Christmas Bureau volunteer Brenda Parker has a bag of Christmas cheer that she brings out every year. It includes her elf outfit, several decorated Christmas headbands, Christmas earrings and the most important item of all – a pair of red-and-green elf slippers encrusted with sequins.
“I call these my magic slippers,” she said. “They bring a happy Christmas to everybody.”
Parker works as a phlebotomist for Providence Medical Group and first volunteered with the Bureau seven years ago when a group of employees signed up to work part of a shift. But Parker never does anything halfway.
“I took the day off work and worked the whole shift,” she said. “The second year they asked me to do a second day. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
She now uses a week and a half of her vacation time to spend every day at the Bureau. She started wearing her festive attire the second year she volunteered. “The third year is the year I really got into it,” she said.
Parker said what she wears helps set people at ease when she works as a greeter.
“It’s all about bringing a smile to people,” she said. “Some people have a hard time coming in and asking for help. It makes them feel more comfortable, at ease with asking questions.”
She has difficulty finding the words to describe what volunteering at the Bureau means to her. “I got more out of it the first time than I could have possibly imagined,” she said. “I guess I was really blessed that day. I didn’t know what to expect.”
She’s had a difficult time celebrating Christmas ever since her mother died on Christmas Eve years ago, but the Christmas Bureau has changed that. “It warms my heart,” she said. “It’s my favorite time of the year.”
So far, she’s worn through four pairs of elf slippers and has no plans to slow down. She recommends that people volunteer if they can. “If I could talk everybody into giving three hours, just one time, they would be so full of love and generosity,” she said.
While she had heard of the Christmas Bureau before she volunteered, she said she didn’t know what it was really about. “Before I stepped in the door and started volunteering, I had no idea,” she said.
Now her bag is packed and she’s ready to go for another year. “I try to make people welcome,” she said.
Donations of all sizes come in every year to help meet the goal of raising $525,000 to provide food, books and toys to families who need help with Christmas. No effort is too small – and that includes the $1 cash an anonymous donor dropped off at The Spokesman-Review this week.
New donations of $2,051 have pushed the year to date total to $63,575.04.
Gail and Roberta Keeling, of Otis Orchards, donated $1,100 in honor of their grandsons, Taylor Merkley and Kolby and Ryan Keeling.
Janice Dare, of Coeur d’Alene, donated $400. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $150, writing, “We are on a fixed income, but I always budget to include the Christmas Fund each year. God bless everyone involved in the Christmas Fund – workers, volunteers, recipients and donors.”
Lane Klees, of Spokane, contributed $150, writing, “God bless your efforts!” Corliss Newman and John Bodinger, of Spokane, contributed $100. Jay Jordan, of Spokane, donated $100. Steve, Gail and Ben Quaid, of Colbert, gave $50.
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