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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Toy voucher comes at perfect time for Christmas Bureau recipients who just lost jobs

A lightbox on display reads “Merry Xmas Bureau” during the 2019 Christmas Bureau in the Ag Building at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.  (Libby Kamrowski)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

When Heather Gives wrote to the Christmas Bureau in November to ask for a toy voucher for her two children, things were difficult. She was on unemployment after losing her job to the pandemic in March, and her husband was the only one working.

Since then, things have gotten worse.

Gives’ husband was laid off from his job doing fire and water damage restoration two weeks ago and isn’t sure when he can return to work. And her unemployment stopped coming after Employment Security asked her for additional documentation to prove her identity. Now there’s no money coming in at all.

Gives was the catering manager at the Spokane Arena before the pandemic shut down events in March. She said she sent in the documentation that Employment Security asked for immediately but has been waiting two weeks for a response.

“There’s only so much I can do on my end,” she said. “It’s just a waiting game.”

Even when her husband was working and Gives was receiving unemployment, money was tight. “It just gets us by,” she said. Now she’s worried about how the bills will get paid with no income.

Gives has a son, and her daughter, age 11, just had a birthday. Gives baked her a cake, and the family made a couple craft projects that Gives had bought on clearance for a rainy day, but there wasn’t any money for presents. “There’s nothing we could actually do for her, but she understood,” Gives said.

She has received and spent the grocery store voucher from the Christmas Bureau already and was excited to hear that she’d been approved for a toy voucher as well. It will allow her to purchase some gifts for her children, but she’s not sure that she’ll buy toys. Her son has asked for new clothes and her daughter wants pajamas and a bathrobe.

Gives has used the Christmas Bureau before, most recently three years ago. She’s grateful to be able to get assistance to provide a Christmas celebration for her children.

She’s hopeful that her husband will hear back about a new job that he applied for. Since the family has one car, she wants to try to find a night job so she and her husband can take turns using the car. Working at night would also allow her to be home during the day to help her children with their online schooling.

“Eventually, you know things will turn around,” she said.


The Christmas Bureau is having another big day, with new donations totaling $70,540. A big part of that boost comes from a $40,000 donation from Travis Pattern & Foundry. The new donations bring the year-to-date total to $342,845.33, a lot closer to the goal of $535,000.

Travis Pattern & Foundry, of Spokane, donated $40,000. “The owners and employees of Travis Pattern & Foundry again wish to donate the funds that we would have spent on a Christmas party to your fund,” wrote company president Travis Garske. “We are very pleased to enclose a check of $40,000. We hope we can help make Christmas a little brighter for some Spokane families. We wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a great new year in 2021.”

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $15,000, writing “We will get through this together.”

Richard Dixon, of Spokane Valley, donated $5,000. “I am very pleased that this year I have an opportunity to donate $5,000 to your organization,” he wrote. “You are doing an outstanding job of helping this community in a meaningful way. Thank you for continuing to provide this service to our area year after year.”

Jeffrey and Julia Kilgore, of Kilgore Construction in Colbert, gave $2,500.

An anonymous Liberty Lake donor sent $1,000, writing “Wishing the best to the Christmas Fund. Merry Christmas to all.” Gary and Susan Bloom, of Spokane, donated $1,000. Diane Kelly, of Spokane, gave $1,000 “in memory of Don Kelly, who worked at the Christmas Bureau for many years and knew the true spirit of giving.”

Jack and Pat Russell, of Spokane, contributed $1,000. “Thanks to the sponsors of the Christmas Bureau and all the volunteers,” they wrote. The Comes Family, of Spokane, gave $1,000.

Harriet Van Wyck, of Spokane, donated $500. “Thank you for doing the best possible to help families this Christmas,” she wrote. “Thanks to the Rockwood South Hill staff who work so hard to take care of us, the residents, and keep us as safe as possible during this time of COVID-19.”

Gary and Kathryn James, of Nine Mile Falls, sent $500. “Merry Christmas and thank you so much for this blessing you provide!” they wrote.

An anonymous retired newspaper employee, of Spokane, gave $350, writing “Because of the circumstances this year, I have doubled my contribution.”

Joy Painter, of Spokane, donated $200. “It has been my pleasure for the last 7-8 years working with the book giveaway at the Christmas Bureau,” she wrote. “I enjoyed helping parents find the right books for their children. I am sorry we weren’t able to continue this year. I hope this donation will help in meeting expenses this year.”

John and Renea Yamada, of Spokane, gave $200 “in loving memory of Robert Yamada and in honor of the birth of Liam Yamada.”

C. Matthew and Eleanor Andersen, of Spokane, sent $150. Carol Christianson, of Spokane, donated $150 “in loving memory of my mother, Marcia Sather. In the toughest of times, she made Christmas magical for her girls.”

Linda Lee Kershner, of Spokane, sent $100. “Every year at this time of December, my husband, Lee R. Kershner, would write a check to the Christmas Fund in honor of our six grandchildren,” she wrote. “Usually charities were in my domain, but he felt very strongly about Tom’s Turkey Drive and the Christmas Fund. He always made sure I went to Rosauers during the drive, but with your fund he wanted to write the check or use PayPal himself. So in his memory I’ll be the one to send the check.”

Molly Hannan, of Spokane, contributed $100, as did Blaine Krebs, of Colbert. Patricia Busch-Stewart and E.J. Stewart, of Spokane, sent $100. Craig and Vicki Popp, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $100 “to help those who may need it! Merry Christmas!” Jon and Dana Bowne, of Colbert, donated $100. Patricia Gunderson, of Spokane, gave $100.

Michael and Christine Carbery, of Spokane, gave $75 “in loving memory of Kyle Carbery, from Uncle Mike, Aunt Chris and cousin Patrick. The Dance Center of Spokane donated $75.

Jay and Debbie Humphrey, of Spokane, gave $50 in memory of Frank, Vera and Paul Romero. Carol Oliver, of Mead, sent $50.

Marvin and Sheila Berkompas, of Spokane, contributed $25. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $15, writing “I have many grandchildren and great-grandchildren so this amount I’ll be spending on each.”