On Christmas Day, 13,800 children woke up with a book and a toy waiting for them. Those gifts were carefully selected for them by a parent, grandparent or guardian at the Christmas Bureau, which is generously funded by residents of the Spokane area.
Every year for the past 76 years, the Bureau has provided assistance for families in need at Christmas. And for all those 76 years, the effort has been funded by everyone from business owners to retirees on a fixed income.
The Christmas Bureau has quite a few donors who give generously and faithfully, sending in thousands of dollars year after year. But equally important are the more modest gifts that come from the neighbor down the street, the child sending in their piggy bank money and those who give from what little they have.
The effort is also supported by woodworkers who carve and decorate wooden cars and trucks for the Christmas Bureau, hockey fans who throw thousands of stuffed animals on the ice at the annual Spokane Chiefs Teddy Bear Toss, Central Valley High School students who organize a teddy bear toss of their own, students at St. Mary’s Catholic School and St. John Vianney Catholic School who collect pajamas, and employees at the Providence group of hospitals who collect pajamas as well. All these extras, which usually run out quickly, also go home to children in need.
The goal of the Christmas Bureau is to provide a little something extra for the kitchen table in the form of a grocery store voucher, plus gifts for each child. Every year, families talk about lost jobs, health problems and other circumstances that meant their children would not be able to celebrate Christmas if it were not for the Christmas Bureau. This year, skyrocketing rents and rising day care costs also added to the strain.
The Christmas Bureau is a collaboration between Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review. After being forced to go virtual last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau was able to be an in-person event this year. It expanded into a larger building at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, allowing more space for volunteers and recipients.
The goal this year was to raise $535,000 to pay for the grocery store vouchers, toys and books. The goal has already been met thanks to the many donors who have contributed; donations will continue to be accepted in person and via mail through Wednesday. Donations made via PayPal should be completed Sunday in order to allow time for processing.
The Bureau’s toy and book buyers typically begin shopping in January, and they are already anticipating problems because of ongoing supply chain issues and shipping costs that are rising sharply, so extra money collected over the goal amount will be put to good use.
New donations of $10,210.03 have brought the year-to-date total to $570,284.22.
An anonymous donor sent $2,250, writing “I’m always grateful for the work you do to make Christmas merry for many Spokane children!”
Dave and JoAnn Barber, of Spokane, donated $1,500.
Garco Construction, which has already donated $45,000 this year, sent an additional $1,250 in donations contributed by six of their employees: Ronald and Nicole Skinner, of Veradale ($100); Deborah Seagle, of Spokane ($100); Thomas Morrow, of Veradale ($200); Jason Lueck, of Silverdale, Washington, ($100); Michael Hansen, of Spokane ($350); and R. and T. Mazzie, of Spokane Valley ($400).
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $1,000. BMT Metal Fabrication, of Airway Heights, donated $1,000.
Diane and Einar Larson, of Almira, Washington, sent $435.
Bob and Sharon Mellis, of Spokane, donated $300. Lois Richards, of Spokane, gave $300 in addition to the $200 she donated earlier this month. “I see the Christmas Bureau is running short of funds raised this year to purchase next year’s toys,” she wrote. “In the circumstances, I am sending you a second donation. Sorry I can’t do more. I hope you get a flood of new donations and exceed prior years’ totals! In any case, Merry Christmas and thank you for all you do to make the Bureau such an amazing, successful effort benefiting so many children and families here every year.”
Tom and Sue Eastman, of Spokane Valley, sent $250. Richard Chan, of Spokane Valley, contributed $250.
Jerry and Julie Hoseid, of Spokane, sent $200. Roland and Cindi John, of Spokane, gave $200. “In the spirit of Christmas, we would like to contribute so that others may experience a more joyful holiday,” they wrote. “Thank you for all you do.” Dixie Riddle, of Spokane, sent $200. Connie Brunell, of Nine Mile Falls, sent $200 in memory of Scott Brunell.
Mr. and Mrs. William Hennessey, of Spokane, donated $150. David and Cindy Heitstuman, of Spokane Valley, gave $150 “in memory of those we lost this year.”
Garnet Dana, of Spokane Valley, sent $102, writing “Merry Christmas to all you dear folks – the help – you are a bright spot in my life each year. Through the years I’ve added a dollar as I age – this year it is $102 – and looking forward to next year! Best wishes to all.”
Wayne and Jan Swanson, of Spokane, donated $100. Dale West, of Deer Park, contributed $100. T. Jordan, of Spokane, sent $100. An anonymous Spokane donor gave $100.
Dianne Bongarts, of Spokane, sent $50. Barbara Anderson, of Spokane, donated $20.
Coins totaling $3.03 were collected from the fountain in the courtyard outside The Spokesman-Review.
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