When Clint and Cheryl Branz of Jim Custer Enterprises first signed up to volunteer at the Christmas Bureau 15 years ago, they were just there to bag gifts. They had no idea they would become an integral part of the Bureau.
“We just saw a little ad in the paper that said they needed volunteers,” Cheryl Branz said.
When they arrived to volunteer, they noticed that the “walls” between areas were little more than tarps draped over PCV pipes, held down by sandbags. “They were having to use, to the best of their abilities, the resources they had,” she said. “It wasn’t as festive as one would hope. It was just a situation.”
Before they began their second year as volunteers, they made a few phone calls. Now they’re the ones who set up the colorful drape partitions that provide order to the Ag Building at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
“It’s a collective venture between us (Custer Enterprises) and LCD Expo Services,” Clint Branz said. “They own all the drapery. We put together shows.”
The couple never expected to use their show organizing talents as volunteers.
“Sometimes you just never know how your skills might be needed,” Cheryl Branz said.
Much of drapery in use at the Bureau was already on site, including a red carpet that greets recipients.
“A lot of this stuff was already here because we just had our arts and crafts show,” Clint Branz said. “We really are rolling out the red carpet for recipients.”
Clint Branz spends two days getting the Bureau set up, then the two return for a shift or two as toy baggers. It’s what they request every year. They like being able to have a friendly chat with people as they’re getting ready to leave with their toys, books and food voucher.
“You have to have plenty of bags ready in advance,” Cheryl Branz said.
“And be fast, so things don’t build up,” Clint Branz said.
They usually only work a shift or two, though they would be there more if they could find open shifts.
“They have so many people that want to volunteer, which is a great thing,” he said.
The slow pace of donations continues, with $6,815 bringing our year-to-date total to $210,837.59. The goal this year is $535,000, up $10,000 from last year because of rising costs.
The Spokane area has generously met the Christmas Bureau’s fundraising goal for the last 14 years in the face of increasing need. Donations of all sizes are needed to make that goal a reality again this year.
Ken Roberts and Jean O’Dell Roberts gave $2,000. “We are thankful that we can join the Spokesman-Review and other donors in blessing those in need this holiday season,” they wrote. Peter and Gay Witherspoon, of Spokane, donated $1,000. The Jones family of Spokane Valley gave $500 “in honor of Evelyn, Marybelle and Robert.” Eileen Thorpe, of Spokane, donated $400.
Peggy and James Ellingson, of Colbert, donated $200. Lou and Mary Haymond, of Nine Mile Falls, sent $200, as did an anonymous Spokane donor. The Barbara Augusta Gift Fund, managed by Schwab Charitable, sent two donations of $200 each. Darlene Holiday gave $200.
Margot Fitzgerald, of Spokane, gave $200. “I moved to Spokane in 1999 and I was impressed with the Christmas Fund,” she wrote. “It is an opportunity for members of the community to give back to their community at a time of year when we all want to do just that. I am still impressed with how much you accomplish each year. So here is my contribution to your efforts and, as usual, I wish it could be more. Merry Christmas!”
John and Alexis Chasse, of Spokane, gave $150. Cynthia, Kaitlyn and Kyile LeBlanc, of Greenacres, sent $150 “in celebration of a Merry Christmas for all.” Lin Murphy, of Spokane, donated $150.
Joyce Fielding, of Spokane, donated $100, as did Norma Stejer of Spokane. Steve and Roxie Palmer, of Spokane, gave $100. “Thank you for all that you do,” they wrote. “Merry Christmas to all!” Thomas and Elaine Pitzer, of Spokane, contributed $100.
Garnet Dana, of Spokane Valley, donated $100. “This year it’s $100,” he wrote. “Thru the years I’ve added $1 to the fund as I age – I’m now 100 years. My new goal is $105. Thanks to all you dear people (volunteers) that make it possible. Have a happy holiday.”
Jennifer and Howie Stalwick, of Spokane, donated $100. “What a great and important service you provide for our community!” they wrote. “Thank you! Please accept our annual donation in honor of Vern and Lois Thomason, who were longtime volunteers with the Christmas Fund.”
Steven Anderson, of Spokane, contributed $50, as did Donald Peters of Spokane. Matt and Barbara DePauli, of Spokane, donated $50. “We take this opportunity to honor all the men and women who have given the supreme sacrifice, the Veterans who have and are presently serving as well as the first responders that answer to our emergencies, so that we can enjoy our family holidays in safety,” they wrote. “Safe holidays to all.”
David and Eva McChesney, of Spokane, sent $50. An anonymous Liberty Lake donor gave $50. Edward Leach, of Coeur d’Alene, contributed $50. Mary Sullivan and Alex Atacador gave $50. “Please accept this donation in memory of Daniel P. Sullivan,” they wrote. “Thank your for making our Christmas happier for many in our community.”
Dale Gilbert, of Spokane, contributed $40. Margot Wilson, of Spokane Valley, gave $30. Barbara McKay, of Spokane, donated $25. Dan Bond, of Spokane, contributed $20.
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