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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘We just love what we do’: Christmas Bureau volunteers find ‘so much joy’ in giving back year after year

Jay Walter, right, a supervisor on the intake desk, gives his volunteer workers one last pep talk before clients began arriving at the Christmas Bureau on Thursday. “It’s rejuvenating,” Walter said of volunteering at the Christmas Bureau.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Jay Walter, right, a supervisor on the intake desk, gives his volunteer workers one last pep talk before clients began arriving at the Christmas Bureau on Thursday. “It’s rejuvenating,” Walter said of volunteering at the Christmas Bureau. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Many Christmas Bureau volunteers return year after year, but they’re doing more than giving back or lending a helping hand to those in need. They’re getting an infusion of the Christmas spirit.

Sandy Richardson is one of those volunteers. She still works, so she takes time off to do it. “It’s just become such a large part of my Christmas,” she said. “I get so much out of it, so much joy from everybody.”

Richardson always works in the toy room, where she helps parents find the perfect gift for their children. “It’s where I started and I just stuck with it,” she said. “I think I get more out of it than them sometimes, just seeing the joy on their faces.”

There’s another benefit to working in the toy room. Since her grandson was born four years ago, Richardson usually finds something he would like and then goes home, finds it online and orders it as his Christmas present. “They have such good choices here,” she said.

She’s looking forward to when she retires so she can spend even more time at the Christmas Bureau, a charitable effort conducted by a partnership of The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America.

Tana Carosella, who volunteers in the book area, said helping at the Bureau each year is important to her. “It means everything to me, mainly because I’m a retired elementary school teacher,” she said.

She enjoys making book suggestions to parents. “It just fills my heart at Christmas, to help people choose just the right book for their child,” she said.

She also enjoys working with her fellow volunteers. “Our volunteers come back year after year,” she said. “We just love what we do. We’re a family.”

Jay Walter and his wife, Kay, are longtime volunteers. Jay is a supervisor of the computer intake volunteers. “It’s rejuvenating,” he said. “It’s probably one of the more rewarding things Kay and I have done since our kids grew up. It’s genuinely heartwarming.”

The experience is both a happy one and a sad one, Walter said – happy because people are being helped and sad because some have so little. “You see people with a whole lot less than I grew up with,” he said. “You put smiles on faces and you get tons of people saying, ‘Thank you’, and many are tearful, joyously tearful.”


New donations totaling $60,615 are led by an extremely generous donation of $45,000 from Garco Construction, bringing the year-to-date total to $455,659.10.

The balance is slowly getting closer to the goal of $535,000.

Garco donates a sizable amount each year and also matches donations made by its employees. “As we look forward to 2022, we at Garco Construction want to take the time to thank our Spokane community that has been responsible for much of our success,” wrote company president Clancy Welsh. “Enclosed is Garco’s contribution of $45,000, which includes $11,230 of direct contributions from our employees to the Christmas Fund to assist the less fortunate in our community. In addition to this contribution, our employees have contributed $2,550 to other charities supporting our community that we will also match.

“Our team at Garco would like to thank The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and all the volunteers that continue to make the Christmas Fund such a vital part of the holiday experience here in Spokane. From all of us at Garco, we would like to wish everyone a safe holiday season and a happy new year!!”

Rial and Don Moulton, of Spokane Valley, gave $10,000. “As we approach the holidays in a COVID-19 world, we know many are struggling,” they wrote. “As a business we once again were not able to host our client events. We miss them greatly. However, we can put those funds to good use by increasing our Christmas Fund donation. We thank The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund for the opportunity to help. Out of thanks also for our wonderful clients, and in memory of our very special mother, Rial, Don and everyone at Moulton Wealth Management hopes this token of our gratitude for all God’s gifts helps others better enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas to all!! God bless and stay safe.”

Gary and Susan Bloom donated $1,000.

The Association of Retired Avista Employees donated $550.

The Wolff family, of Spokane, gave $500 “in loving memory of a son and father – Dean Wolff.” Mary Jones, of Spokane Valley, sent $500.

George and Mary Doran, of Spokane, contributed $400, writing “Thank you for your good works.” Butch and Barb Slaughter, of Spokane, sent $400 “For all the wonderful work you do and joy you bring to our community – thank you!” they wrote.

Sandy Fruetel, of Mead, gave $300 “in memory of my husband Al, my sister Debbie and friend Swede. The spirit of Christmas lived in each of them.”

Dennis Dowling, of Rosalia, gave $250. Kristine and Michael Anderson, of Nine Mile Falls, sent $250.

Erna Vinje, of Spokane, sent $210 as the annual donation from her adult daughters, all of whom grew up in Spokane. They are: Prasti (Vinje) Purdum, of Seattle, Astrid Vinje (Bush), and Michelle Vinje (Petty), of Seattle. “They wish the children of Spokane a very Merry Christmas,” she wrote.

Kathleen Hull and Janet Walker, of Colbert, donated $200, writing “Thank you for all you do!”

An anonymous Cheney donor gave $100 “in memory of my husband and my son.” An anonymous Spokane Valley donor sent $100, writing “Thanks to all that make this happen. Merry Christmas.” Suzanne Grainger, of Spokane, contributed $100, as did Jim and Geri Swope, of Spokane.

John Stephens and Nancy Mackerrow, of Spokane, donated $100. Cliff and Judie Hoekema, of Spokane, gave $100, writing, “To The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund from the Hoekema Family, who have been very fortunate to have a special Christmas every year to help some families who have been struggling.”

Virgil and Medelyn Dedas, of Spokane, contributed $100. Wade and Kathleen Griffith, of Spokane, sent $100.

Nancy Hood, of Spokane Valley, gave $50. “Thank you for helping Spokanites help those less fortunate – another year,” she wrote. William Stock, of Greenacres, sent $50.

Ruthie Dearing, of Spokane Valley, donated $25. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $25. Roger and Pat French, of Spokane Valley, gave $25. Cynthia Dusek, of Spokane, sent $25. An anonymous Spokane Valley donor gave $25, writing “Thank you for helping others.”

Curt and Mary Lorenz, of Chattaroy, gave $20. Carolyn and Alan Fisher, of Cheney, donated $10.

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