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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Grandmother grateful for help provided by the Christmas Bureau

Mamie Higby, with headband, is helped by Christmas Bureau volunteer Lenny Kostelecky, right, to pick out toys for her grandchildren in the toy room at the Bureau Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, the last day of the annual toy giveaway. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

It seems like a simple thing to provide a food voucher for each family and a toy and a book for each child for those who visit the Christmas Bureau, but that act of generosity funded by the community can be a lifeline for a struggling family.

Mamie Higby knows this well. She and her husband have been raising their five grandchildren for the past year. The oldest is 9 and the youngest is 10 months old. “Grandma and grandpa are busy,” she said.

Grandparents raising grandchildren is not uncommon, but Higby and her husband have faced additional challenges. Their infant grandson was born with special medical needs and came to their home when he was released from the hospital at 12 days old. Until recently he had to wear a special helmet to protect his head. Higby’s husband had to quit his job to stay home to take care of the baby.

“It’s just hard,” Higby said as her eyes grew teary.

Friday was the last day of the Christmas Bureau, and Higby was only able to come because her boss let her leave work early. “Then they gave us a bonus check today and I just cried,” she said.

Higby had used the Christmas Bureau before, years ago. “I used to come when my children were small,” she said. “You guys have always been good to us.”

Being able to pick out gifts for her grandchildren meant the world to her, Higby said. “This is a very, very large relief,” she said. “It really helps on my pocketbook. This is wonderful.”

There were a lot of people with such needs who visited the bureau this year. Before the doors closed on Friday, the bureau served 27,548 people in 7,973 households. Of those, 15,036 were children. The total number of people helped is down slightly from the record high of 29,563 people served in 2018, including 16,451 children, but it’s up from the number of people helped in 2017.


New donations of $10,075 have brought the year to date total to $345,165.59. While the Christmas Bureau is closed for the year, there’s still some time left to raise the remaining money to get the $535,000 needed to pay for everything given to recipients. A single donation of $25 can pay for a food voucher for a family of three or buy a toy, which makes donations of all sizes needed to reach the goal. The generosity of local residents has enabled the Christmas Bureau to reach its goal for the past 14 years.

Cheryl Hastings donated $2,500 via Pay Pal “from R&R Heating and Air Conditioning.”

An anonymous Spokane donor sent $1,200, writing “I’m so grateful for the work you do to bring Christmas cheer to Spokane families.”

Carmela Conroy, of Yokohama, Japan, donated $1,000. “I’m donating in loving memory of my parents, Judi and Bob Conroy,” she wrote. “They volunteered at the Bureau for years and years.”

James and Sarah Sledge donated $500, as did Anita Lamp, of Spokane. Michael Flannery and Dean Lynch, of Spokane, gave $500. “The Christmas Fund is one of many times throughout the year where the Spokane community comes together to support those in need,” they wrote. “We are fortunate to be able to contribute. Thank you for your good work.”

Jeff and Kim Brown, of Mead, sent $500. “Our gift this year is in memory of Rick and Joan Haynes,” they wrote. “They were wonderful people whom I had the pleasure of working with for the better part of 25 years at Northwest Farm Credit Services.”

Dennis and Donna Kelly gave $500 via Pay Pal “in honor of Don Kelly, longtime Christmas Bureau volunteer.”

Lindsey Galloway sent $300 via Pay Pal. Candi and Jerold Vincent, of Newman Lake, gave $250. “It’s people like you and your organization that make this holiday so special to so many!” they wrote. “Thank you for all you do for those in need this Christmas.” Mathew Alling, of Spokane, gave $250 via Pay Pal.

Wendy Start, of Spokane, donated $200. “So happy to help this worthy cause!” she wrote. Lorraine Burghard and family gave $200. “In memory of our daughter, Vicki, this is our gift for bringing joy to those who are less fortunate,” they wrote. “Congratulations to all those who have a part in continuing this wonderful tradition.”

Dorothy Stiles and Charles Carrier, of Spokane, contributed $200. Joe and Jan Kaley, of Spokane, sent $200. “As we look upon another Christmas we feel so fortunate to be able to donate to the wonderful Christmas Fund,” they wrote. “Merry Christmas to all and to the many people involved in this endeavor.”

Jerry Robinson, of Spokane, gave $150. Stephanie Jamison contributed $150 via Pay Pal.

Marcia Patten donated $105 via Pay Pal “in memory of Dave Patten, who would have loved making wood trucks for the kids.”

Kris Spelman, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of her grandmother, Violet Burgunder, and great aunt, Elsie Altin. Erlinda Fry, of Spokane, sent $100. Adrienne Rowe, of Spokane, contributed $100 via Pay Pal. Don and Vicki Gorder, of Buckeye, Arizona, gave $100. Gary Kelly donated $100 via Pay Pal “from Riggo and Enzo.” Cindy Nelson, of Greenacres, contributed $100 via Pay Pal.

Steffanie and Bruce Ottmar, of Spokane, donated $75. “Many thanks for your commitment to others,” they wrote. “Glad to be able to help.”

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $50. Brenda Clark gave $50 via Pay Pal.

Preston Smith, of Spokane, gave $25. The Swansons, of Spokane Valley, contributed $25. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $25, writing “Thanks for the wonderful job you are all doing for those in need.” Cecil Loveland sent $20.