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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Christmas Bureau helps a family back together for Christmas

Handmade wooden trucks wait to be selected by clients of Christmas Bureau in the toy room last year.  (JESSE TINSLEY)
Handmade wooden trucks wait to be selected by clients of Christmas Bureau in the toy room last year. (JESSE TINSLEY)
By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

It’s been a long, tough road for Crystal Kortness and her family, but they’re together for Christmas. And thanks to the Christmas Bureau, there will be gifts under the tree for the kids on Christmas Day.

“This is our first Christmas back together in one home in five years,” Kortness said. “We are just excited.”

Kortness became addicted to methamphetamine six years ago. Shortly after her drug use began, Child Protective Services intervened and removed her children from the home. Kortness said that after her kids were taken, she felt she had nothing to keep her going, so she descended deeper into drug use.

She was later told if she didn’t get clean, she would lose custody of her children – permanently. That prompted her to enter an in-patient treatment facility and start her long journey back to a drug-free life. “I turned my life around and got my kids back,” she said.

She’d lost her housing and spent time staying with friends. She and her children also spent some time in homeless shelters. She and three of her children, ranging in age from 10 to 16, got their own apartment in June. “It’s been a long road, but we’re here,” she said.

Now that her living situation is stable and she has internet access, she plans to start taking classes at SCC next quarter. She hopes to be able to work as an advocate for families involved with CPS.

She’s living on a fixed income and there’s no money for extras. She donates plasma so she can afford to buy toilet paper and other necessities. The grocery store voucher she received from the Christmas Bureau was extremely helpful and the toy voucher she’s been told she will receive will provide gifts under the Christmas tree for her children.

“They’re going to have something good under there other than a little bit of candy,” she said. “It’s huge to us at this point.”

Kortness said she’d like to thank all the Christmas Bureau volunteers that have helped her this year and in years past. “Gosh, I think my mom got help from the Christmas Bureau when I was a child,” she said.

The extra food and presents provided by the Christmas Bureau will allow the reunited family to have a truly Merry Christmas this year.

DonationsNew donations of $5,740 have arrived to bring the year-to-date total to $430,690.60. That’s only a little more than $100,000 away from this year’s goal of $535,000 to fund the Christmas Bureau.

An anonymous Chattaroy donor sent $565. Peter and Marylou Bach, of Spokane, gave $500. “For all the wonderful things you do, I hope this helps bring joy to families in the Spokane region,” they wrote.

Mary Upshaw, of Newport, Washington, donated $340. “This may seem like an odd amount, but it was what was returned to me when we had to cancel reservations for a vacation trip due to COVID-19,” she wrote. “Passing it along, hoping it will help keep a few folks from having to cancel Christmas entirely. Thank you for all you are doing!”

Bob and Pat Pedersen, of Colbert, gave $300 in memory of Nadine Van Stone. “Her work for women and children through Catholic Charities has impacted many in Spokane,” they wrote.

The Matthews Family, of Spokane, donated $250. Les and Anna Mae Hogan, of Spokane, also gave $250.

Mark and Cindy Bailey, of Medical Lake, donated $200, writing “Thanks for all you all do!” Ray and Klea Copeland, of Spokane, gave $200, writing “Thank you so much for your support of the Christmas Fund.” Marvin and Helen Soehren, of Spokane, sent $200, as did Bruce Rogers, also of Spokane.

Gary and Cheryl Allen, of Spokane Valley, contributed $125. An anonymous donor gave $105 “in memory of my parents, former supporters. Thanks for all your hard work.”

Anonymous Spokane donors gave $100. “This donation is in memory of Bob Kelly and Mike Kelly, who were big supporters of the SR Christmas Fund,” they wrote. “Thank you for your service to our community.” Carol Lingow, of Spokane, sent $100, as did Ken Benge, of Spokane Valley.

An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $100, writing “Thank you for your wonderful work.” Robert and Maureen O’Brien, of Spokane gave, gave $100 “in memory of our brother-in-law, Jim Kirschbaum.” Don and Vicki Gorder, of Buckeye, Arizona, donated $100. Don Lippman, of Spokane Valley, gave $100 “in memory of Marilyn Lippman, who donated every year.”

The Deer Park VASA North Star Lodge No. 145, a Swedish American organization promoting Swedish heritage and fellowship, donated $100. “We sincerely appreciate and want to support your efforts to make the holiday season brighter for others,” wrote treasurer Sharon Highland. “Thank you so much!”

Craig and Stephanie Johnston, of Spokane, sent $100, as did Maxine Breshears, also of Spokane. Cliff and Deborah Garrison, of Spokane, donated $100 “in loving memory of our son, Michael Garrison.” Eileen Hargrove, of Spokane, gave $100. Carol Lippman gave $100 “in loving memory of my mother, Marilyn Lippman. She loved Christmas and always donated to the Christmas Fund.”

Tara Hamm, of Spokane, gave $100. Wyatt Schrader donated $100. An anonymous donor also gave $100.

Kenneth and Susan Jo Pelton, of Spokane, sent $75 “in memory of Grandma Hannah.”

Dalton and Karen Jossman, of Spokane, donated $50. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $50. Scot and Mary Hunter, of Spokane, sent $50 “on behalf of our kind and generous friends, Ken and Mary Fasules.” Earline Carlone, of Liberty Lake, contributed $50. Kathy and Jon Cousineau, of Spokane, gave $50.

Joyce Coble, of Mead, donated $40. Dorothy Backlund, of Spokane, sent $35.

Joan Burkhart, of Spokane, contributed $15. Rich Tschirgi and Sheela Steele gave $5.

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