Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Christmas Bureau’s partnership eases holidays for those in need

Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 20, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Janelle Kortlever and Judy Thief are Christmas Bureau volunteers from St. Mary Parish, Spokane Valley. (IR photo)

Spokane’s 61st annual Christmas Bureau was building up a full head of steam in the first week of December.

Trailer trucks backed into a huge warehouse-sized building at the Interstate Fairgrounds, and dozens of volunteers unloaded hundreds of boxes of toys, games, books, and vouchers for food for Christmas.

Sponsored by a Christmas collection organized annually by a partnership of Catholic Charities, the Volunteers of America, and Spokane’s daily newspaper, more than 200 volunteers, at least half of them from area Catholic parishes, make Christmas happier for needy families.

Last year, the Christmas Bureau served more than 31,000 people.

In her first year as the Christmas Bureau coordinator is Catholic Charities employee Theresa Dryden, who is finishing a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at Gonzaga University.

Originally from North Dakota, Dryden identifies her home parish as St. Wensceslaus, in Dickenson.

“The volunteers are really impressive,” Dryden said as the trucks rolled in loaded with Christmas Bureau stock. “Today it’s amazing to see them all here working diligently. I wasn’t giving much direction this morning because they were sort of giving me direction – which is good, because they already know what needs to be done and how to do it.”

Many Christmas Bureau volunteers are retired, and have been involved in the project for several years. The Bureau receives many calls, however, from students who want to help out after their school’s Christmas vacations begin.

Some area businesses donate supplies such as shopping bags, while others donate items to be used for gifts.

“I’m absolutely excited and looking forward this (Christmas Bureau) event,” Dryden said. “It’s a program that gives in amazing ways.”

Two Catholic Christmas Bureau volunteers are Janelle Kortlever and Judy Thief, both from St. Mary Parish in Spokane Valley. Kortlever is in her fourth year as a Christmas Bureau volunteer, while Thief is in her fifth year.

“We had the fun job of ordering all these 16,000 toys,” Kortlever said. “We got the statistics from last year about how many kids were in each age group, and we used that to decide how many toys to order in each age group – how many baby toys, how many teen toys, and so forth.”

“We order the toys in July,” said Thief explained, “then we inventoried what we received, because that’s what we have to pay for. Once the give-away happens, we keep the toys stocked and we help the parents make their selections. We think we have the most fun here, and we meet lots of nice people.”

The Christmas Bureau was open this year from Dec- 8-21, except Sundays.

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