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‘I’ve never seen anything like this’: Donors have given more than $712,000 to the Christmas Bureau this year — so far

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 24, 2020

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

When the Christmas Bureau fundraising effort began this year, the increased need was obvious. Organizers, however, were fearful that donations would be down significantly in the face of a difficult year for individuals and businesses alike, dealing a crushing blow to the annual effort that gifts grocery vouchers, toys and books to those in need.

They were wrong.

Residents from as near as downtown Spokane and as far as Thailand have rallied as never before, blowing past the $535,000 fundraising goal and bringing in just over $712,000, with donations continuing to come in.

“In 21 years, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington CEO Rob McCann said.

Catholic Charities, along with the Volunteers of America, partners with The Spokesman-Review to put on the Christmas Bureau each year.

A little of what organizers feared did come to pass. Some regular donors were unable to give this year. But new donors stepped up to take their place, writing that this unusual year and increased need prompted them to give for the first time. Some donors who have given faithfully for years, for whom writing a check to the Christmas Bureau is an important part of the Christmas tradition, increased their donations.

But the extra money won’t be put toward the unbudgeted electronic gift cards that allowed thousands of families to buy toys for their children this year. That money will be reimbursed from money raised in 2021, as originally planned. McCann has another use in mind for the extra donations.

“This can officially be known as the Christmas that saved books for kids,” he said.

Up until 2018, there was a book sponsor who donated $25,000 every year to help buy the more than 14,000 books purchased by the Volunteers of America each year. After that sponsor went away, a new one could not be found. Organizers didn’t want to raise the annual fundraising goal by such a large margin, and that has meant the Christmas Bureau has been dipping into its reserves every year to fund book purchases.

McCann said organizers were starting to have tough conversations about how long that would be sustainable, and at what point they would have to stop buying thousands of books each year to hand out to children.

“For the last two years, we’ve had a scary conversation about, ‘Can we continue to do the books?’ ” he said. “That’s no longer a question mark.”

McCann said plans are to set aside the extra money raised this year to subsidize book buying in future years.

“This is going to go toward shoring up the books for the next eight or nine years,” he said.

At the beginning of the fundraising season, McCann said the Bureau needed a Christmas miracle of its own. That miracle has arrived.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “The Spokane community has shown us they’re a generous community. Even when the chips are down and times are tough, they stand up and say, ‘Here we are, we’re here to help.’ ”

Donations

New donations of $120,423.82 from generous donors have pushed the Christmas Bureau’s year-to-date total to $712,009.85.

One of the Bureau’s regular donors that significantly increased its annual gift is Garco Construction. The company donated $20,000 earlier this month and promised to match employee donations up to an additional $20,000. The company has sent a new donation of $36,891.38. “Our employees have donated $16,891.38 to the Christmas Fund and Garco has included an additional $20,000 contribution,” president Clancy Welsh wrote.

Acme Concrete Paving, of Spokane, gave a donation of $8,800, of which $1,200 came from employees.

Cameron-Reilly Concrete, of Spokane Valley, donated $5,000. “On behalf of the owners and employees of Cameron-Reilly Concrete, we would like to donate $5,000 to the Christmas Fund,” president Mike Reilly wrote. “We are proud to live and work in a community that takes care of those experiencing hard times all throughout the year, and especially during the holiday season!”

John Baumhofer, of Spokane, donated $5,000. “I make my annual donation as an affirmation of my personal and societal imperative to support the SR Christmas Fund,” he wrote. “My mother lost her mother and brother to the 1918 flu and my extended family has been impacted by positive COVID-19 test results. Out of adversity and hardship come sacrifice and compassion. It is our challenge to assist not only the frontline agencies, staff and volunteers that spearhead Spokane’s community efforts to help individuals and families in need, but all of those who strive every day to provide for themselves and their families.

“This year, more than ever, I urge support for these efforts and a thank you to those making it happen! A special thank you and debt of gratitude to all of the organizations, staff and indispensable volunteers exhibiting dedication, ingenuity and ‘extra effort’ to make this year’s SR Christmas Bureau happen!”

