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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Online applications still available for Christmas Bureau assistance

John Lieske selects toys for his five boys with help from Christmas Bureau volunteer Carmen Glatt in this December 2019 photo. This year, applicants will receive a voucher.  (DAN PELLE)
By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

No one ever knows for sure how many people will seek help in the form of food vouchers and a toy and a book for each child from the Christmas Bureau each year. Organizers make their best guess, but that’s all they can do as they plan.

Last year the Christmas Bureau provided help to 27,548 people in 7,973 households. Of the people helped, 15,036 were children.

Many people assumed that the need would be equally great or higher this year because of the lost jobs and economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The online application for assistance went live in early October and is still up and running. So far 7,628 applications have been received that include 28,179 people, 14,799 of them children.

The plan is to leave the online application open through Dec. 14, so those numbers will go higher and might still eclipse last year’s numbers.

“We’re watching it every day,” said Christmas Bureau coordinator Sierra Heinen. “Things are going pretty steady right now.”

Between 20 and 50 applications usually come in each day. Quite a few of those are from people who report losing their jobs due to the pandemic, Heinen said. All those who apply will be given a grocery store voucher for food based on family size.

The rising number of COVID cases forced the cancellation of a drive-thru toy distribution, and plans to send toy vouchers to the families most in need are almost complete, Heinen said. Those who need toys were asked to send an email to Catholic Charities. The vouchers were not planned for or funded, so not everyone will receive a toy voucher.

“We got 3,500 emails and they’re still coming in,” Heinen said. “We’ve really been spending the time going through emails and phone messages.”

Emails will go out to recipients sometime this week announcing the plans for the toy vouchers, Heinen said.

“I know people are anxious to hear back,” she said.


There’s still a long way to go to reach the goal of $535,000 to fund the Christmas Bureau by the end of the year, but donations continue to come in. New donations of $12,140 have brought the year to date total to $119,447.83.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $1,600, writing that the donation “is at a time of great need. Thank you for finding a way to keep this tradition during all of the pandemic restrictions. Wishing all of our neighbors the joy of the holiday season!”

Mike and Carol Wilson sent $1,000, writing, “We know the needs in the community are greater than ever. This support is meant to bring light in the Christmas season.” John and Terry Engleman, of Spokane, donated $1,000.

Kathryn Mautz, of Spokane, gave $1,000, writing, “I freely admit I am much more interested in alleviating hunger than I am in providing toys, but do wish happy holidays and safe holidays to all!”

Stephen Darling and Karen Dahl-Darling, of Spokane, gave $500. Mike and Marge Otis, of Spokane Valley, contributed $500. An anonymous donor from Oakesdale, Washington, sent $500. Thomas and Teresa McCabe, of Spokane, donated $500. Nick Abariotes, of Veradale, gave $500 in memory of Gust Abariotes.

Deborah and Bob Glaza, of Spokane Valley, donated $400. Lynda Ensign and Ken Gerard, of Spokane, contributed $300. An anonymous donor gave $250. Mary Larsen, of Spokane, gave $250.

Three anonymous Spokane donors each sent $200. Emmett and Marylu Arndt, of Spokane, gave $200. “Merry Christmas to the entire Christmas Bureau!” they wrote. “We miss working at Christmas Bureau. We will see you next year and bless you for a happy, healthy and safe new year!”

John Shuster and Dawn Hirakawa, of Spokane, contributed $200. Dave and Mary Larsen, of Spokane, gave $200. Corrine Dixon, of Spokane, donated $200.

John and Jody Beck, of Spokane Valley, contributed $150. Charles Kallestad, of Spokane Valley, gave $150.

Marty and Susanne Tuson, of Colbert, gave $100. “In these uncertain times, we hope all will practice kindness and generosity,” they wrote. “Happy birthday, Linda.” Joc and Mary Hanson, of Nine Mile Falls, contributed $100. “Thanks again for all of your hard work on helping others in need during the holiday season,” they wrote. “Bless you.”

John and Charlotte Sullivan, of Spokane, donated $100 in memory of Charles and Opal McCoy. Kenny Newcomb, of Liberty Lake, gave $100. An anonymous Deer Park donor sent $100. Mary Sullivan and Alex Atacador, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of Daniel P. Sullivan. “Thank you for your creative ways of helping local families,” they wrote.

The following Spokane residents each donated $100: Betty Ellis, Bruce and Sharon Anthony, Janis Nicholson, Harley and Melanie Reckord, Marilee Roloff, Donna Roloff, Cheryl and Joel Jordan, Raymond and Janet Oligher, Katherine Harper, Kim Meyer, Liza Mattana, and Michael and Linda Geraghty.

Margot Wilson, of Spokane Valley, sent $50 “in memory of my dear sister Jean, who passed away this year.” Rocky and Bonnie Elliott, of Spokane, donated $50. Fred Roberg, of Coolin, Idaho, contributed $50. Mary Hahn, of Spokane, gave $50. Shirley Dicus, of Spokane, sent $50.

Sherryl Niska, of Spokane, sent $35. Elizabeth Bornhoft, of Spokane, gave $30. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $25.