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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Christmas Bureau volunteer brought the glitter and the gratitude

LeeAnne Hanke poses for a photo at home Wednesday while wearing a sparkly headband she typically dons for volunteering at the Christmas Bureau.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
LeeAnne Hanke poses for a photo at home Wednesday while wearing a sparkly headband she typically dons for volunteering at the Christmas Bureau. (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

It’s a simple holiday headband with two snowmen where ears or antlers might normally be.

After it was given to Christmas Bureau volunteer LeeAnne Hanke, she added glitter to the snowmen’s hats, and wore it every day she volunteered to process online applications as a way to be festive and get into the Christmas spirit.

The Christmas Bureau usually brings volunteers and recipients together at the Spokane County Fairgrounds, where those in need get a food voucher and a toy and book for each child in the family. This year the event run by Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review has gone virtual amid the pandemic.

Hanke said she’s been volunteering with the bureau for about 20 years. She spotted a story about it in the newspaper and got involved, enjoying it so much that she has returned year after year. Her favorite volunteer job is doing intake.

“It’s my dream job,” she laughed. “I can sit and I can talk.”

She’s heard a lot of stories from recipients who are down on their luck for one reason or another, whether it’s a health crisis or loss of a job.

“It made me a lot more grateful,” she said.

When the call went out for volunteers to come into the Catholic Charities headquarters to process applications, Hanke didn’t hesitate.

“They had no other choice,” she said of the online applications. “If this is what they’re doing, I’m retired, so that’s what I’ll do.”

She volunteered three times a week for either full or half days. She got to see some of her fellow volunteers, but there weren’t the usual hugs and handshakes.

“It was different,” she said. “We took our temperature every day, we had masks on, we sat at least 6 feet apart.”

Hanke volunteers with other organizations, but every December she sets that work aside to focus on the Christmas Bureau.

“It is my Christmas,” she said. “I look forward to this.”

The Christmas Bureau doesn’t only help families. Single adults receive a $15 food voucher and there are usually hats and gloves available for them as well.

Hanke said she’s always noticed the single adults standing in line for hours along with the families there for toys and books: “I figure if they’re going to stand there, they must need it.”

The online process may be easier for those single adults, Hanke said, who can have their food voucher mailed to them and don’t have to stand in line.

But she still wishes the Christmas Bureau could go on as usual this year.

“You know what I miss?” she said. “I miss the music. There was always music going on.”

DonationsThe community continues to send in donations to support this year’s Christmas Bureau. New donations of $15,590 have brought the year-to-date total to $88,582.83.

The law firm of Douglas Eden gave $7,000.

“All of us at Douglas Eden are happy to add something extra this year in our annual gift to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund,” they wrote. “We know the difficulties faced by those in the community who have been touched by COVID-19 and we want to join in supporting them with a gift to families in need. We are using the money saved by canceling our Christmas party to increase our gift to $7,000. By joining others in Spokane, we want to spread holiday peace, joy and sharing in our community. A very big ‘Thank you’ to each of you at The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund for your good work in making the holidays a special time for so many people.”

The letter was signed by Ronald P. Douglas, William D. Eden, Marc A. Phillips, Brent T. Stanyer, Ryan M. Douglas, Diane J. Kiepe, Anita Anderson, Brandi Morhardt, Sandy Saty and Cyndi Woods.

Tipke Mfg., of Spokane, gave $2,000.

An anonymous Colbert donor sent $500, writing “Thank you for doing this each year!”

Melissa Tipke, of Spokane, gave $500. Janet and Larry Butterfield, of Spokane, contributed $500. Melanie Johnson, of Spokane, donated $500.

Carl and Dennie Crowe, of Spokane, sent $500, writing “Thank you for finding ways to make the Christmas Fund work in spite of COVID-19. You are miracle workers!”

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $300. Ralph and Deb Prouty, of Spokane, contributed $300. John and Barbara Obde, of Spokane, donated $250. The Shields family, of Spokane, donated $200. Emil and Leslie Wunderle, of Spokane, sent $200. Two anonymous Spokane donors each gave $100.

Phyllis and Glenn Willoughby, of Spokane, sent $100 “in loving memory of our dear mother, May Matsui.”

Pete and Sue Scobby, of Newport, Washington, contributed $100.

Jenny Edgren, of Spokane, donated $100, writing “This donation is in honor of George, my gorilla. (Sierra and Brigid will know what I’m talking about).”

The following donors each gave $100: Roy and Joey Schmidt, of Cheney; Wayne Attwood, of Spokane; Scott and Christy Morrell, of Spokane; Barbara and Glen Shaw, of Spokane; Joan and Ronald Nipp, of Spokane; Ellen Ostheller, of Spokane; Barry Benoit, of Hauser, Idaho; Larry and Janice Sieg, of Moses Lake; Patricia Knox, of Spokane Valley; and Ronald and Nancy Deming, of Spokane Valley; Jay and JoLaine Johnson, of Spokane; Gayle and Fred Fox, of Spokane; and William Skylstad, of Spokane.

John and Catherine Caskey, of Spokane, also contributed $100, writing, “What a wonderful Christmas tradition!”

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100, writing “Praying for the Bureau’s success in this rough year.”

Dave Broom, of Spokane, gave $100.

“Thank you all for getting the Fund through this tough year!” he wrote.

An anonymous donor sent $100, along with a recipe for Christmas sugar cookies. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $100 in memory of Vera Actor.

An anonymous Colbert donor contributed $100, writing, “Hopefully, this will help in your endeavor to make Christmas happy for all the sweet children.”

Neil and Peggy Clemons, of Spokane, donated $100.

“We truly appreciate your efforts in spreading joy throughout our community during these difficult times,” they wrote. “Please accept this gift to help in those efforts in loving memory of my son, Paul Yurik.”

An anonymous Spokane donor sent $100, writing “Please accept this donation to the Christmas Bureau. Good luck in this trying year.”

Randy Bunke, of Deer Park, contributed $50. Eric Warden, of Spokane, sent $50.

Diana and Frank Strasser, of Spokane, donated $50.

“Thank you all for all the hard work,” they wrote. “What a year it’s been for everybody. Praying 2021 is a better year.”

Cheryl Morrissey, of Spokane, donated $25, as did Michael and Margaret Thorpe, also of Spokane. Lawrence Smith, of Spokane, gave $25. LTC Insurance Shoppers Inc., of Spokane, donated $25.

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