Michael Leslie donated $4,000 via PayPal from “the family of employees at Dupree Building Specialties. Thank you for the wonderful work you do for our community. Merry Christmas to you all!”

Hidden Rivers Irrigation and Landscaping, of Spokane, donated $2,500. “Although 2020 has been an extremely unusual and difficult year, the employees at Hidden Rivers were blessed to have the ability to maintain business throughout the year,” president Jeff Brady wrote. “Our company was not negatively impacted like so many other small businesses in our region; therefore, we would like to give back to our community. Our employees have chosen to help those in need by donating to your awesome organization! Merry Christmas to you and to all those that help make this possible!”

Kenneth Roberts and Jean Odell, of Spokane, gave $2,000. Gregory Bulkley, of Spokane, donated $2,000. Jacey Harder sent $2,000 via PayPal. Jensen Distribution Services gave $2,000, writing, “On behalf of the Jensen family, we wish all a happy, healthy holiday season. Especially we pray for those suffering from job loss during the pandemic, that they may be allowed back to work soon.”

Carolyn Clark donated $1,500 via PayPal.

Morrison Cattle Inc., of Greenacres, donated $1,000. “Longtime Saltese residents Bud and Sharon Morrison as well as Morrison Cattle Inc. gratefully assist the Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund in memory of their parents and granddaughter, Lauren French. Thanks for all you do, SR.”

Frank Knott, of Spokane, and Ott Knott Golf Carts sent $1,000. “Thanks to all the people that work to make this happen,” he wrote. Walker Construction, of Spokane, gave $1,000. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $1,000. Justin and Tamie Voelker, of Spokane Valley, contributed $1,000.

Michael and Virginia Berg, of Spokane, donated $1,000. “Thanks for making Christmas special for so many!” they wrote. Reamer Family Dentistry, of Spokane Valley, gave $1,000. Sally Bulger Quirk and Tim Quirk, of Spokane, gave $1,000 via Schwab Charitable in recognition of “Kay and Todd Edmonds, superb grandparents.”

Thomas and Tamara Bryant contributed $1,000 via PayPal. “Thanks for all you do!” they wrote. John Altberg donated $1,000 via PayPal. “This year the need seems especially acute as we as a community navigate the economic strains of the pandemic,” he wrote. “Hoping to help brighten the season for those in need on behalf of my family and clients. John Altberg, Ameriprise Financial.”

Teck American Incorporated, of Spokane, sent $750. “On behalf of Teck American Incorporated, I am pleased to provide the enclosed check in the amount of $750 to support your organization and our community,” Anissa Bay wrote.

Sharon and Taylor Powell and Heidi and Brian Jacobs teamed up to donate $700, writing, “When it is needed now more than ever. Thanks for what you do every year.”

An anonymous Spokane donor sent $600, writing, “Once again, I am privileged to be able to make a contribution to the Christmas Fund this year. I am blessed with dear friends and family and abundant blessings. God bless you all for the tireless work you do.”

Einar and Diane Larson, of Almira, Washington, gave $535. Linton and Tammie Miller donated $520 via PayPal.

Harry Fuhs, of Spokane, sent $500. Marty and Paula Barth, of Spokane, donated $500. “We are blessed to give this gift in memory of Judy Thies, lifelong friend and longtime volunteer of the Christmas Bureau,” they wrote. “Merry Christmas.” Dennis Hughes, of Deer Park, sent $500.

Bill and Dorene Reynolds, of Spokane, gave $500. “Everything is so different this year,” they wrote. “Thank you for making everything work so well for those in need.” Gary and Donna Towbridge, of Spokane, contributed $500. Dennis Dowling, of Rosalia, Washington, donated $500 “in memory of my parents, Bill and Marie Dowling.”

Brian and Judie Mitchell, of Spokane Valley, contributed $500, as did Frederick and Sharon Clark, of Chattaroy. Charm Stanek, of Spokane, gave $500, as did Scott and Allison Barratt, also of Spokane. Imelda Patterson, of Spokane, gave $500. David and Linda Shuler, of Roswell, New Mexico, donated $500.

