By all accounts, the 77th annual Christmas Bureau ran smoothly during the week it was open at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center earlier this month to provide grocery store vouchers, toys and books to families in need at Christmas.
The only hiccup: two days when the line was so long that the doors had to be closed and volunteers stayed many hours past the scheduled closing time so that everyone in line could be served. It was simply an issue of not being able to move people through fast enough to keep up with the huge response, said Christmas Bureau Coordinator Heidi Meany.
With that in mind, organizers will discuss the issue during a wrap-up meeting in January to review this year’s event and see if any improvements can be made. “We want to try to streamline our intake process so it doesn’t take quite so long,” Meany said. “There’s only so much we can do to move the line quickly.”
One of the two busy days was also the only day the Bureau was open in the evening, an experiment to see if there was demand among people who work traditional 9-5 hours. It was clear that there is , Meany said. “We’re definitely thinking of adding an additional night,” she said.
The change in grocery store vouchers also seemed to be well-received. Instead of receiving $15 to $30 based on family size, everyone received $30. “We were thrilled we were able to increase the amount of the grocery voucher for so many,” she said. “It’s an amount that provided relief.”
Meany said the staff of the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, who immediately responded to requests for everything from a forklift to changing the heat settings, helped things run smoothly.
“They would just come running,” she said. “Every year, they go above and beyond, but they just moved mountains for us this year.”
New donations of $16,520 have bumped the year-to-date total to $475,287.18, which is still well short of the $600,000 goal to fund the Christmas Bureau.
Mike and Linda Jensen, of Spokane, gave $5,000. “May our contribution help a few local families enjoy a Merry Christmas,” they wrote.
Greg and Paula Bulkley, of Spokane, donated $2,000. “Thank you to all the volunteers who help make Christmas better for so many in our community,” they wrote. Thomas Kasson, of Spokane, gave $2,000.
Jim Knight, of Elk, gave $1,000. Sally Bulger Quirk and Tim Quirk, of Spokane, donated $1,000 via Schwab Charitable.
Mark Wagner, of Spokane, sent $750.
The Wolff family, of Spokane, sent $500 “in loving memory of Dean Wolff.” Lawrence Kiewert, of Deer Park, contributed $500. Alan Shustoff, of Spokane, donated $500 in memory of Lois Shustoff, Maxine Jones and Jack Jones. The Ashlock Trust, of Liberty Lake, contributed $500.
George and Mary Doran, of Spokane, sent $300, writing, “Thank you for all your good work!” The Caldwell Living Trust, of Veradale, donated $300. Clayton Dunn, of Spokane, sent $300 “in memory of Linda Dunn. ‘Nothing you ever do for children is wasted.’” Bruce and Rebekka Higgins, of Spokane, gave $300.
Ruby Niemeyer, of Spokane, gave $200. An anonymous Medical Lake donor sent $200. Patti Vincent, of Spokane, donated $200, writing, “Sending love to all!”
Thomas and Elaine Pitzer, of Spokane, donated $100. Julie and Jerry sent $100. Mike and Marion Fietek, of Cheney, gave $100 “in memory of our son, Eric Fietek.” The Rick Splichal Insurance Agency, of Spokane Valley, contributed $100. James and Leta Qualls, of Spokane, sent $100 “to help those in need.”
Jim and Lisa Northcott, of Spokane, sent $100 “in memory of our son Andrew.” An anonymous Airway Heights Donor gave $100, writing, “Thank you to everyone that keeps this wonderful tradition going every year!” Pam Medley and Randy Ulberg, of Spokane, contributed $100, writing, “We are happy to support this worthy cause.”
Susan Moyer, of Spokane, gave $70 “with thanks for all you do to bring joy to Spokane families and people who could use the help and friendly faces. All the best for the season and for 2023 ahead.”
An anonymous Spokane donor gave $50. Another anonymous Spokane donor gave $50, writing, “You were kind enough to help my daughter and her husband to make their two kids have a brighter Christmas 30+ years ago. I hope this helps someone else’s Christmas to be brighter.”