After years of pandemic uncertainty that resulted in a switch to online registering, the annual Christmas Bureau will be back to normal this year … mostly.
The Bureau is a collaboration between Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review to raise money to pay for food vouchers, toys and books for those who need a little extra help at Christmas. The annual tradition has been ongoing for 77 years and last year helped 6,836 households that included 25,488 people, including 13,800 children.
While thousands of families with children typically use the Bureau each year, there are always some adults with no children who come in search of a food voucher.
This year Catholic Charities is allowing adults without children to register online in advance so that they can have their food voucher mailed to them, which eliminates the need to come to the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center to pick up the voucher in person when the Bureau opens in December.
During the pandemic years, organizers noted that there were a lot of issues with the online registration system, said Christmas Bureau Organizer Heidi Meany. “It was just a confusing process the last couple of years.”
But organizers also heard from adults with no children in the home that they appreciated getting a voucher in the mail so they didn’t have to wait in line at the Bureau, Meany said. Many of those recipients were either senior citizens or disabled, often with mobility and/or transportation issues that made the trip to the fairgrounds difficult.
“They were so grateful they didn’t have to come to the fairgrounds,” she said.
With that in mind, Meany said the decision was made to offer online registration this year only to adults with no children in the home. “I wanted to try and make it as simple as possible,” she said.
Those adults can visit christmasbureauspokane.org to sign up to receive a grocery store voucher. The deadline is Thursday. The online registration is open to residents of Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
However, people can choose not to register in advance and instead show up at the fairgrounds during the days the Bureau is open, Meany said. There are plans to hand out donated hats and gloves to adults who have no children in the home if people come to the fairgrounds. “If they want to come, they are welcome to come,” she said.
Families with children in the home do not register online in advance and can come to the Bureau to receive a food voucher and pick out a book and toy for each child.
This year’s Christmas Bureau is scheduled for Dec. 8-13 excluding Sunday, Dec. 11. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day except for Dec. 12, when the Bureau will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. to accommodate people who work during the day.
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