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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Christmas Bureau relies on hundreds of volunteers

Gonzaga Prep student Meg Christopher laughs as she sorts through piles of donated stuffed animals collected from the Teddy Bear Toss at the Christmas Bureau at Spokane County Fair and Expo Center in Spokane Valley in this December 2018 photo. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

It takes hundreds of volunteers to pull off the Christmas Bureau, staffing a building at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center for 10 days in December to give out food vouchers to needy families and a toy and a book for each child.

There are volunteers who work year-round to buy the toys and books and organize the event. But during those nine days, there have to be 120 volunteers signed up every day, said Christmas Bureau volunteer coordinator Brigid Krause.

Last year the Bureau was short-handed on the last day and put out a special call for volunteers. Many responded, and quite a few of those have signed up to come back this year, Krause said.

“We have a pretty good number coming back,” she said. “It’s full and we’re still getting phone calls.”

The new volunteers are especially appreciated, since many of the longtime volunteers are getting older, Krause said. Several have passed away in the past year. “We did lose several people,” she said. “It’s kind of hard.”

The Christmas Bureau has 400 community volunteers signed up, and groups coming from area businesses add another 200. One of those groups, several employees from the downtown Larry H. Miller auto group, is new. They signed up to work the one Saturday the Bureau is open and the last day, Dec. 20.

“We won’t have to do that all-call again,” Krause said. “Those are the hardest days to fill.”

Some people volunteer once or twice, but others are willing to come in every day the Bureau is open. “Thank God for them,” Krause said.


It’s not unusual for donations to come in after the Christmas Bureau shuts down for the year, and some come in throughout the year as well. In the first quarter of 2019, The Spokesman-Review received $15,860.74 in donations to provide an early start toward this year’s fund raising goal of $535,000.

The Duke and Ruth Fette Trust of Spokane Valley donated $5,000. An anonymous business gave $2,000.

An anonymous Liberty Lake donor gave $1,000, writing, “Everything you provide to this amazing community is very much appreciated.” The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse, Wisconsin, also gave $1,000. The Charlie and Kathy Watson Family Fund, the Hertz Charitable Fund and the Frank and Sherry Knott Fund, all managed by the Innovia Foundation, each donated $1,000.

The Sellas family of Pullman gave $500, writing, “Many thank you’s to all of the volunteers who make this special event happen every year. Happy holidays!”

Rick Betts made a donation of $416.75 via United Way. Nancy Mahoney of Spokane Valley sent two donations of $300 each. Katherine West of Mead gave $300 via PayPal.

Dena, Marc, Cole and Brooke Kaplan donated $250, which was matched by $250 from Wells Media. “This donation is in honor of my dad, Don Kelly, who worked tirelessly for the Christmas Bureau for years … and loved it,” wrote Dena Kaplan.

St. Charles School sent a donation of $235.49. “The students at St. Charles chose the Christmas Bureau as the recipient of a special collection at our school’s Christmas concert,” wrote Principal Heather Schlaich. “We hope this donation can bring some holiday joy for a family in need!”

Cara and Ron Hannes of Spokane gave $200 in memory of Margret Dunn and Carole Wandolowski. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $200, writing, “Once again thank you for all your time and work towards making the Christmas Bureau a success.” Paul and Elizabeth Kennar of Spokane Valley contributed $150.

Barbara Groves of Spokane donated $100, as did an anonymous Colbert donor. Patrick Kenney of Spokane gave $100, writing, “Thanks for the many volunteers!”

Michael and Carol Nissley of Spokane gave $56. Lowell Lehman of Spokane donated $50 “in memory of Martha Lehman, who loved all kids.” Susanne Tuson of Colbert gave $50, as did an anonymous Spokane donor. Kathy and Steven Doran of Spokane gave $50 “to honor our dad, retired Air Force Donald J. Doran (1932-2018).”

Mike Yake of Newman Lake sent $50. Brent Wilcox and Patricia Busch-Stewart, both of Spokane, each gave $50 via PayPal.

Dale Mendenhall of Ione, Washington, sent $25, as did an anonymous Spokane donor. Judith Horton of Coeur d’Alene gave three separate donations of $5 each.