Christmas Bureau gifts offer solace to families struggling to pay rent, groceries, bills

<p><p>Leslie Ward took advantage of a rare day, when all of her children were in school, to visit the Christmas Bureau.</p></p><p><p>“Today is the only day I have,” she said. “We can’t afford Christmas when we have bills and rent to pay.”</p></p><p><p>She was looking for gifts for her four children still at home, ranging in age from 5 to 16. Two of her children have autism, and Ward stays home to take care of them.</p></p><p><p>Ward said her family was just notified their rent is going up $200 a month, and they spend around $1,000 a month on groceries, which means they have to cut wherever they can.</p></p><p><p>“Me and my fiancé, we eat one meal a day,” she said.</p></p><p><p>She picked a small tent that can be used indoors or outdoors in the hopes it might help her autistic son with his sensory issues. She got a steam-breathing dragon for another child and then roller skates for the third. She got a beauty kit, including a hair dryer, for her oldest daughter. “This is stuff I can’t afford,” she said.</p></p><p><p>As her gifts were being bagged, volunteers told her to select a stuffed animal for each of her children. The stuffed animals came from the Spokane Chiefs’ Teddy Bear Toss night on Saturday. She thanked the volunteers and gave a bright “Merry Christmas!” on her way out the door.</p></p><p><p>The Christmas Bureau provides a food voucher to families in need at Christmas, as well as a book and toy for each child. <span class=”print_trim”>It’s not extravagant, but it’s enough to make sure every child has something waiting for them on Christmas morning.</span></p></p><p><p>Nicole Bennett was shopping for her three daughters, ages 2, 8 and 12. A recent car accident injury means money for Christmas is tight. “I ended up totaling my car on Nov. 26,” she said. “I’ve been out of work for two weeks and I can’t afford anything for Christmas.”</p></p><p><p>Bennett is hopeful she’ll be cleared to go back to work soon, but is thankful the Bureau is there to help. “I am very appreciative,” she said. “It definitely helps.”</p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>The Christmas Bureau is open from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 16, excluding Sunday, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center at 404 N. Havana St. in Spokane Valley.</span></p></p><p><h3>Donations</h3></p><p><p>New donations of $25,120 have brought the year-to-date total to $160,337.10, closer to the goal of $535,000.</p></p><p><p>John and Kristianne Blake, of Spokane, donated $5,000. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $5,000.</p></p><p><p>Laura and Sheldon Luck donated $1,100 via PayPal.</p></p><p><p>David and Karen Crouse, of Hauser, Idaho, donated $1,000. The Mary R. Moore Living Trust, of Spokane, gave $1,000. Christopher Lang sent $1,000 via PayPal, as did Peter and Gay Witherspoon.</p></p><p><p>Peter and Mary Lou Bach, of Spokane, gave $500, writing, “Thank you for all the good work that you do. Merry Christmas to all!” Anonymous Colbert donors gave $500 “in honor of son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Kelli, also in honor of all the nurses and doctors working long hours during COVID. Thank you!” Douglas Dominey sent $500 via PayPal.</p></p><p><p>Bill and Dorene Reynolds, of Spokane, donated $500 “in loving memory of Ed and Dorothy Humes and Iris Westwood.” Scott Sevigny sent $500 via PayPal. Dick and Trudy Raymond, of Spokane, gave $500, writing “Thanks to all the volunteers helping with the Christmas Fund. We pray for God’s blessings and peace for our community, our country and the world.”</p></p><p><p>Diane Perry donated $500 via PayPal. “This donation is given in loving memory of my dad, Robert Butler, who supported The Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund,” she wrote. “Merry Christmas and thank you to all of the volunteers who continue to make this possible.”</p></p><p><p>Stephen Scott gave $400 via PayPal. “Merry Christmas to the kind volunteers at the Bureau!” he wrote.</p></p><p><p>Ralph and Debra Prouty, of Spokane, contributed $300. Lori Largent donated $300 via PayPal. Carl and Dennie Crowe, of Spokane, gave $300. “Thank you for all the joy you bring to our community,” they wrote. “We are so grateful for you!”</p></p><p><p>Lloyd and Joyce Gill, of Spokane, sent $260 “to help provide a Christmas to those less fortunate!” Carol Phillips Rankin donated $250. Corrine and Dallas Dixon, of Spokane, gave $250. Megan Steinhilber sent $250 via PayPal as did Karen Schlosser.</p></p><p><p>Kathleen Huggins, of Spokane, donated $200. Theophil Otto sent $200 via PayPal. David and JoAnn Schwartz, of Spokane, sent $200. “We give this year in remembrance of Dennis and Clifton Schwartz,” they wrote. “Thank you and Merry Christmas!” Matt and Ann McQuesten gave $200 via PayPal. “Thanks for helping spread some Christmas cheer this season,” they wrote.</p></p><p><p>An anonymous Spokane donor sent $150, “$100 in memory of Joe and Irene Lynch of Coulee Dam, Washington; $50 in memory of Don Morley of Grand Coulee, Washington.” Deanna Eppinger, of Spokane, donated $125.</p></p><p><p>An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $100. Norma Echelbarger, of Spokane Valley, donated $100. “Merry Christmas to all, and a very blessed new year,” she wrote. “May it soon be free of the COVID. Love what you do.” Sue and Allen Hoover, of Spokane, gave $100. Loyce Lewis, of Spokane, sent $100.</p></p><p><p>The following donors each gave $100 via PayPal: Daniel Simonson, Keith Marsh, Anne Montgomery, Katherine Strickler, Harriet Plucker, Therese Hart, Beth Kerr, Jennine Murphy and Peggy Estey.</p></p><p><p>Christel Aigner, of Spokane, gave $100, as did Susan and Spencer Shaw, of Spokane. Leslie and Lois Albert, of Spokane Valley, donated $100. Beverly Hayes, of Nine Mile Falls, contributed $100. “Thanks for helping so many families,” she wrote. Tom and Mary Christensen, of Spokane, sent $100.</p></p><p><p>Christine Hinnen gave $100 via PayPal “in honor of Linda Solan and the many hours she contributes to this cause.” Robert LaFountain, of Spokane Valley, donated $100, as did Kathleen Olsufka of Spokane Valley. Janet Miller, of Spokane, sent $100. Constance McBride, of Spokane, gave $100. Sherry Ennis donated $100 via PayPal in memory of Donna Roloff.</p></p><p><p>Jeffrey and Judy Koons, of Spokane Valley, gave $50. Marcia Patten sent $50 via PayPal. Charles and Mary Ellen Steen, of Liberty Lake, sent $50. An anonymous Spokane donor contributed $50. Arlyss Nelson, of Liberty Lake, donated $50. Susan Frankovich, of Spokane, sent $50. Patricia Leader donated $50 via PayPal as did Susan Wotring.</p></p><p><p>Gordon Radford sent $25 via PayPal, as did Randy Williams.</p></p><p><p>Charli Chapman donated $20 via PayPal, writing “Merry Christmas.” Lennelle Spillman donated $15 via PayPal.</p></p>