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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘They’re just going to love these’: Relatives have fun challenge picking out kid gifts at the Christmas Bureau

Teddy bears and other stuffed animals are available at the Christmas Bureau.  (Nina Culver/Spokesman-Review)
Teddy bears and other stuffed animals are available at the Christmas Bureau. (Nina Culver/Spokesman-Review)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The Christmas Bureau, which closes Thursday, is nearly done for the year, but parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles are still coming to the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center to choose a toy and a book for each child in their life.

Michelle Eichler has two sons, ages 9 and 12. They recently took a trip they took to the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, where they had spotted a porcupine up a tree and were trying to use her cell phone to zoom in on the animal so they could see it better, Eichler said. So on Tuesday, when she found a pair of National Geographic binoculars in the Christmas Bureau toy room, Eichler was confident the binoculars would be well-used.

“We do a lot of nature things,” she said.

She also selected a Hot Wheels loop and launch set, which she hoped would encourage her boys to play together.

“They can race each other,” she said. “They’re just going to love these.”

Eichler said she needed a little extra help this year, which has been tough all around, particularly since her mother died in August.

Then Eichler caught COVID-19 last month and had to miss work while she recovered.

“This whole month of November, I’ve been down for the count,” she said. “I’m very thankful for the Christmas Bureau. It does help.”

Natalija Pollock, who works as a family care coordinator for the Catholic Charities Rising Strong program, was pushing a cart piled high with toys as she shopped for children in five families. The families are all part of the Rising Strong program.

“We have some families who aren’t able to come themselves,” she said. “I’m working closely with the parents.”

Ryan Cheers walked slowly down the tables full of toys, carefully looking at what was available. He was shopping for his two nieces, ages 10 and 13, and two nephews, ages 5 and 8. His sister was unable to come to the Bureau herself and Cheers said she asked him to go in her place. However, she didn’t provide much guidance on what toys to get, he said.

“I’m guessing right now,” he said.

As he considered, he got an idea on how to handle the gifts for the two boys. He decided to get a Dune Smasher monster truck and a pair of combat robots. That way the boys could either trade gifts or share them, depending on who liked what.

“I think that’s a better plan,” he said.

The Bureau is open daily from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It will close for the year on Thursday.


The community has stepped up with $14,619 in new donations to the Christmas Bureau, bringing the year-to-date total to $287,604.10. The goal is to raise $535,000.

Ken and Jean O’Dell Roberts, of Spokane, donated $2,000.

Bill and Mabel McInerney, of Priest Lake, donated $1,000. Bruce and Kathy Bixler, of Spokane, gave $1,000 “in memory of Don Kelly and his service to the Christmas Fund.”

Lowell Severud, of Spokane, gave $500. Roger and Patricia Flint, of Spokane, donated $500. “We are so happy to make this donation in order to help bring smiles and happiness to kids and families,” they wrote. “Merry Christmas!” Melissa Tipke, of Spokane, sent $500. “Thank you for all that you do to make the holidays special for so many in our community!” she wrote.

Mike and Marge Otis, of Spokane Valley, gave $500. An anonymous donor sent $500, “in memory of Jeremy, Marcus and Emily. Merry Christmas to all and thank you for all you do!” An anonymous donor gave $500 via PayPal.

An anonymous Spokane Valley donor sent $400. David Epperson sent $400 via PayPal.

Bruce and Rebekka Higgins, of Spokane, donated $300. Alison Mary Barratt gave $300 via PayPal, as did Kelley Opperud.

Albert Materi, of Spokane, donated $250 “to honor my deceased parents and six siblings and Rose and David.” Sharon Fairchild, of Liberty Lake, gave $250. Gary and Kathryn James, of Nine Mile Falls, sent $250. Burt and Shirley Pendleton, of Spokane, contributed $250. Gene and Gwen Sanders sent $250 via PayPal, writing “Happy holidays and a big thank you to all the great volunteers of the Christmas Fund.”

The Quilt Charmers, a group of women who meet at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Colbert, donated $200. “Our members want to give to our community in this time of great need and feel that this fund will reach the most people and do the greatest good,” wrote secretary Linda Plett. “In addition, many members also donate charity quilts to local organizations for those in need. Thank you for all you do.”

Zoe Foltz, of Spokane, contributed $200. Ray and Klea Copeland, of Spokane, sent $200, writing “Thanks to all the volunteers who help make Christmas special for so many children.” Anette La Combe, of Spokane, donated $200. Jeffrey and Theresa Utesch, of Spokane Valley, gave $200. The Earl and Elaine Shaw Living Trust sent $200. Harold and Heidi Clarke gave $200 via PayPal, as did Timothy Halpin.

Gary and Cheryl Allen, of Spokane Valley, sent $150. Wayne Wright, of Spokane, gave $150 “in memory of Nancy J. Wright – wife and teacher – who loved kids.” Susanne Tuson and Marty Beresford, of Colbert, donated $150. “Thank you to all the volunteers and organizations who generously give their time and talents to provide a brighter Christmas for the less fortunate,” they wrote.

Ben and Judy Flowers sent $150 via PayPal, writing “Our contribution is in memory of two lifelong friends we lost this year: David Angstrom and Sue Els.” Michael and Jill Weier donated $150 via PayPal, as did Farol Stroyan and Robert Richard.

Two anonymous Spokane donors each gave $100. Michele Attwood, of Spokane, sent $100. Janet Kenley, of Liberty Lake, donated $100. An anonymous PayPal donor sent $100, writing “Happy holidays!” Charles and Sharon Preston, of Nine Mile Falls, sent $100. “Many blessings and much joy to all!” they wrote.

Wendy Smith donated $100 via PayPal “in memory of our cousin, Bill Morlin, a long-time, well-respected Spokesman-Review reporter. May his family find peace in this holiday season.” Lynn Hein donated $100 via PayPal in honor of Ron and Joyce MacNamee.

The following donors each gave $100 via PayPal: Twyla Schumacher, Wendy Knight, Debra Peterson, Paul Olson, Kathleen Strong and Ann Shaw.

An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $89, writing “Merry Christmas to all!” Peter Weller sent $55 via PayPal.

Colleen Warner gave $50. Dalton and Karen Jassman, of Spokane, sent $50. Kay Anderson, of Spokane, contributed $50, as did Ernst Pickel of Spokane. Mike and Dorothy McMurtery, of Spokane, gave $50. Mary Jo Vickers, of Spokane, donated $50. Michele Richards gave $50 via PayPal “in honor of Dr. Robin Messinger.” Kristen Costales gave $50 via PayPal in memory of Charles Kallestad. Colleen Kruse sent $50 via PayPal.

June Lawson gave $25 via PayPal.

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