It is time once again for the greater Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area to showcase our generosity and support the annual Christmas Bureau run by Catholic Charities, the Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review.
The Christmas Bureau provides help to low-income families at Christmas, giving each child a toy and a book and giving each family a voucher for groceries. Last year was the biggest year yet for the Bureau, which helped 29,563 people, 16,451 of them children. That was up significantly from the 26,103 people assisted by the Christmas Bureau in 2017.
The Christmas Bureau has been around in various forms since 1945, raising $17.1 million for the needy among us. The Spokesman-Review collects the donations and distributes the money to Catholic Charities and the Volunteers of America. The two charities do everything from signing up hundreds of volunteers to staff the Bureau to buying the books and toys needed for the event.
The Bureau draws a variety of people. There are single mothers, grandparents raising their grandchildren, those who have lost their jobs and the working poor who need a little help with some extras at Christmas. Seniors living on a fixed income also come for a grocery voucher.
The number of people needing help may rise even higher this year, said Catholic Charities director Rob McCann. For that reason, and because of increased costs, the fundraising goal this year is $535,000. The goal had been set at $525,000 for the past several years.
“We raised it a little this year mostly because we want to continue serving people at the same level,” he said. “The costs have gone up a little bit every year.”
The Bureau comes at the end of a year where the poor have been very much in the public eye. “It’s been a hard year to be poor in Spokane just because it’s been more prevalent in the public,” he said.
But McCann wants to see the Bureau as an opportunity for the community to work together to make a difference. The volunteers will make every effort to make the recipients feel welcomed, he said, because that’s what people will remember and carry with them.
“The Christmas Bureau mission is really to be a welcoming, inclusive presence,” he said. “It’s not about the gift they receive. They’ll remember how they got treated; how they got treated in line, how they were treated by the volunteers. I think that gift of dignity is more important than the book and the toy they get 10 minutes later.”
McCann will be at the Bureau every day when it is open, like he is every year. “My favorite part of the Bureau is watching the mutual joy on the faces of the volunteers and the recipients,” he said. “It’s all positive energy. There’s no shame or regret or negativity. There’s the same joy in giving as there is in receiving.”
The Christmas Bureau will run from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day from Dec. 11 to 20, excluding Sunday, Dec. 15. It will once again be at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center at 404 N. Havana St., which has ample free parking and is on a bus route.
No income verification is required for recipients. Adults must have photo identification and a bill in their name to provide proof of address. A name, date of birth and physical address must be provided for each child living in the home. Proof of this information can be in the form of a letter from a school or daycare, a Washington Apple Health statement or a WIC folder.
The name of every Christmas Bureau donor will be printed in The Spokesman-Review in daily stories though Christmas, but donors can request to be anonymous. A final story reporting the entire amount raised will be printed on New Year’s Day.
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