The Christmas Bureau is an annual tradition organized by Catholic Charities, the Volunteers of American and The Spokesman-Review that brings toys, books and food to homes across Eastern Washington and North Idaho. This year the need in the Spokane community is up but donations are lagging far behind, putting the Christmas Bureau in jeopardy.
Friday was the bureau’s final day of operations for the year. This year, the bureau served 29,563 people in 8,561 households, including 13,112 adults and 16,451 children. It’s a significant increase from last year, which saw 26,103 people in 7,532 households seek help. Last year was nearly identical to the year before that.
Johnathan Mortenson lives in one of those homes. He and his wife have three boys and one girl and are expecting another girl in just three weeks. “I’m the only one working, too, so all of our money goes to bills,” he said.
His wife usually works but is unable to now, which put the pinch on their holiday budget. Mortenson said he is grateful for the help his family received from the bureau. “It’s an honor, a blessing,” he said. “We appreciate what people are doing. There’s obviously great people out there who have some money that can help other families.”
Hugo Cruz brought his three daughters to the bureau and expressed his thanks through one of them, who translated for him. Money is short and they came to the bureau “so we can have a happy Christmas,” he said.
Candice Hieb has a 17-year-old daughter at home. “This is her last kid Christmas,” she said.
Hieb has used the bureau in the past when her daughter was younger and circumstances brought her back this year. “I had a stroke,” she said. “This year has been very rough.
“It’s a blessing that they do this. Otherwise, she wouldn’t really have a Christmas this year.”
New donations have dropped again, bringing the Christmas Fund to a crisis point. Donations were more than $109,000 higher by this date last year, raising serious questions about whether this will be the 14th year in a row the Christmas Fund goal will be met.
Catholic Charities and the Volunteers of America have set of goal of collecting $525,000 to pay for the food vouchers, toys and books they have handed out over the last two weeks. They are depending on the generosity of the community to pay the bills.
Today’s donations total $5,577, bringing the year-to-date total to only $348,203.13.
The Spokane County Deputy Prosecutors Local 1553 PA gave a donation of $500 and treasurer Sharon Hedlund also enclosed a personal donation of $250. “We would like to issue a challenge to all regional government bargaining units representing Spokane County government attorneys to meet or beat this donation,” Hedlund wrote. “In addition, I have included another $250 with a personal challenge to all attorneys living or working in Spokane County to reach in deep and meet this year’s Christmas Fund needs. Thank you for all the work you do to bring seasonal merriment to our community members!”
An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $500. The Inland Empire Mustang Club sent $500. “It is said that from those who are blessed with much, much is expected,” the club wrote. “The Inland Empire Mustang Club works very hard all year long just to give back to the community we love so much and to other worthy organizations across our land. We are very pleased to include you in our giving this year! As you have blessed so many with your gifts of love, time talent and treasure, it is our desire to bless you back!”
The Kaith and Kathleen Mackenzie Donor Advised Fund managed by Schwab Charitable sent $500.
Brian and Ruth Sullivan gave $250. An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $250 “on behalf of Spencer and Nathan, for families less fortunate. Thank you. This fund is one of the best and provides a seasonal lift to so many families in our community.”
Wendy Start, of Spokane, donated $250. Mary Kay and E. Dawes Eddy, of Spokane, sent $250. Nicholas Abariotes, of Veradale, contributed $250. Alan and Sue Lesher donated $250 via PayPal. The Skaufel family gave $247 in memory of Mary Romans.
Kelly Moorman, of Spokane, sent $200 via Pay Pal. Brad Ennis and Terren Roloff gave $200. An anonymous donor gave $200 via PayPal in memory of Joseph Huster.
Ronna Ricco, of Spokane, donated $150 via PayPal. “Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!” she wrote. Donald and Eleanor Limmer sent $150.
Alfred and Carol Stopp, of Spokane, donated $100, as did Rich and Terry Hagelin, of Spokane Valley. Brian Hirschkorn sent $100 via PayPal, as did Stephanie Klein, of Spokane. An anonymous donor gave $100, as did James and Carrie Clanton.
Nancy Biggerstaff gave $50 via PayPal. Ernst and Rita Pickel, of Spokane, contributed $30.
For donations made through PayPal, The Spokesman-Review contributed the processing fee.
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