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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sister duo brings spirit of season to Christmas Bureau

By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

Sisters Kathy McCarthy and Doreen Forest have been called fun to be around as they bring their jokes and laughter with them when they volunteer together at the Christmas Bureau.

Forest was the first to volunteer 10 years ago after she saw a story in The Spokesman-Review about the Christmas Bureau, which provides a grocery store voucher to families in need as well as a toy and a book for each child.

“I just kind of got hooked,” she said.

Forest is a snowbird, spending winters in Yuma, Arizona. But every December she would fly home and stay with her sister for two weeks while she volunteered. Her dedication to the Christmas Bureau inspired McCarthy to check it out herself. She’s been volunteering for the last seven years.

McCarthy, who was still working at the time, would take time off work every year to volunteer. She’s retired now, so she and Forest have free schedules. Both normally volunteer doing the intake of recipients who would come to the Spokane County Fairgrounds to pick up their vouchers and gifts.

Forest also usually volunteers during the set-up days at the Fairgrounds, which are full days of moving boxes and other physical work. “The core group down there is fun,” she said. “It’s always upbeat.”

This year both helped with processing the online applications.

“I thought it went quite smoothly,” said McCarthy. “It’s a disappointment that you can’t see the recipients face to face.”

“It was a learning process,” said Forest. “The new software is wonderful.”

The two spent eight full days volunteering at Catholic Charities headquarters processing applications and were appreciative of the measures being taken to ensure their safety, including having everyone wear masks and be socially distant. “I felt safe, except for being with my sister,” McCarthy laughed.

Though the sisters like to have fun while they volunteer, they recognize that there’s a serious side as well. Some recipient stories stick with them, as Forest recounted one in an email.

“One encounter with a recipient that I can’t seem to forget was a woman that I had worked intake with was now a recipient,” Forest wrote. “Since the December she worked with us she had gone through a nasty divorce, lost her job and was on the verge of being homeless. She felt safe coming to the Christmas Bureau for help and knew she would not be judged or humiliated there. All we could do was cry with her. It reinforced to all of us there how blessed we were and how much good the Christmas Bureau does.”

Helping at the Christmas Bureau is an important annual tradition for both women.

“It’s just such a blessing to help people who need it,” McCarthy said. “I just hope that people are aware there’s so much need this year. The Christmas Bureau is such a great organization to help.”

Donations

People continue to respond to the call to support the Christmas Bureau, sending in new donations of $11,007.50. This brings the year-to-date total to $130,455.33, a good start toward the goal of $535,000.

Roger and Kathleen Chase, of Spokane, donated $2,000.

Thomas Crandall, of Spokane, gave $1,000. An anonymous Spokane donor also gave $1,000. Thomas Power, of Spokane, sent $1,000.

Norma Stejer, of Spokane, donated $500, as did Tom Schemmel, also of Spokane. Paul and Leslie Turner, of Spokane, gave $500. “Please accept this donation to the Christmas Fund in memory of Les Olson and Lorraine Turner,” they wrote. “Both were always helpful to the less fortunate, and this year we know there are even more families in need due to the COVID crisis.”

Stevan Booras, of Spokane, gave $250. Dennis and Barb Bunkers, of Spokane, contributed $250. Patricia and Frank Goodman, of Spokane, sent $250.

Kenneth Savitz, of Spokane, donated $200. Garman and Jane Lutz, of Spokane, gave $200, as did Susan Mossuto, also of Spokane. Bonnie and William Swannack, of Lamont, Washington, sent $200. Michael and Elizabeth Pontarolo, of Spokane, donated $200.

Lane Klees, of Spokane, sent $150, writing “Thanks for making this work, since the need is even greater this winter. God bless!”

Joan Menzies, of Spokane, gave $100. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor sent $100, writing “Good luck this year. You always do such a great job. God bless you!” Sid and Lynn Harty, of Valleyford, donated $100, writing “We hope this gift will help the community in these unprecedented times.”

Jane and David Scott, of Spokane, contributed $100. Jon and Arlene Gordon, of Lacrosse, gave $100. Bill and Marilyn Thordarson, of Spokane, donated $100. “A heartfelt thank you to The Spokesman and the many volunteers who exemplify the Christmas spirit of giving to those in need,” they wrote.

Sharon Grimmer, of Spokane, gave $100. Ann Kawar, of Spokane, sent $100, writing “Desiring to support your Christmas Fund, especially in these difficult times. May our Lord Christ bless you all.” Tom and Karen Craig, of Spokane, gave $100. Dorothy and Bob Yohe, of Spirit Lake, Idaho, contributed $100.

Jean Rose, of Spokane, donated $100. Peggy and Stephan Colvin, of Spokane, sent $100. Bridget and Philip Carstens, of Spokane, sent $100 in honor of volunteer coordinator Brigid Krause. Larry and Mona Marlett, of Spokane Valley, gave $100.

Dennis Pollock, of Spokane, contributed $100, writing “Keep up the good work.” Gary Fiscus, of Goodyear, Arizona, gave $100. Joan and Joel Rogers, of Spokane, sent $100. Donald and Marlene Peters, of Spokane, donated $100. Elaine McDaniel, of Spokane, contributed $100.

Gary Williamson, of Spokane, sent $75.

Robert and Fern Walker, of Spokane Valley, gave $50, writing “It is my privilege to help also.” An anonymous Spokane Valley donor sent $50, writing “Thanks for all you do, volunteers!” Lynn and Michael Young, of Greenacres, donated $50.

William and Pamela Reed, of Spokane Valley, contributed $50. Dave and Carol Youngman, of Spokane, contributed $50. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $50, writing “We hope it helps.” Martha Nerpel, of Spokane, sent $50. Lynne deLaubenfels, of Spokane Valley, gave $50. Jane Courtright, of Spokane, gave $50, as did Nancy Painter, also of Spokane.

An anonymous Spokane Valley donor sent $47.50. Ilene Treewater, of Spokane, donated $35. An anonymous donor gave $30. Joanna Plimley, of Spokane, sent $20.

If you go

Apply: Apply online at https://www.cceasternwa.org/christmas-bureau to receive a grocery store voucher.

Toys: Those who have already applied online and are in need of toys can send an email to christmas.bureau@cceasternwa.org. Do not put in a second application. Put “Toy Voucher” in the subject line and include your name, address, phone number and three or four sentences about your circumstances. Vouchers will be distributed on a first come, first served basis to those in the most need and it’s likely that not everyone will receive a toy voucher.

How to donate

By mail: Checks may be mailed to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund, P.O. Box 516, Spokane, WA 99210.

In person: Bring your donation to the lobby of The Spokesman-Review at 999 W. Riverside Ave. Please mark prominently, CHRISTMAS FUND. If you would like a receipt sent to you, include your mailing address or email address.

Online: Visit www.spokesman.com/sections/christmas-fund and click the PayPal button.

If you’d like us to send you a receipt for your donation, make sure to include your mailing address in PayPal’s comment box. If you’d like a receipt via email, just include a valid email address. In either case, we won’t share your information with anyone or use it for any other reason. And feel free to use the comment box to tell us anything you’d like.

Questions?

Email The Spokesman-Review at christmasfund@spokesman.com.

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