The 77th annual Christmas Bureau, a collaborative effort of The Spokesman-Review, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America to provide Christmas food and gifts to families in need, kicks off its fundraising efforts today.
And this year, with sharp inflation and growing needs, the fundraising goal has been increased to $600,000.
The bureau had been able to absorb rising toy and book shipping costs in the past few years. But inflation has affected the price of everything from food to gas.
“The cost of toys has gone up, the cost of renting the space has gone up, everything has gone up,” said Catholic Charities CEO Rob McCann. “We think this is a reasonable adjustment. We know this is a big number, but we know this is a community with a big heart.”
The rising inflation also means that more people will likely need the assistance that the Christmas Bureau provides, McCann said. “We believe that people are really struggling in our community,” he said. “There are more people who might have been stable last year who are a little unstable this year because of food prices, because of gas prices.”
It might not seem that a grocery store voucher and a toy and a book for each child would make a big difference for a family, but McCann said that it can be a lifeline for those struggling. “They are one broken down car, one unexpected medical bill, one lost shift away from being homeless,” he said. “They’re on the razor’s edge every day. We want to keep anyone else from sliding into homelessness.”
Volunteers organizing the annual tradition had to scramble during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure they could still help as many people as possible. This year is expected to be back to normal with the exception of fewer live music performances and no child-care drop-off area for parents selecting gifts for their children.
Last year’s Christmas Bureau provided assistance for 6,836 households and toys for 13,800 children, all paid for by the $623,745.22 donated by people in North Idaho and Eastern Washington.
This year, the Bureau is open Dec. 8-15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the exception of Dec. 12 when it will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. instead so people can stop by after traditional working hours. The Bureau will be closed on Sunday, Dec. 11. It is held at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center inside the large building directly in front of the main gate.
Each adult in the home must provide identification and proof of address. Parents must provide information verifying the name, age and address of each child in the home. Income is not verified. Those without children in the home are eligible to receive a grocery store voucher.
There are multiple ways to donate for those who want to help families have a Christmas celebration complete with gifts and a little something extra for the dinner table. Checks can be mailed to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund, PO Box 516, Spokane WA 99210. Donations can also be dropped off in person in the lobby of The Spokesman-Review at 999 W. Riverside Avenue. Online donations can be made at christmasbureauspokane.org/donate.
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