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More challenges, more demand: The Christmas Bureau’s 2020 experience mirrored that of the entire community

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 18, 2020

Boxes of toys that were supposed to be handed out to families to ensure every child had a gift to open Christmas Morning will be stored for a year because of the pandemic restrictions.  (The Christmas Bureau)
Boxes of toys that were supposed to be handed out to families to ensure every child had a gift to open Christmas Morning will be stored for a year because of the pandemic restrictions. (The Christmas Bureau)
By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

Christmas Bureau organizers guessed that the need for help would be higher this year because of the lost jobs and closed businesses due to the pandemic. But the Christmas Bureau was also switching to a 100% virtual operation for the first time, so no one was sure people would find out about the change and apply online instead of in person at the Spokane County Fairgrounds.

Turns out, the need was higher and people were able to figure out how to apply for a grocery store voucher and a toy voucher for their children.

This year, 30,863 people in 8,386 households received assistance, which included 16,166 children. Single adults can apply for assistance as well. Toy vouchers were sent to 3,500 families who were in dire need of help this year.

All of those numbers are higher than last year. In 2019, the Christmas Bureau helped 27,548 people in 7,973 households, and 15,036 of those helped were children.

Christmas Bureau Coordinator Sierra Heinen said she’s a little surprised the number of applicants wasn’t even higher.

“We expected the community to be in rough shape this year because of the layoffs and people who can’t work,” she said. “I know there are other community resources in town, so maybe they’re using those.”

Sometimes people who are normally self-sufficient feel ashamed to seek help, Heinen said, and Christmas Bureau volunteers work hard to be as welcoming as possible. “They shouldn’t be (ashamed),” she said. “It’s not a bad thing to ask for help.”


New donations of $15,630 have brought the year-to-date total to $521,171.60, just a short amount away from the goal of $535,000.

TestComm LLC, of Spokane, gave $6,000. “We are proud to be part of the amazing Spokane community and to continue our participation in this annual event of sharing and caring,” wrote Manager Jerry Ensminger.

Colvico Inc., of Spokane, donated $2,000 “in loving memory of Stephen M. Colvin, 6/13/41 – 8/14/20.” An anonymous Spokane donor gave $1,500. Molly Check, of Spokane, contributed $1,200. The Nuxoll family, of Spokane, donated $1,000. “Now more than ever we need to share and care for others,” they wrote.

Gary and Shirley Branson, of Liberty Lake, gave $500, writing, “Merry Christmas to all!” Maurice and Kimberly Mollette, of Spokane, contributed $500.

Jim and Peggy Ellingson, of Colbert, gave $300. Burt and Shirley Pendleton, of Spokane, sent $250.

The Skeesick and Farias family, of Spokane, donated $200. “We hope this will help,” they wrote. Char and Doug Thomas, of Spokane, sent $200. “We are so blessed to be a part of this wonderful organization,” they wrote. “Can’t wait for next year.” Bonnie Nelson, of Spokane, gave $200, as did Denise Mutschler, of Cheney. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $200, writing, “Thanks for your effort in supporting this outreach.”

Sidney and Linda Bankey, of Spokane, gave $100. “Thank you for carrying on the tradition of giving and thanks to all the volunteers for their dedicated hard work,” they wrote. Larry and Tammy Reid, of Spokane, sent $100, writing, “It’s a tradition for Larry and me to donate in honor of our parents and our children. Merry Christmas!”

Christy Pospahala, of Spokane, donated $100. Edith Coleman, of Spokane, sent $100, writing, “Happy to spread Christmas cheer with this donation.” Diane Brennan, of Spokane Valley, contributed $100. Janet Miller, of Spokane, gave $100. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $100. Jeff and Yvonne Trudeau, of Spokane, donated $100, writing, “Thank you to all the staff and volunteers who make the Christmas Bureau happen each year.”

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100 “remembering Rick and Joan Haynes, longtime Christmas Bureau workers who died in 2019.” Another anonymous Spokane donor sent $100 “to add a little more joy for the less fortunate families in our community so they can celebrate in the holiday spirit. A big ‘Thank you’ to all the volunteers and agencies who make this annual Spokane Christmas tradition possible every year. Their efforts are very much appreciated.”

Mary Murphy, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “I hope this little bit helps. Thanks for all your good works.”

Freddie Walker, of Spokane Valley, gave $50. David and Pamela Barnes, of Spokane, sent $50. Barb Kehr, of Spokane, contributed $50. “Thank you to all the people who volunteer and who contribute to the Christmas Bureau,” she wrote.

Laura Nestoss, of Spokane Valley, gave $50. “I know this will help children at Christmas, who would otherwise be without,” she wrote. “Thank you for your good work!”

Bernadine Rodseth, of Spokane, contributed $30. Joanne Hart, of Spokane, sent $25. Barry Newberry, of Spokane, gave $25.

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