The first people many Christmas Bureau recipients meet are the volunteers who check their identification and verify their household information. Jay and Kay Walter have spent their retirement years training those volunteers. That is, except for last year, when they took a vacation to Cuba.
“It was my screw up,” said Jay Walter. “I did not look at the calendar.”
But this year they’ve dusted off their Christmas Bureau volunteer sweatshirts and are ready to go. They already conducted several volunteer trainings this month rather than waiting for the day before the Bureau opens to do the training.
Jay Walter said they wanted more consistency in how they verify people’s information. “The level of the quality of training has increased significantly,” he said. “It gave volunteers time to ask questions.”
Part of their job is to prevent fraud. “We look for people who are trying to come though a second time,” he said. “I have to emphasize, I think that percentage is very, very small.”
Their job is to help people who are struggling, he said.
“By and large, we want people to have fun,” he said. “Our job is to help make Christmas a little bit brighter for people who are struggling. We will do our best to get all the children a toy and a book.”
People sometimes arrive without any paperwork and expect volunteers to be able to look them up from previous years, but it doesn’t work that way, he said. “That’s not okay,” he said. “They need to bring verification every year.”
Kay Walter retired as superintendent of the Airway Heights Corrections Center in 2001 and her husband Jay retired as a Central Valley School District assistant superintendent in 2004. They started volunteering with the Christmas Bureau after retirement after their friend Carl Speltz suggested it.
“That’s how we got started,” Jay Walter said.
Kay Walter said it’s important to her to give back to the community by volunteering at the Christmas Bureau and other organizations. “When you have the resources and time, it’s important to give back,” she said. “All of us want to see the kids have a good Christmas.”
Jay Walter said he’s always amazed that the community is able to come together to fund the Christmas Bureau every year.
“We made a lot of new friends, volunteer friends,” he said. “It’s just fun. And at my age, it’s important to have fun.”
Donations received over the summer and fall total $33,736.30, bringing the year to date total to $61,524.04. The goal this year is to again raise $525,000 to provide food vouchers, toys and books to families who need help at Christmas.
A large portion of this came from a single gift - a $21,217 donation from the Madeleine Muths Memorial Fund. The fund is managed by the Innovia Foundation, formerly the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.
The fund was established after the death of former logger and longtime Spokane resident Raymond Muths, who died 2015 at the age of 96, according to Innovia. He created and funded the Madeleine Muths Memorial fund in honor of his sister with the goal of providing long-term support for five of his favorite charities. The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund is one of those charities.
An anonymous fund managed by the Innovia Foundation donated $5,000. The Bergquist Foundation of Spokane gave $2,500. The Guy and Ruth Reed Memorial Fund, also managed by the Innovia Foundation, gave $2,155.
Rick Betts made separate donations of $833.48, $625.11 and $625.11 via United Way.
Dennis and Carey Fiess of Edwall contributed $250. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100 “in honor of SZS on her birthday.” Kathleen McCoy donated $100 via PayPal. Russ and Kathy Mager of Lewiston, Idaho, gave $100.
Thomas and Camilla Tilford of Spokane gave $100 in honor of Suzi Stone. Kathleen Ossello of Spokane also gave $100 in honor of Suzi Stone.
Bridget Marks of Greenacres donated $10 via PayPal. Judith Horton of Coeur d’Alene gave three donations of $5 each. Change totaling $5.60 was collected from the fountain in the courtyard of The Spokesman-Review building and donated.
For donations made through PayPal, The Spokesman-Review contributed the processing fee.
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