Judith and Roger Paine, of Spokane, gave $500. “COVID-19 did not allow us to travel south this year,” they wrote. “This is some of our gas money for your fund. You do a great job.” Lisa and David Stagaman contributed $500 via Schwab Charitable. Randy Johnson, of Spokane, donated $500 “in loving memory of my wife, Judy Johnson, who we lost to cancer this fall. Today (12/21) is her birthday. Thank you for all you do for others.”

Steve Johnson, of Spokane Valley, gave $500, writing, “Thank you for all you do. Wish this could be more.” An anonymous Spokane donor sent $500, writing, “Thank you for the work you are doing to support our community!” Chimney Rock Mortgage, of Spokane, donated $500.

Rick and Diane Thomas, of Spokane, contributed $500. “Thank you for providing much needed assistance to so many who have been impacted by the effects of the pandemic,” they wrote. “May our community be blessed by the generosity of so many families and friends of the Christmas Bureau.” Bradley Boswell contributed $500 via PayPal.

Steve and John Kent, of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, donated $500. “Please accept this donation to the SR Christmas Fund from Steve and John Kent in remembrance of our mom, Jean Kent,” they wrote. “Mom loved Christmas, so we are sending this donation of $500 in her name. Thank you to the Christmas Bureau for helping the community in these unprecedented times.”

An anonymous Spokane donor sent $500 “with the hope that it will help brighten the holiday season and provide some joy in the lives of those in need during this special time of year. We thank the Spokesman-Review for providing this fine service to our community.” Keith and Kathleen Mackenzie sent $500 via Schwab Charitable.

Bob and Linda Miller, of Hauser, donated $400. “We made toy trucks last year, but that wouldn’t work this Christmas, so please accept our donation to the Christmas Fund!” they wrote. “We’re grateful to all of you, and we count our blessings – always! Merry Christmas to all of you and thanks again for your efforts.” Mark and Kathy Casey and the Law Offices of Mullin, Cronin, Casey & Blair, of Spokane, sent $400.

Jeremy and Jennifer Heimbigner gave $400 via PayPal. Russell Cornell sent $400 via PayPal, writing “for Sue and Duke Cornell and Ardith Divine – Merry Christmas from R.J. and Julie.”

Spokane Pages of Harmony Barbershop Chorus, of Spokane Valley, donated $350.

Judith Hamel, of Spokane, gave $300. “Enclosed is my check to the Christmas Fund in memory of Donna Roloff and all that she did to bring books and children together,” she wrote. “Her positive energy and passion for sharing books with children will not be forgotten.”

Colleen and Gregory Stevens, of Spokane, donated $300. Bill and Kris Stimson, of Spokane, gave $300. “This is a wonderful Christmas tradition, plague or no plague,” they wrote. “Please keep it up!” Peggy and Dan Jeremiah, of Spokane Valley, sent $300, writing, “Thank you for all you do!”

Marshall and Maryann Farnell, of Spokane, donated $300. Tom and Gina Burns, of Spokane, gave $300. “Thank you for the great work you do, each and every year!” they wrote. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $300, writing, “Thank you for finding clever ways to make the Bureau happen this year. What a blessing you are.”

Elaine Vandervert, of Chattaroy, gave $300. “Thank you for caring for our community, especially in these times!” she wrote. Anita Lamp, of Issaquah, Washington, gave $300.

The Lolo Boutique, of Spokane, sent $250. “As a local small business, we know firsthand how challenging this year has been,” wrote owner Lainey LaRue. “We are privileged to make this contribution to the S-R Christmas Fund on behalf of our loyal customers who contributed to a special raffle we held and our team members of Lolo Boutique. Thanks to the S-R for continuing this wonderful tradition of giving and thanks to our community for supporting it.”

Diane Weber, of Spokane, sent $250. Robert Curnow, of Liberty Lake, gave $250. Kirk and Jan Bierwagen, of Spokane, donated $250. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $250 “for families in our community.” Igor Klyukanov, of Spokane, sent $250 “in memory of our dear friend, Fritz Rosekrantz.”

