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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Christmas Bureau: Volunteers get set up for the big day

By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

Christmas Bureau volunteers spent Tuesday unpacking toys, setting up computers and getting ready for the thousands of families who will come to the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center beginning Saturday to get a food voucher for their family plus a toy and a book for each child.

The Christmas Bureau is a collaboration among Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review. This is the 76th year the Christmas Bureau has provided assistance to those in need.

Longtime volunteer Jay Walter surveyed a long row of tables that held 21 computers and a dozen printers that will be used to register recipients when they arrive. The computers aren’t new, but they were recently donated to Catholic Charities and haven’t been used for Christmas Bureau work before.

“We tested them once and then brought them out here,” he said. “Now IT will come out and test them again.”

So far everything was going smoothly, Walter said. “We get a little better every year,” he said. “There will be a lot of wireless this year.”

The Christmas Bureau is in a different, larger building at the fairgrounds this year. The toy room where parents will shop for toys is significantly larger than the old one. There are also shopping carts for people with large families.

This year instead of parents browsing among large piles of toys, there will be only one of each toy on the tables. Parents can request the toy they want from volunteers stationed at each table. It’s being done that way to reduce the number of people handling each toy.

There’s a wide variety of toys to pick from and there’s sure to be something to delight children of all ages, whether they like dinosaurs, cars, dolls, building kits or science experiments.

Volunteer Marguerite Busch was using twine to bundle together soft throw blankets with matching pillows that are intended as gifts for teenagers. She’s been volunteering with the Christmas Bureau for about 10 years and is excited to be able to devote more time to it since she retired four years ago.

“I’d leave work and dash out here,” she said. “Now I can be here every day and I just love that.”

She also believes in the mission of the Christmas Bureau. “This is such a nice thing to do,” she said. “It’s hands on, direct help.”

Donations

The donations are starting slowly this year, with today’s tally of $5,075 bringing the total donations received so far to $69,803.10. It’s early in the Christmas season with plenty of time to reach the $535,000 goal.

The Fosseen Foundation, of Spokane, donated $2,500. “On behalf of the Fosseen Foundation in the name of Randy and Sharon Fosseen, I am happy to be able to send The Spokesman-Review Christmas Bureau a check for $2,500 to help make Christmas a bit brighter for those families who, for various reasons, are underserved in our community,” wrote Sharon Fosseen. “I give this in honor of this being the last year Brigid Kraus working at the Bureau and her passion for its success, working many months every year to make sure it does the best it can each year. I’m sure she will be missed.”

Angela Johnstone, of Spokane, gave $1,500.

The Sisters of Providence, of Spokane, donated $500. Cindy and Ronald Loomis, of Colbert, sent $250. John and Judy Scott donated $225. Soroptimist International of Spokane donated $100.

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