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 organizers anticipate sharply higher demand

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 4, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Carol Speltz (left) was one of the volunteers helping with last year’s Christmas Bureau. At center is Dr. Rob McCann, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Spokane; at right is Teresa Dryden, Catholic Charities’ Special Event and Christmas Bureau Coordinator. (IR photo courtesy of Catholic Charities)

The Christmas Bureau, administered by Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America, and the Spokesman-Review, Spokane’s daily newspaper, is moving along full-speed-ahead with its plans for Christmas 2008. Theresa Dryden, in her second year as Catholic Charities’ Special Event and Christmas Bureau Coordinator, said that business is sure to be booming this year, given the present state of the economy.

Each year the Christmas Bureau gives away many thousands of dollars worth of toys, children’s books, and grocery vouchers usable at Spokane area supermarkets. Food vouchers alone this year will total about $280,000. For a single person, a voucher will be worth $18. If there are two adults living in a household, they can get a $25 voucher, and a voucher increases $5 for each additional adult or child living in the household. The maximum food voucher for one household is worth $40 in groceries.

A big part of what the Christmas Bureau is about, of course, is toys and books for children. Last May, directed by Dryden, the Christmas Bureau’s toys committee began ordering toys and books from companies that give the Bureau hefty discounts. A committee picks out the items, Dryden said.

“Janelle Kortlever and Judy Theis are back again this year to head up the committee and the ordering and deliveries. We choose committee members from volunteers who have experience and know what toys we normally order. The toy manufacturers really want to help us out.

“There haven’t been any major setbacks this year,” she said. “Last year they had recalls on toys with lead content, but fortunately we hadn’t ordered any of those. This year the only issue the manufacturers are having is that because the Olympics took place in China, a lot of the Chinese manufacturers closed during that time to decrease the air pollution, and because their workers were participating in the Olympics. So there has been a delay in delivering toys to the U.S. because they had to catch up on orders. That only affects a few items, however.”

“We try to order from companies that manufacture in the U.S.,” Theresa Dryden said, “but there are price issues, too.”

As in recent years, the 2008 Christmas Bureau will be held at Spokane’s Interstate Fairgrounds, 404 N. Havana, from Dec. 10-20, excluding Sunday, Dec. 14. The Bureau will be open each day from10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“Last year we served over 32,000 people,” said Dryden. “That was a record year, and we’ve estimated an increase over that for this year. I’m guessing about 34,000 this year. Gasoline prices are down, so that may increase the number of people who feel like they can use the gas to get to and from the Christmas Bureau. Also, obviously, the economy isn’t so great, so more people are going to utilize every resource that they can during the holidays.”

Some 300 volunteers will help out at the Christmas Bureau this year, including student groups from Gonzaga Prep, Rogers High School, and Lewis and Clark High School. “Rogers High School will be represented the most, because they have five different groups that volunteer on nine different days,” Dryden said.

Another part of what makes the Christmas Bureau tick comes in the form of in-kind donations: plastic bags from Fred Meyer, and cardboard boxes removed by Earth Works Recycling – “about three truckloads each time on three different occasions,” Dryden said.

The Christmas Bureau has a list of volunteers from previous years, but people who would like to volunteer are welcome to get in touch and ask to fill out an application form. Dryden coordinates volunteers with the help of another Catholic Charities employee, Ann Marie Byrd. To volunteer call (509) 358-4266.

(To take advantage of the services provided by the Christmas Bureau, bring legal identification, proof of current address for all adults in the household, and proof of address for all children 17 and younger. The Christmas Bureau hot line is (509) 459-5453 or toll-free (800) 789-0029 x5453.)

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