Charles and Kathleen Teegarden, of Spokane, donated $250 “in memory of Dan Sullivan, who knew the Christmas Fund was so needed by families in our community.” Sharon Saito and Bill Brower, of Spokane, contributed $250, writing, “I am making the enclosed gift in honor of Dr. Bob Lutz and all health care workers. Thank you all for making life better in these difficult times.”

Connie Brunell, of Spangle, gave $250. “Enclosed is a gift in memory of my husband, Scott Brunell,” she wrote. “Thank you for all your hard work. See you next year!” Joan and Randy Joss, of Menlo Park, California, donated $250 via Schwab Charitable in memory of Hannah Joss.

Gary and Leanne Brosius, of Veradale, donated $250, writing, “Keep up the good work. We hope this helps make lives a little brighter this year.” Sharon Fairchild, of Liberty Lake, sent $250. Lynn and Carol Baum, of Spokane, contributed $250, writing, “Thank you for the village of good people in our community.” Kit and Karen Sherfey, of Spokane, gave $250. Jack and Norma Snead, of Spokane, donated $250.

The following donors gave $250 each via PayPal: Paul Turcotte, Andrew Nameck, Donald Lamp, Frank and Jan Anderson, and Johnny Angioi.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $225 “in memory of Dorothy Gordon, who loved all things Christmas.” John and Sherry Gaiser, of Spokane, donated $210.

Lois Richards, of Spokane, sent $200. Norma Dippel, of Spokane, gave $200, writing, “Keep up the good work.” Ed Cassens, of Spokane, contributed $200, as did Charleene Ristuben, also of Spokane. Bruce and Rebekka Higgins, of Spokane, gave $200. Julie and Mike, of Spokane, donated $200, writing, “Christmas blessings to all.”

Joe and Carolyn Schauble, of Spokane, gave $200 in memory of their parents, Robert and Mary Schauble and Carl and Edna Magee. “Thanks for all your work to keep this fund going,” they wrote.” Gordon Alexander, of Spokane, gave $200, as did Donna and Robert Syron, of Clayton, Washington.

Alan and Michelle Solinsky, of Spokane, donated $200, as did Kay and Greg Friestad, also of Spokane. Maureen and Paul Dodroe, of Spokane, gave $200. Two anonymous Spokane donors each sent $200. Jessie Norris and Barry Chapman, of Spokane, sent $200, as did Elizabeth Pearce, also of Spokane.

An anonymous Spokane donor gave $200, writing, “I’m happy to support this wonderful program!” Erica Hallock and Pat Dunne gave $200 via PayPal, writing, “This $200 donation is from Pat Dunn and Erica Hallock in remembrance of Nadine Van Stone and her lifelong commitment to improving the lives of families in our region. She is greatly missed.”

The following donors each sent $200 via PayPal: Joan Cooper, Ronald White and Nancy James. Lori Dixson sent $200 via PayPal, writing, “Thanks so much for everything that you do! Happy holidays!”

The Hayes Family, of Spokane, sent $200, writing, “Thanks for all you do!” An anonymous Mead donor gave $200, writing, “Thank you for all you do! I’d like to donate anonymously in honor of my parents who have passed, but still are loved every day. Merry Christmas!”

Kathy and John Weidinger, of Mead, gave $150. Donald Gale Jr., of Spokane, donated $150. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $150. Another anonymous Spokane donor gave $150, writing, “Thanks for all you do! Merry Christmas!” Andrew Haffey, of Spokane, contributed $150, as did James and Dalene Boone, of Spokane.

Ruth Reynolds, of Spokane, donated $150. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $150. Heather Brennan donated $150 via PayPal.

Wyatt and Amanda Mildes, of Mead, sent $140, writing, “Donation comes from kids using part of their Christmas gift money.”

Don Harding gave $100.44 via PayPal “in memory of our sister, Robin Harding.”

Jim and Diana Jensen, of Spokane, contributed $100. Beth Krause, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “Enclosed is my donation to the Christmas Fund in memory of Donna Roloff, one of my best friends for nearly 70 years.” Lyle and Judy Workman, of Spokane, sent $100. Two anonymous Spokane donors each contributed $100.

