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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Translators ensure ‘all are welcome’ at the Christmas Bureau

Wasan Hassan works full-time as an immigration assistant at the International Rescue Committee, but for the past three years she has found time for the Christmas Bureau.

“I was able to sign up to volunteer this year during the evening hours after work and during the weekend, so I’m looking forward to that,” she said.

Hassan is one of several volunteers at the bureau who is also an interpreter. She was born in the United States, but Arabic is her native language.

Many volunteer interpreters work in the bureau’s intake area, where clients receive their grocery vouchers and submit information used to determine the number of toys and books they will receive.

Filling out paperwork can be a headache all on its own, but especially if it’s in an unfamiliar language in an unfamiliar country.

Many clients Hassan works with are immigrants or refugees. They are often relieved to receive her help.

“Most of them are very happy, because it’s hard to figure out all the documents that you need to sign up, so it’s a relief when they find someone that speaks their language because it becomes faster and easier for them and then they understand exactly what the steps are,” Hassan said.

The Christmas Bureau does its best to offer interpreters for a variety of languages. At the 2022 bureau, there were translators for Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Marshallese and Vietnamese, in addition to Arabic.

Christmas Bureau Coordinator Heidi Meany said having a range of translators available means everyone feels welcome.

“We appreciate their help because not only does it help the intake process go smoother, but people feel welcome, and that is what we are trying to achieve,” Meany said.

Hassan agreed.

“It’s so fun to see the smiles on the people’s faces,” she said.


Recent donations of $5,911.04 have put The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund’s year-to-date total at $104,472.80. This year’s goal is $600,000.

Peter and Gay Witherspoon sent $1,000. So did John and Jody Beck, of Spokane Valley.

Rodney Strom sent $500.

Stephen Scott donated $400. “I hope the Christmas Fund exceeds its goal this year,” he wrote.

Scott and Keryn Millsap donated $300, as did Debra Prouty.

Kathy Eaton sent $250. “In memory of Mike Eaton, husband, father, grandfather, physician, golfer, friend and neighbor,” she wrote. “Help the Fund meet its goal if you knew him!”

“In memory of Pam and Betty,” Dan and Scooter Mahoney donated $250.

Kathleen Huggins, Judy Madden, Cynthia Miles, Robert Gregson and Scott McArthur each sent $200. An anonymous donor sent $200.

In memory of her daughter Vicki, son Russell and husband Don, Lorraine Burghard donated $200. “Thank you for all you do year after year,” she wrote. “Wishing you so much joy and magic this Christmas!” her card read, “you deserve it!!”

Sue and Eugene Blankenship, of Newman Lake, sent $150.

An anonymous donor sent $115, writing, “Thank you for being a part of this wonderful program! Merry Christmas to All!”

Jenny Edgren, Barbara Traynor, Nancy Luebbert, Peggy Rau and Kathy and Patrick Harper each donated $100.

An anonymous donor sent $100. Another anonymous donor sent $100, writing, “Merry Christmas!”

Matthew McQuesten, Jerry Anderson and an anonymous donor sent $100 via PayPal.

An anonymous donor sent $91. Sonja Bartsch and Jason Kirkpatrick donated $60.

Through PayPal, Brenda Riseland and John Beck both donated $50.

Madonna Luers sent $30.

Olevia Page sent $30 “In loving memory of my husband.”

Tracy Howe donated $30. “Thank you for everything you do! Happy Holidays,” she wrote.

Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.