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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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With Christmas Bureau closed for the year, attention turns to final fundraising and 2022

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Now that the 2021 Christmas Bureau has closed, organizers are evaluating what went well and what can be tweaked to make the experience even better for recipients next year.

This year the Bureau was in a different, larger building at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center than in previous years, which allowed the toy room and the toy stocking area to be bigger. “I think it went really well,” said Christmas Bureau coordinator Sierra Heinen. “There was so much more space it looked like we had less bodies in there, but there really wasn’t. The flow just went so well.”

Everything went so smoothly that after the initial opening rush each day, the lines to get into the Christmas Bureau were usually either very short or nonexistent. “The lines should never be like they used to be,” she said. “Our goal is not to have people waiting in line for two hours.”

The number of families seeking a grocery store voucher and a toy and a book for each child was down slightly this year, but Heinen said there’s no way to know for sure why that is. “There could have been so many different factors,” she said. “I think event attendance is down everywhere this year.”

A few people applied ahead of time online, but never came to the fairgrounds to pick up their items. Heinen said grocery store vouchers for those families were mailed on Friday.

Like all large events, the Christmas Bureau had to follow Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that all attendees either show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID PCR test in the previous 72 hours. Heinen said that requirement didn’t seem to be an issue for most people. Some showed proof of vaccination, some showed proof of a negative test and others sent vaccinated friends or relatives to pick up their items for them.

There were also a few instances in which someone who didn’t meet the requirements showed up at the front door and a volunteer would take their information and do their Christmas shopping for them, Heinen said.

Heinen said she and other organizers are just grateful they were able to host an in-person event this year, unlike last year. “We’re very happy we got to serve this year,” she said.

Fundraising for this year’s Christmas Bureau will last through Dec. 29, but Heinen is already looking toward next year. She said it’s not too early for people to put in an application to volunteer in 2022. Applications are available at

This year the Bureau was open an extra two days and quite a few new volunteer positions were added because of the larger space. “It’s a lot of days and people get tired,” she said.

Heinen also has her heart set on getting enough community groups and businesses to hold pajama drives so that each child who is helped through the Bureau will get a new pair of pajamas. For the past several years, students at St. John Vianney Catholic School and St. Mary’s Catholic School have held pajama drives to benefit the Christmas Bureau, as have the Providence group of hospitals. Those drives, however, usually collect a couple thousand pairs of pajamas, which isn’t enough for each of the 13,000 or more children helped by the Bureau.

“Our big goal next year is to get a pajama program running,” she said. “We want 20,000 pajamas.”

Any groups interested in participating in a pajama drive next year are asked to contact Heinen at


An additional $5,460 in donations has come in to move the Christmas Fund closer to the $535,000 goal to pay for the toys, books and food vouchers given out at the Christmas Bureau. The year-to-date total is currently $461,119.10.

The Spokane Regional Plan Center donated $2,500. “Since 1994, the Spokane Regional Plan Center and its members have been proud to donate to this most worthy cause; this year with the enclosed check we continue that tradition,” wrote board chair Bruce Buck. “We hope all those in the community that are considering a donation keep in mind the families and the children these donations benefit. They are not faceless causes thousands of miles away, but rather our own neighbors and the need this year is greater than ever before as we face the continued health and financial challenges caused by COVID.

“We hope you meet your goal and appreciate the dedication of all those working at the Christmas Bureau, for they make the program a reality. Giving what you can, no matter how big or small the donation, epitomizes the true spirit of Christmas and provides a blessing for those in need within our community.”

James and Sarah Sledge gave $500, as did Pam Ness.

Anita Lamp, of Issaquah, donated $300. “Merry Christmas to all the Bureau workers – I miss being with you,” she wrote. Bob and Judy Lee, of Sun City West, Arizona, gave $300 “in memory of our parents, Hugh and Catherine Lee and Ken and Alice Smith, and our grandson, Austin McKenzie. Merry Christmas and a happy new year.”

Don and Carolyn Tietz, of Elk, donated $150. “This gift honors three special grandkids – Emeline, Jack and Sawyer,” they wrote.

Wilma Mahoney, of Spokane, contributed $100 “in memory of three good friends; Tom Mahoney, Ken Trent and Jack Bradley.” Stephen Menzel, of Spokane, sent $100. Robert and Pam Kennedy, of Spokane, donated $100, as did Lorraine Duffy, of Spokane. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $100.

An anonymous Mead donor gave $100, writing “Thanks for helping our community.” Joseph and Charri Doeleman, of Spokane, contributed $100, writing “Charri and I are pleased to be able to send this gift to make somebody’s holidays a little happier. Merry Christmas and happy new year to all!!” An anonymous donor contributed $100. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100 “in the name of Sister Rosalie Locati S.P.” Ellen Imsland, of Colbert, gave $100.

Brian Bofenkamp, of Spokane, gave $50 “in memory of my father Lloyd, who loved helping everyone!” Gloria Vogel, of Usk, Washington, sent $50 in memory of Fred Vogel. Doug and Marilyn Lloyd, of Spokane, donated $50. “Thank you, all, for helping those in need of a merry Christmas,” they wrote.

Sherryl Niska, of Spokane, donated $35. Lawrence and Marie Smith, of Spokane, sent $25.

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