Orene Harder, of Spokane Valley, donated $100, writing, “Please accept this donation in memory of Ron McKay, Anne Uyehara and Donna Roloff.” Steve and Deanne Carr, of Spokane, sent $100. Charles and Janet Watkins, of Newport, Washington, contributed $100. Russ and Judy McKenzie, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $100. “This gift with love from Russ and Judy McKenzie,” they wrote.

Golie Jansen and Fred Schrumpf, of Spokane, gave $100 in memory of Donna Roloff. The Davis Family, of Spokane, donated $100 “in memory of Nancy Wright. Thanks for all the great memories, mom/grandma! Hi Dad!” A gift of $100 came from Soupy Campbell, Donna Jean and David B. “Your fund is the best,” they wrote. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor contributed $100.

The following Spokane donors each contributed $100: Michael and Leann Ricketts; Dennis Frederickson; Marion Bye; Alfred and Carol Stopp; Mary and Thomas Brown; Jeanne Dault; Bruce and Gale Caroon; and Jim and Geri Swope.

A man identified as “Vegas Walt” donated $100. “Yesterday I stopped at a local business, L&R Fabrication and asked for some help with a small sheet metal project,” he wrote. “I was shown kind assistance well above my expectations from the company representatives. His name, I’m embarrassed to say, I failed to get, but his kindness is well remembered. One good act of kindness deserves another. Thus, I am enclosing herein a check for $100 for the Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund. I am donating this in the name of L&R Fabrication.”

The following donors each gave $100: Boyd Plager, of Davenport; Harold and Jane Weakland, of Spokane Valley; Donna and James Reinbold, of Davenport; Jay Krumbholz, of Liberty Lake; Larry and Barb Nelson, of Spokane Valley; Gary and Elizabeth Massey, of Spokane Valley; Georgia and Paul Harvick, of Spokane Valley; and Geraldine and Jim Porter, of Spokane Valley.

Judy Colenso, of Spokane Valley, sent $100. “Due to not being able to serve as a volunteer for the Christmas Bureau this year, please accept this donation as a sincere thank you for all your hard work in finding innovative ways to continue to serve those in need,” she wrote. John and Marcia Jensen, of Spokane, donated $100. “Merry Christmas,” they wrote.

An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $100, writing, “Merry Christmas to all of you! Thank you for all your hard work on making others’ Christmas Day a wonderful day!” Irene Byrd, of Spokane, sent $100 “in honor of LeRoy J. Byrd M.D. and O’Neil and Agnus Jones.” Julie and Jerry donated $100.

Cheryl Catt, of Mead, donated $100, writing, “Thank you so much for the effort you put into this very needed project. My book club (The Cuties Book Club) is foregoing our usual Christmas presents in order to send money to the fund!” An anonymous donor gave $100. Steve and Denise Myklebust, of Spokane, contributed $100.

The following donors each gave $100 via PayPal: Stephen McNamee, Lori and Dave Smith, Robert Ressa, David Heidel, Timothy Devlin, Brooke Spink, Gary Crosby, Kathleen O’Connor, Susan Harris and James Northcott.

Dave and Barbara Schmedding, of Spokane Valley, contributed $100. Bob and Pam Brown, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “Please accept this donation with our thanks for helping families in need. As volunteers we recognize how hard you work to make things happen. God bless!” Kylie and Ryan Mumma, of Spokane, sent $100 “in memory of grampa, Don Kelly.”

Joe and Charri Doeleman, of Spokane, sent $100, writing, “Charri and I are very happy to be able to send this money to hopefully make a few people’s holidays a little happier. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!” Lori and Jeff Martinelli, of Spokane, gave $100. “Bless you all,” they wrote.

An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $100, writing, “Here’s a little something that I hope happens to brighten someone’s Christmas!” Gail and Dianna Morasch, of Spokane, donated $100. “Thank you for all the good work you do for people in need,” they wrote. “Merry Christmas!”

