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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Christmas Bureau gifts offer solace to families struggling to pay rent, groceries, bills

Painting and drawing kits are available at the Christmas Bureau, which is open to families through Dec. 16.  (Nina Culver/The Spokesman-Review)
By Nina Culver The Spokesman-Review

Leslie Ward took advantage of a rare day, when all of her children were in school, to visit the Christmas Bureau.

“Today is the only day I have,” she said. “We can’t afford Christmas when we have bills and rent to pay.”

She was looking for gifts for her four children still at home, ranging in age from 5 to 16. Two of her children have autism, and Ward stays home to take care of them.

Ward said her family was just notified their rent is going up $200 a month, and they spend around $1,000 a month on groceries, which means they have to cut wherever they can.

“Me and my fiancé, we eat one meal a day,” she said.

She picked a small tent that can be used indoors or outdoors in the hopes it might help her autistic son with his sensory issues. She got a steam-breathing dragon for another child and then roller skates for the third. She got a beauty kit, including a hair dryer, for her oldest daughter. “This is stuff I can’t afford,” she said.

As her gifts were being bagged, volunteers told her to select a stuffed animal for each of her children. The stuffed animals came from the Spokane Chiefs’ Teddy Bear Toss night on Saturday. She thanked the volunteers and gave a bright “Merry Christmas!” on her way out the door.

The Christmas Bureau provides a food voucher to families in need at Christmas, as well as a book and toy for each child. It’s not extravagant, but it’s enough to make sure every child has something waiting for them on Christmas morning.

Nicole Bennett was shopping for her three daughters, ages 2, 8 and 12. A recent car accident injury means money for Christmas is tight. “I ended up totaling my car on Nov. 26,” she said. “I’ve been out of work for two weeks and I can’t afford anything for Christmas.”

Bennett is hopeful she’ll be cleared to go back to work soon, but is thankful the Bureau is there to help. “I am very appreciative,” she said. “It definitely helps.”

The Christmas Bureau is open from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 16, excluding Sunday, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center at 404 N. Havana St. in Spokane Valley.


New donations of $25,120 have brought the year-to-date total to $160,337.10, closer to the goal of $535,000.

John and Kristianne Blake, of Spokane, donated $5,000. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $5,000.

Laura and Sheldon Luck donated $1,100 via PayPal.

David and Karen Crouse, of Hauser, Idaho, donated $1,000. The Mary R. Moore Living Trust, of Spokane, gave $1,000. Christopher Lang sent $1,000 via PayPal, as did Peter and Gay Witherspoon.

Peter and Mary Lou Bach, of Spokane, gave $500, writing, “Thank you for all the good work that you do. Merry Christmas to all!” Anonymous Colbert donors gave $500 “in honor of son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Kelli, also in honor of all the nurses and doctors working long hours during COVID. Thank you!” Douglas Dominey sent $500 via PayPal.

Bill and Dorene Reynolds, of Spokane, donated $500 “in loving memory of Ed and Dorothy Humes and Iris Westwood.” Scott Sevigny sent $500 via PayPal. Dick and Trudy Raymond, of Spokane, gave $500, writing “Thanks to all the volunteers helping with the Christmas Fund. We pray for God’s blessings and peace for our community, our country and the world.”

Diane Perry donated $500 via PayPal. “This donation is given in loving memory of my dad, Robert Butler, who supported The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund,” she wrote. “Merry Christmas and thank you to all of the volunteers who continue to make this possible.”

Stephen Scott gave $400 via PayPal. “Merry Christmas to the kind volunteers at the Bureau!” he wrote.

Ralph and Debra Prouty, of Spokane, contributed $300. Lori Largent donated $300 via PayPal. Carl and Dennie Crowe, of Spokane, gave $300. “Thank you for all the joy you bring to our community,” they wrote. “We are so grateful for you!”

Lloyd and Joyce Gill, of Spokane, sent $260 “to help provide a Christmas to those less fortunate!” Carol Phillips Rankin donated $250. Corrine and Dallas Dixon, of Spokane, gave $250. Megan Steinhilber sent $250 via PayPal as did Karen Schlosser.

Kathleen Huggins, of Spokane, donated $200. Theophil Otto sent $200 via PayPal. David and JoAnn Schwartz, of Spokane, sent $200. “We give this year in remembrance of Dennis and Clifton Schwartz,” they wrote. “Thank you and Merry Christmas!” Matt and Ann McQuesten gave $200 via PayPal. “Thanks for helping spread some Christmas cheer this season,” they wrote.

An anonymous Spokane donor sent $150, “$100 in memory of Joe and Irene Lynch of Coulee Dam, Washington; $50 in memory of Don Morley of Grand Coulee, Washington.” Deanna Eppinger, of Spokane, donated $125.

An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $100. Norma Echelbarger, of Spokane Valley, donated $100. “Merry Christmas to all, and a very blessed new year,” she wrote. “May it soon be free of the COVID. Love what you do.” Sue and Allen Hoover, of Spokane, gave $100. Loyce Lewis, of Spokane, sent $100.

The following donors each gave $100 via PayPal: Daniel Simonson, Keith Marsh, Anne Montgomery, Katherine Strickler, Harriet Plucker, Therese Hart, Beth Kerr, Jennine Murphy and Peggy Estey.

Christel Aigner, of Spokane, gave $100, as did Susan and Spencer Shaw, of Spokane. Leslie and Lois Albert, of Spokane Valley, donated $100. Beverly Hayes, of Nine Mile Falls, contributed $100. “Thanks for helping so many families,” she wrote. Tom and Mary Christensen, of Spokane, sent $100.

Christine Hinnen gave $100 via PayPal “in honor of Linda Solan and the many hours she contributes to this cause.” Robert LaFountain, of Spokane Valley, donated $100, as did Kathleen Olsufka of Spokane Valley. Janet Miller, of Spokane, sent $100. Constance McBride, of Spokane, gave $100. Sherry Ennis donated $100 via PayPal in memory of Donna Roloff.

Jeffrey and Judy Koons, of Spokane Valley, gave $50. Marcia Patten sent $50 via PayPal. Charles and Mary Ellen Steen, of Liberty Lake, sent $50. An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $50. Arlyss Nelson, of Liberty Lake, donated $50. Susan Frankovich, of Spokane, sent $50. Patricia Leader donated $50 via PayPal as did Susan Wotring.

Gordon Radford sent $25 via PayPal, as did Randy Williams.

Charli Chapman donated $20 via PayPal, writing “Merry Christmas.” Lennelle Spillman donated $15 via PayPal.