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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Retired teachers, librarians bring experience to Christmas Bureau children’s book selection

Tana Carosella, book buyer for the Christmas Bureau, helps Mindy Harkins find a book for her 9-year-old daughter for Christmas, Thursday, Dec 13, 2018, at the Christmas Bureau being held at the Spokane Interstate Fair and Expo Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

There’s an art to buying and selecting books for children, and it’s one that has been mastered by the teachers and librarians who help the Volunteers of America provide a book for every child who visits the Christmas Bureau.

“This is not something we do lightly,” book buyer Tana Carosella said. “It takes all of us to make this happen.”

Most of the volunteers are retired, but find other ways to keep current in the reading habits of young children.

“We just try to stay tuned with our grandchildren,” Carosella said.

The volunteers also pay attention to what people are looking for when they go through the line to help them decide what to buy next year.

It’s not enough just to know that a parent has an 8-year-old girl, volunteer and retired librarian Darwin Page said. “Is it a girly girl or a tomboy?” he said.

Volunteers also ask parents if children are avid or reluctant readers and what they’re interested in before making a recommendation.

Mindy Harkins was looking for something for her 9-year-old daughter, who she describes as smart and a good reader. With Carosella’s help, she picked a Judy Blume book.

“Her reading scores went down because she got into video games,” she said. “I’m hoping this will challenge her. I think I picked a good one.”

She also got an oversized, illustrated Star Wars book for her 6-year-old son.

“He’s a fan of Star Wars,” she said. “It’s a beautiful book. He’s going to love these graphics.”

There’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction books available for infants through teenagers. More advanced readers can get a Lord of the Rings novel, something by John Grisham or classics like “Tom Sawyer,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “A Wrinkle in Time.”

“We’re always on the hunt for books,” Carosella said. “We don’t have a lot of money so we have to find bargains whenever we can.”

The volunteers do a lot of shopping at a Scholastic warehouse in Spokane.

“We walk up and down this huge building,” she said. “It’s like going to Costco. They give us great bargains.”

It’s all worth it to provide books to children, she said. Carosella told a story about a father who teared up over the books he was able to get his children.

“It’s a touching moment,” she said. “Our hearts are filled.”


New donations continue to arrive, but the Christmas Fund is losing ground. Donations are running more than $80,000 behind this time last year, casting a worrying light on whether the fund will meet its goal for the 13th year in a row. This year the goal is $525,000.

Donations of $11,217 have come in to raise the year-to-date total to $202,740.13.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $1,250. Jeffrey and Dorothy Clode, of Spokane, donated $750.

Mildred McKenzie, of Spokane, donated $500, as did June Williams, of Spokane. Tina and Charles McElligott, of Spokane, gave $500. Ruth Cummings, of Spokane, contributed $500. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $500. Mark and Valerie Sonderen, of Spokane, donated $500. The Rhea Dow Charitable Fund, managed by Schwab Charitable, gave $500.

Tom and Wendy Bauer, of Spokane, contributed $400. Elaine Cullen, of Chattaroy, donated $350. “Thank you for supporting the bureau,” she wrote. “Our community is a better place because of it.”

Scott and Karen Mager, of Chattaroy, contributed $300. “Merry Christmas from Chattaroy,” they wrote. Bruce and Kathy Bixler donated $300. Heather Barbieri, of Spokane, gave $300. An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $300. The family of David A. DeFoe donated $300.

An anonymous Spokane donor sent $250, as did Gretchen and Margaret Rehberg, of Spokane. Steve and Peggy Koehler, of Spokane, gave $200, as did Gregory Wick, of Mead.

Denise Mutschler, of Cheney, contributed $175. Margot Fitzgerald, of Spokane, sent $150. “I am happy to be able to give a bit more this year,” she said. “I cannot think of a better place to give my money than to help my neighbors have a happy Christmas.” An anonymous Spokane donor gave $118.

Vernon and Donna Knudsen, of Spokane Valley, donated $100, as did Annette LaCombe of Spokane. John and Kathleen Roche, of Liberty Lake, sent $100. Dianne Bongarts, Maxine Breshears and Lorraine Duffy, all of Spokane, each contributed $100. Gary and Judy Spangelo, of Cheney, gave $100.

David and Jo Ann Schwartz, of Spokane, sent $100, as did Naomi Franklin of Spokane. Joan Casey, of Mead, gave $100. Mary Ann Gilpin Gordon and Roger Gordon donated $100 in loving memory of their parents, H.W. “Gil” and Eva Gilpin and Dorothy Gordon. Richard and Joseph Schroeder, of Spokane, sent $100, as did Ryan and Gwen Taylor.

Debra and Stephen Piper, of Spokane, gave $100. Thomas and Linda Hempel, of Spokane Valley, contributed $100. “Enjoying the warm Arizona sunshine – hope this helps to give a little enjoyment to those in need,” they wrote. “Merry Christmas.” Richard Ralston, of Newport, Washington, donated $100.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $99, writing “Merry Christmas to all you dear people – helpers and families. Another year, my 99th. As always I’m looking forward to the big 100.”

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $50 “in memory of my loving husband who so enjoyed every Christmas moment!” Monica and Eddy Nagashima, of Spokane, donated $50. Bob and Bonnie Gregson, of Spokane, gave $50. Two anonymous Spokane donors each sent $50.

Michael and Robyn Davis, of Spokane, contributed $50.

An anonymous donor gave $40, writing, “Thank you for all you do. Great newspaper.”

Judith Schoepflin, of Spokane, gave $35. Barb McKay, of Spokane, contributed $25, as did an anonymous Spokane donor.

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