Rod and Diane Anderson, of Spokane, gave $100. “In this challenging year, we are grateful to be able to help this worthy cause,” they wrote. “Thank you for continuing this tradition.” Lanie Fry, of Spokane, sent $100, writing, “Merry Christmas and Happy Blessed New Year!”

Minnie Samek and family, of Spokane, donated $100. “To all you wonderful people – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. In loving memory of our son, Darrell, and husband, Philip Samek.” Drew Berger, of Spokane, gave $100 “in memory of grampa, Don Kelly.” Benjamin Estrellado sent $100 via PayPal, writing, “Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. In memory of my dad.”

An anonymous Spokane donor sent $75, writing, “I have watched the Christmas Fund every year since I have been in Spokane in 2007. This is the first time I have donated, however. I am on a fixed income myself and have very little extra, however, I love Christmas and I am very blessed. I have a wonderful family and friends and I don’t have to worry where my next meal is coming from, even though it is very tight at times. And I have an abundance of love, which is what it is all about, anyway. I don’t exchange gifts with anyone anymore, but I love Christmas more than I did when I was giving and receiving gifts. It pleases me to try and help make it wonderful for a family or two so they can be, for one day, as blessed as I am.”

Don and Mary Bender, of Nine Mile Falls, donated $75.

Willbann and Virginia Terpening, of Spokane, donated $50. An anonymous Mead donor sent $50. Linda and Pat Smith, of Spokane, gave $50, writing, “Thanks again for providing happiness and joy for so many!” Elizabeth Christy, of Spokane, sent $50. Joni and Warren Omans, of Otis Orchards, contributed $50.

Mary Peer, of Spokane, gave $50. “This is in memory of my sister, Shirley Scribner, and her husband, Denzil, who passed away two weeks ago,” she wrote. Raymond and Caryl Lawton, of Spokane, sent $50. “Thank you for the work you do to make Spokane a city with a big heart.” An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $50.

Elizabeth and Steven Hitch, of Spokane, gave $50. Jean Flechel, of Spokane, contributed $50. Bonnie Nelson, of Spokane, gave $50 “in honor of Karen Bzzy of Prescott, Arizona.” Gordon and Roxanne West, of Cheney, donated $50. Kay Anderson, of Spokane, contributed $50. Jim and Barb Christie, of Spokane, sent $50. Elizabeth Nelson gave $50 via PayPal, writing, “May this Christmas bring all families peace and joy. Thank you for all your hard work.” An anonymous donor sent $50 via PayPal.

Mary Flynn contributed $50 via PayPal. “As a family, we are fortunate to be able to donate to ensure that all families have a Christmas,” she wrote. “In lieu of a gift this year from me, my son-in-law, Scott Price, requested I make a donation in his name to the fund. Thank you for all you do for the community.”

The following people each donated $50 via PayPal: Raymond Zimmerman, Barbara Beaton, Frank Kandratowicz, Charlotte DiCicco, Peggy Fritz, Michelle Sylvester, Debbie Wolcott and Megan Roland.

John Spencer gave $50 via PayPal in memory of Tom and Lois Spencer.

Judith Schoepflin, of Spokane, sent $40. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $40, writing, “Merry Christmas.” Gail Kiser, of Spokane, donated $40.

Claudia and Richard Kroll, of Nine Mile Falls, gave $35. Barbara Pryde, of Spokane, sent $30. Jacqueline Howard sent $30 via PayPal.

J. Fausnight, of Kellogg, sent $25. Carolyn Smith and T. Preston, of Spokane, gave $25. An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $25. Shirley and Robert Hillhouse, of Spokane Valley, sent $25. Christine Bieker, of Spokane, gave $25. Mara Lynn Cooper sent $25 via PayPal, as did Matthew Eng. Dennis Hicks donated $25 via PayPal, writing, “Wish it was more.” Davian Adams, of Wilbur, Washington, gave $25 via PayPal.

Malene McDonald, of Spokane, contributed $20. Mary Dittamore donated $20 via PayPal.

Bruce donated $12. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $10.

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