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

The Christmas Bureau opens today: ‘There’s plenty for everyone’

Dozens of volunteers gathered at the Christmas Bureau on Wednesday for orientation, readying themselves for the thousand or so people expected to come out for the bureau’s opening day.

“The Christmas Bureau is about to become infused into your blood,” Christmas Bureau Coordinator Heidi Meany told them.

With the Christmas Bureau opening Thursday, new volunteers were there to learn the ropes. But many seasoned volunteers were also there and nodded along to Meany’s words.

“Seventy-seven years doesn’t happen without volunteer support,” Meany said.

Kathy Olsufka, a retired nurse and soon-to-be toy expert, was excited for her first year at the Christmas Bureau.

Olsufka decided to volunteer “just to give something back to the community.”

First-year volunteer Georgette Johnson’s reason for joining was similar.

“I just wanted to help out,” she said.

Johnson moved to Spokane from Hawaii about three years ago. She has volunteering experience at other organizations.

“In Hawaii, this is what we do,” she said.

Johnson worked with another volunteer, Stephanie Bell, to bundle together toys in restock.

This is Bell’s seventh year at the Christmas Bureau.

“Time flies when you’re having fun,” she said.

The pair was impressed at what Christmas Bureau volunteers had accomplished in just a matter of days. An empty building at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center had been transformed into a Christmas workshop. Red and white curtains separated the colorful aisles of the toy room from the teddy bears and wooden trucks in the bagging area, and the rows of carefully placed cardboard boxes in restock.

“When you see how many people it takes, it touches your heart when you see everything coming together,” Bell said. “It’s just, wow … it’s amazing what we did.”

Thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers, the bureau is all set to greet its first guests. The first day usually draws a crowd.

“We could see well over 1,000 people,” Meany said in an interview.

Clients can expect to wait in line, Meany said, “but they’ll be entertained … they’ll be welcomed with open arms when they get here.”

In light of opening day, Meany had a few reminders for those visiting the Christmas Bureau.

“Clients should definitely visit the website before coming down to make sure they understand what documentation is necessary,” she said.

“There’s plenty for everyone,” Meany said of the goods the bureau offers. “No need to worry that we’re gonna run out.”

The Christmas Bureau’s website is

Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington CEO Rob McCann also spoke at the orientation.

McCann reminded the crowd of what’s most important at the Christmas Bureau.

“The people that come and line up here in the next couple of days are people that are struggling. They’re living through chaos, they’re living through uncertainty, and this is a place of joy and hope for them,” he said.

“It’s about human dignity and compassion.”


Recent donations totaling $1,850 have bumped the Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund’s total to $140,814.33. This year’s goal is $600,000.

“Merry Christmas,” Keith and Deb Comes wrote with a donation of $500.

Dee Cerutti donated $500.

Mary Douthitt and Charles Slater together sent $200.

Alison Boggs donated $100. “In memory of my mom, Zita Eastman, who would love that every child receives a book,” she wrote.

Annalie Evans sent $100, writing, “Thank you for bringing smiles to the less fortunate in our community.”

Marcia Dorwin donated $100, as did Anne Montgomery.

“In honor of Kathy Lackie’s birthday,” Kathleen Ossello sent $100.

Patty Potts donated $100. “Merry Christmas. This gift is in memory of Rich Edwards,” she wrote.

Wendy Davis sent $50. “In honor of my parents, Wayne and Nancy Wright. Love You!” she wrote.

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