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Volunteers fine-tune Christmas Bureau plans to help families in spite of the pandemic

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)
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

Christmas Bureau recipients are eagerly awaiting word about their toy vouchers as Christmas marches closer, but the procedures to get those vouchers in the hands of thousands of families is still being worked on.

The plan to distribute toy vouchers instead of a drive-thru toy distribution is new and has been put together at the last minute, said Christmas Bureau Coordinator Sierra Heinen. Many different options were discussed as organizers tried to be fair in the amount given to each family and also tried to help as many as they could with limited funds.

The annual fundraising currently underway will pay for the toys and the books that organizers spent all year buying. Those now sit in storage, the plans to distribute them thwarted by the rising COVID-19 pandemic. Since those items still have to be paid for, there isn’t money in the budget to pay for toy vouchers. Organizers have scraped together what money they could in the hope of being reimbursed after the 2021 Christmas Bureau fundraising drive.

“Realistically, we had to look at what we had,” Heinen said.

Nearly 8,000 families have applied online to receive a grocery store voucher and more than 4,000 emails were sent requesting toys. Some of the emails are duplicates, Heinen said, but there are still thousands of families in need of toys so their children can have a Merry Christmas.

As it now sits, the plan is to give recipients an e-gift card to a major retailer, Heinen said. The e-gift cards will be emailed to recipients directly from the retailer, but the process to arrange everything is ongoing.

“Every day you’re changing a little bit of the plan,” Heinen said. “We’ve never done this before.”

Families who will be receiving a voucher will receive an email from the Christmas Bureau outlining the plan. Heinen said she will get the email out as soon as the retailer finalizes its procedures.

The amount of the e-gift card will vary depending on the number of children in the home. The amount will be $15 for one child, $30 for two children and $40 for three children. The amounts increase from there, with the maximum gift card of $100 going to families with nine or more children.

The majority of families that requested toys should receive a gift card, Heinen said. “I really do think we’ll be able to help most of them,” she said.

Donations

New donations of $7,055 have brought the year-to-date total to $220,360.33. There are exactly two weeks to go until Christmas, with the goal of raising $535,000.

Jim and Salli Sledge, of Spokane, donated $1,000. Cyrus and Janet Vaughn, of Spokane, donated $500. Daniel Lennon, of Spokane, gave $500. Bryce and Cheryl Backus, of Spokane Valley, sent $500.

Carol Lawton, of Spokane, sent $300. “Thank you for making an extra effort in a year when there are extra needs.”

Nancy Edwards sent $250, as did Neil and Brigid Krause, of Spokane. James and Deborah Repp, of Spokane Valley, gave $250. Eric Johnson, of Spokane, contributed $250. Bob and Nancy Young, of Spokane, donated $250, writing “Thank you for all that you do for families.”

John and Rhonda Krauss, of Spokane, gave $200. An anonymous Veradale donor sent $200, writing, “Thank you for this wonderful service that you provide in our community.” An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $200. Luella Jobin, of Spokane, gave $200.

Kathleen Huggins, of Spokane, gave $150. Gary and Judy Spangelo, of Cheney, donated $125.

Peter and Vickie Holzemer donated $100, writing, “We have been blessed and want to share with others. Hope this helps – especially for toy and book vouchers. Thanks for keeping a light on this fund.” Letha Sacherer, of Cheney, contributed $100. Patrick and Peggy Waldron, of Spokane, sent $100, as did Bob and Sharon Mellis, of Spokane. Joseph and Delores Rodgers sent $100.

John and Kathleen Roche, of Liberty Lake, contributed $100. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100. Thomas and Camilla Tilford, of Spokane, donated $100 in honor of Kathleen Lackie. W.T. and Charlotte Ardiss, of Spokane, sent $100. Charles and Mary Ellen Steen, of Liberty lake, gave $100, as did Mary Gordon, of Spokane. John Miller and Sandy Nolting, of Spokane, contributed $100, as did Charles and Sharon Preston, of Nine Mile Falls.

Laverne Truman, of Spokane, donated $95. Bruce and Steffanie Ottmar, of Spokane, sent $75.

Richard and Mary Jo Vickers, of Spokane, gave $50. Margaret Kobylus, of Spokane Valley, sent $50. An anonymous donor contributed $50. William Stock, of Greenacres, donated $50, as did Barbara McKay, of Spokane. Ann Carey and Patty Rabel, of Spokane Valley, gave $50. “Please accept this donation – our 23rd – in memory of our parents, Ken and Mickey Rabel,” they wrote. “Happy holidays.”

Donna Douglas, of Spokane, gave $40. Merri and K.W. Allen, of Spokane, sent $30. “Hope this small donation will help with this year’s Christmas Bureau,” they wrote. “God bless.”

Marcia Ross, of Spokane, sent $25. Mary Ladell Black, of Chewelah, gave $25. Stella Kratofil and Sharon Mellis, of Spokane, gave $20. Lois Hughes, of Spokane, donated $20.If you go

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