1,000. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $578 via PayPal.

Barbara and David Floyd, of Newport, Washington, donated $500. “Thank you so much for doing this each year,” they wrote. Melissa Tipke, of Spokane, contributed $500. “Merry Christmas to all the loving people who volunteer their time to his wonderful event,” she wrote. “Thank you.”

Charles and Mary Kerr, of Spokane, donated $300. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor sent $300. Barbara and Roger Tompkins, of Spokane, gave $300. George Sullivan, of Colbert, contributed $300 via Pay Pal.

Jan Carrington and Gary Michel, of Spokane, gave $250. Steven and Linda Swartley, of Spokane, contributed $250. An anonymous donor in Lamont, Washington, gave $200, as did an anonymous donor in Colbert. An anonymous donor contributed $150. An anonymous retired newspaper employee gave $165.

Phyllis and John Warden, of Spokane, gave $150. Carol Lingow, of Spokane Valley, sent $100. Karen Trejbal of Rockford, donated $100. “Merry Christmas to all!” she wrote. Mari-Lynn Sonner, of Spokane, donated $100. An anonymous donor contributed $100 in memory of Patti Fowler. Ed and Val Jolicoeur, of Spokane, gave $100 via PayPal.

Bob and Denise Frechette, of Spokane, gave $50, as did Sherrie Burke, of Spokane. Maren and Brian Bofenkamp, of Spokane, gave $50. “We are grateful for two fabulous grandsons, Kayden and Kyler,” they wrote. Pamela Cole, of Spokane Valley, sent $50, as did Loyce Lewis, of Spokane. Randy Bunke, of Deer Park, gave $50.

An anonymous donor contributed $40. Another anonymous donor gave $25.

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

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