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

Christmas in October? It’s not too early at the Christmas Bureau

Crystal Bruce is framed by stacks of toys at the Christmas Bureau as she helps unload and inventory another truckload of toys on Dec. 5.  (Christopher Anderson/For The Spokesmn-Review)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The calendar may be all about pumpkins and ghosts , but it’s never too early to think about Christmas.

The community comes together to fund the Christmas Bureau each year with donations made primarily between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every year, the bureau gives out books and toys for children and food vouchers to families in need at Christmas, while adults in households with no children are eligible to receive a grocery store voucher.

The Christmas Bureau, a collaborative effort between Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America and The Spokesman-Review, is taking online applications for households with no children.

The online grocery store voucher application is available at Click on “Receive Assistance” to apply. The application will remain open until Nov. 6.

Doing an online application for single adults and adults with no children in the home allows people to avoid long lines at the Christmas Bureau when it opens at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center in December, Christmas Bureau coordinator Heidi Meany said.

The bureau did the early online applications for the first time last year and it worked out well, Meany said.

“It went great,” she said. “It’s great for those who are housebound.”

The name of each recipient is preprinted on the voucher, but Meany said arrangements can be made for those who are housebound to have the name of their caregiver put on the voucher instead so that person can go to the grocery store for them.

As happened last year, each household will receive a $30 grocery store voucher.

The effort to serve people without them having to come to the fairgrounds also shortens the line and wait times for others, volunteer coordinator Shayna Combs said.

“It limits the number of people in line,” she said.

Those who prefer to come to the fairgrounds to pick up their voucher can do so, Meany said. There are sometimes donations of knitted hats or scarves for those who live in households without children.

The early online applications are only for adults with no children in the home, Meany said. Adults with children in the home will have to come to the fairgrounds in December with the required paperwork to pick out books and toys and receive a grocery store voucher.

This year, the bureau will be open Dec. 7-14, excluding Dec. 10. The hours will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 7-9, 12 and 14, as well as two evening sessions from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 11 and 13.

This is also the time of year that Christmas Bureau organizers begin sending out email and postcard notifications to previous recipients about this year’s schedule. To let people unfamiliar with the Christmas Bureau know about the assistance available, informational flyers are distributed to government offices, community centers and food banks, and sent home with school children.

New this year are several billboards placed around town, including in the Hillyard and Logan neighborhoods, letting people know about the assistance available through the Christmas Bureau.

“We need for them to get the information,” Meany said. “The best thing we can do is hit them where they are.”