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

‘The guys behind the curtain’: Restock volunteers keep the Christmas Bureau’s toy room in tip-top shape

The Christmas Bureau, with its thousands of books and toys and clients, has been described as “an enormous logistical puzzle.” Its volunteers are the hundreds of pieces that click together to solve it.

Some volunteers sign clients in at the front; others, the “toy experts,” guide parents through a maze of toys in search of the perfect fit.

Tom Nelson, described by Christmas Bureau Coordinator Heidi Meany as “amazing” and “brilliant,” prefers to do his part behind the scenes.

“I get the enjoyment of working in the background and yet having the opportunity to watch what’s happening,” he said.

Nelson, a six-year volunteer, is a logistics guy. He, along with volunteers Ralph Prouty and Dan Heinen, heads the volunteer team that keeps the toy room stocked. Nelson is one of many volunteers who help to keep shelves in the main room stocked, determine the layout of the toy room and help assemble it before the bureau opens its doors and tear down the setup afterward.

“We’re kind of the arms and legs that move the toys for the Christmas Bureau,” Prouty explained.

Nelson became a leader in the restock area when Heinen and Prouty were looking for a third to join their management team.

“Tom was just a natural,” Prouty said. “He is very understated and very intelligent, and he is so much fun to work with.”

Though the restock team is integral to keeping the bureau functioning, the trio likes to keep to the background.

“We’re kind of the guys behind the curtain,” Prouty said. “We don’t want to be a part of the experience, we want to provide the experience.”

Nelson agreed.

“I just like to work,” he said.

“You see a father come through, and he’s looking for a toy for a daughter and he finds the perfect one and he just lights up. … It’s such a delight to watch this happen,” Nelson said.


There is still much to do, but the Christmas Fund is growing. Further donations totaling $40,018.27 have brought The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund to $71,555.46, a step closer to this year’s goal of $600,000.

The Madeleine Muths Memorial Fund at Innovia Foundation gifted $23,752.60.

The Guy and Ruth Reed Memorial Fund at Innovia sent a gift of $2,299. The William A. Crosetto Charitable Foundation at Innovia Foundation gifted $2,299.67. The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund also received a $3,000 grant from the Innovia Foundation.

Wandermere Community Services sent $2,000. “We appreciate all the work that you do for the Spokane Community,” they wrote.

Cetera Investment Services gave $1,150. Joe and Jane Clements gifted $1,000. Elizabeth Mattana and Earl Edlin each sent $1,000 through PayPal.

The Alpha Nu Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa donated $500 for books. “As educators we know the difference this can and will make,” they wrote.

The Sisters of Providence sent $500. Wells Media Group, based in San Diego, sent $250. Wiley Family Enterprises LLC donated $242.

William Podobnik donated $200, and Bill Molsberry also sent $200 via PayPal. Mary Laflamme donated $100.

Derek and Linda Werch and family sent $100, writing, “In memory of our dear friend and earth angel JoNell Edlin. Her love of helping others was so inspirational. God bless you all for all you do.”

Alison Bell donated $75, “In memory of JoNell Seger Edlin.” Richard Mudd sent $50, writing, “This is for Jonell Edlin.”

Tristan Victoroff, Tara Smith, Christine Halland and Amanda Nelson all sent $50 through PayPal.

Sandra Burris, Lisa Gardner and Constance Brooker each sent $20 through PayPal.

Judith Horton of Coeur d’Alene made eight separate donations of $5.

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