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

‘Hard not to get emotional’: The Christmas Bureau serves thousands on its first day

Three-year-old Ben Nuttall’s eyes lock onto a Hot Wheels track set in the toy room Thursday at the Spokane Fair & Expo Center during the annual Christmas Bureau’s opening day.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

On its first day of the season, the Christmas Bureau served 1,517 adults and 2,235 children. People started lining up in the rain hours before the bureau’s 10 a.m. opening Thursday.

“People get here at 6 a.m.” Christmas Bureau Coordinator Heidi Meany said. “We let them in early because of the weather.”

At one point, the line continued outside the bureau doors and stretched all the way to Broadway Avenue.

The Christmas Bureau was supposed to close at 2 p.m., but an hour after closing, there were still “lots in line,” Meany said. Volunteers continued to let the people inside to choose books and toys for children.

Rebecca Lamoureux, holding her daughter Elizabeth, was in the toy room looking for gifts for her children.

“She has seven kids, so it helps a lot,” said Cindy Milne, Lamoureux’s mother.

Milne pushed a shopping cart to hold their many books, toys and pajamas as they browsed.

The pair learned about the Christmas Bureau from flyers Lamoureux’s children took home from school and have been coming to the bureau for about five years.

“It’s just been a really big blessing to us,” Lamoureux said. “I live down in Rosalia, so having something that we can come to, because down there the resources are kind of low, it’s really nice to be able to come and pick something for each kid.

“It’s really positive,” she added of her experiences at the Christmas Bureau.

Meany said that’s the way it should be. Every client is treated with kindness and compassion.

“Some of them are really nervous. They’re scared and nervous; it’s really hard to ask for help,” Meany said.

Many clients had to wait for a while in line because of the sheer number of recipients, but they were entertained.

Barbara Brock, a professor emeritus at Eastern Washington University, played Christmas songs, “ones everyone would recognize,” on a keyboard.

Brock has been playing the piano all her life, but this was her first time playing at the Christmas Bureau. She plans to return next year.

Brock decided to perform after she met Christmas Bureau co-chair Christy Folkins while playing at Sacred Heart Hospital. She knew of the Christmas Bureau before, but didn’t know it brought in musicians.

“At the hospital, there’s a lot of really meaningful things that go on in that waiting room and you just want to provide as much comfort as you can,” she said of why she volunteers to play.

“I loved it,” Brock said after her performance at the bureau. “I was concentrating on not making too many mistakes, but when I would glance up, I’d always see somebody looking at me, smiling, so that was fun.

“People are just together and celebrating the spirit.”

With volunteers wearing Santa hats and elf antlers, and the waiting crowd clapping after performances and, at times, singing along, the Christmas Bureau was full of Christmas spirit . After Meany welcomed recipients to the bureau over a microphone in the morning, a happy cheer went through the room.

“I literally always tear up every time I do that,” Meany said.

“It’s kind of hard not to get emotional when you see all of the families,” Meany’s assistant, Hannah Byrd, said.


It is the generous support of the community that enables the Christmas Bureau to continue year after year. Donations of $2,250 have lifted The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund’s year-to-date total to $143,064.33, a step closer to this year’s goal of $600,000.

The fund received a $500 grant from an anonymous donor at Schwab Charitable “for wherever it is needed most.”

An anonymous donor sent $500. “Thank you to all the people that make the Christmas Fund so successful. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” they wrote.

Anita Lamp, of Issaquah, Wash., donated $400. “I may have moved from Spokane, but during the holidays, my heart will always be at the Christmas Bureau,” she wrote.

Cindy and William Jonz sent $250. Denise Mutschler, of Cheney, donated $200.

Catherine Smith, of Atlanta, sent $200 writing, “Keep up your great work. The kids are going to have a Merry Christmas this year.”

Don and Vicki Gorder, of Buckeye, Arizona, sent $100. Randy and Victoria Bunke, of Deer Park, donated $100.

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