The Christmas Bureau is back for its 78th year, and teams of volunteers from across the region are getting ready to share holiday cheer to tens of thousands of people across the Inland Northwest.
The generosity of our community is the key to making it possible. The fundraising effort starts Friday.
The collaborative effort between Volunteers of America, Catholic Charities and The Spokesman-Review to provide families in need with food and gifts for the holiday season is expected to serve more people this year than last.
“We had 22,635 last year,” said Heidi Meany, Christmas Bureau Coordinator. This year, the bureau is expecting 25,000 to 30,000 recipients.
“We just see a greater need this year,” Meany explained.
With that greater need and higher food prices in mind, grocery vouchers have been changed to $30 across the board, rather than varying by family size.
“No matter the size of the family, we wanted to give people a little bit more if we could,” she said.
Meany acknowledged that $30 today isn’t what it used to be. Next year, the bureau hopes to increase the voucher amount further.
“The dream would be to increase it to $40, but that’s a huge jump for us,” Meany said.
The Christmas Bureau is feeling the burden of inflation, too. Many bureau expenses – including the cost of toys, books, shipping and storage – have increased.
Still, this year’s fundraising goal is the same as last year’s: $600,000. Donations in 2022 fell short of that goal, raising almost $560,000.
“We desperately need these funds to purchase the new toys and books,” Meany said.
The Christmas Bureau will once again take place at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, 404 N. Havana Street, from Dec. 7-14, excluding Sunday, Dec. 10.
After the popularity of last year’s night shift at the bureau, this year there will be two. On Dec. 11 and Dec. 13, the bureau will be open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Every other day’s hours will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“A lot of people work during the day or they don’t have childcare; they’re not able to get out there sometimes,” Meany said. “(Last year) we had almost as many people come through on that day as we did on the first day, and the first day is always the busiest. So we knew that they were needed.”
Live entertainment is back to normal this year after lingering limitations from the COVID-19 pandemic. And Penelope, the red and white elephant that used to sit outside of the White Elephant toy store, will once again be offering 10-cent rides to children, with dimes provided by the bureau.
Donations to the Christmas Bureau can be made via check mailed to The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund, PO Box 516, Spokane, WA 99210. Donations can be dropped off in person in the lobby of The Spokesman-Review at 999 W. Riverside Avenue, and online donations can be made at christmasbureauspokane.org/donate.