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

‘Like Santa Claus coming’: Volunteers prepare for the Christmas Bureau to open Thursday

On opening day, the Christmas Bureau will look bright and inviting. Now it looks like Santa’s workshop, with hundreds of elves preparing every piece of the bureau so that it all clicks together when it opens Thursday.

“It’s like a well-oiled machine,” said Shayna Combs, one of two volunteer coordinators at the bureau.

Brigid Krause, the other coordinator, has been working with Combs for the past several weeks to communicate with and schedule the nearly 400 volunteers. The volunteers, they say, are ready for Thursday.

“I think we’re doing excellent,” Krause said.

In the toy room, Reesie Smith was one of many volunteers organizing hundreds of toys, trying to get some of every kind on display in the toy room. There were Barbies, bikes and ball games. There were Lego sets, sleeping bags and hammocks.

“It’s crazy,” Smith said. “It takes so many people to get this going.”

Even with the craziness, head toy-buyer Cheryl Taam said the toy team is on track.

“We’re actually more organized than we have been in the past years,” she said. “Things are looking good and as expected.”

It’s more than just organizing. Many toys had to be put together at the bureau, while others needed batteries installed.

“We have people putting in the batteries so that the kids open them up on Christmas Day and they have the batteries; they don’t have to worry about it,” Taam said.

Of course, there’s more than toys distributed at the bureau. A handful of volunteers worked to sort, fold and package hundreds of pairs of pajamas. Volunteer Pinki Culbertson unloaded and arranged wooden trucks on tables.

Tana Curosella, Ginny Pounds and Darwin Page worked to prepare the book section.

“We are ready to go,” Curosella said. “What we’re doing now is we’re organizing.”

A long row of tables was completely covered in novels, storybooks, fantasies and nonfiction. The books ranged from age zero to 15 and included a variety of genres.

“All year long, we’re ordering books,” Pounds said. “We love picking out the books … you want to offer good literature.”

Many volunteers in the books section have experience as librarians or teachers, making them well-suited for the job.

Christy Folkins, a co-chair of the Christmas Bureau, was in charge of scheduling entertainment.

“We have a full lineup,” she said.

Among many performances this year, dueling pianist Jimi Finn is returning to the bureau and there will be entertainment from the Pacific Islanders Association.

“A number of members are volunteers” Folkins said of the association.

Within the next few days, Folkins said, an entertainment stage will be delivered and set up, and Hoffman music will donate a PA system and a keyboard.

Curosella was enthusiastic about the start of the bureau.

“We just feel very blessed and thankful to be a part of the Christmas Bureau,” she said


“We’re always excited; it’s like Santa Claus coming,” Pounds said.


Thanks to the generosity of the community, The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund sits at $138,964.33. Recent donations total $7,370. This year’s goal is $600,000.

Georgene Patten, of Spokane; Herb and Kathleen Patten, of San Mateo, California; Rich Patten, of Vancouver, British Columbia; Barbara and Kelly Cunningham, of Naperville, Illinois; Tracy Cunningham, of Chicago; and Melissa and Brian Michalik, of Naperville, together sent a $1,500 check. “Christmas at ‘our’ house begins when we honor Les Patten, husband, father, grandfather with a donation to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund,” Georgene Patten wrote.

Diane Kelly donated $1,000 “in memory of Don Kelly who spent many hours working at the Christmas Bureau and loved it! Special blessings to the volunteers.”

Mary Christensen, Janice D’Arc and Donna and William Harsell donated $500 each.

“In loving memory of Albert O. Verna and Holly D. Fry,” Cheryl and Patrick Pritchard sent $500.

Nancy Henry donated $400. “In memory of my husband, William Henry and our parents: Bo and Mary Henry and Robert and Marian Heglar,” she wrote.

Gunhild Clegg sent $300, writing, “Warmest wishes to all who help make this a special time for so many families!”

Dennis and Patricia Doyle sent $250. John and Sherry Gaiser gave $210.

Susanne Tuson and Marty Beresford donated $200. “Grateful for family and friends,” they wrote.

Assistants, “a group of 45 women who volunteer in the Spokane community to assist in the development and progress of music, art, literature and education,” sent $200.

An anonymous donor gave $200.

Kris Spelman sent $100. “In loving memory of my grandmother Violet Burgunder and great aunt Elsie Altin,” she wrote.

Gayle Fox donated $100 writing, “Thank you for all you do for this community!”

Christel Aigner, Rhon and Dee Holm, Leslie Albert, Charlotte Ardiss, Lynn and Michael Young, and Ann Kawar donated $100 each.

Matt DePauli sent $100. “To honor my beloved Barbara who cherished the love of family and being a great-grandmother … Wish to remember and honor the first responders that answer to our emergency calls. Also, to honor the men and women who have given the supreme sacrifice, the veterans who have and are presently serving so that we can enjoy our family holidays in safety,” he wrote.

Laverne Truman donated $80. Nancy Moore sent $50.

Gloria Vogel donated $50. “In loving memory of son Vincent who died at age 6 in December 1977 and husband Fred who died at age 87 of Alzheimer’s in Jan. 2020,” she wrote.

Katherine Harper sent $25. “In memory of my high school friend, Jo Nell Seger Edlin, who was a supporter/volunteer of the Christmas Bureau.”

Judith Horton donated $5.

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