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

Opening day requests for Christmas Bureau assistance far surpass 2007

Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 18, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Don Kelly, a parishioner of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, is chairman of the Christmas Bureau Board this year. (IR photo)

In Spokane, Wednesday, Dec. 10, was intermittently sunny with temperatures in the low to mid-30s. The Christmas Bureau, organized by Catholic Charities, was scheduled to open at 10 a.m. in a huge exhibit building on the grounds of Spokane’s Interstate Fair and Expo Center. Long before that, even before sunrise, in the chill morning air a long line of adults and children had formed at the entrance, waiting to get vouchers for groceries, good at local supermarkets, and toys and books to make Christmas a little brighter for thousands of local children.

Dozens of volunteers sat at computer terminals, cared for young children while their parents went “shopping,” or replenished supplies of children’s books and toys. Don Kelly, chair of the Christmas Bureau board, wandered from one location to another wearing a tag with the words “Trouble Shooter” on it.

A half-hour into the first day of Christmas Bureau 2008 everything ran like a well-oiled machine. Back outside, however, the line had grown even longer, from the Christmas Bureau building back out to the parking lot – not a short distance away – and then some.

Theresa Dryden, in her second year of running the Christmas Bureau for Catholic Charities, said, “We expect to be busy today, and we’ll be busier on Saturday.”

Indeed, the Christmas Bureau exceeded last year’s opening day numbers. Christmas Bureau volunteers gave out food vouchers adding up to $49,595 to more than 1,500 families. This amounted to 12 percent more than in 2007 and 31 percent more than 2006. More than 3,170 children received toys and books, a 13 percent increase over last year’s opening day. When the Christmas Bureau closed its doors on this first day, the line of people hoping to get in was still very long. Those who didn’t make it on the first day received passes allowing them to be first in line on the second day.

In her first year as a Christmas Bureau volunteer, Christine Sitton of St. Mary Parish in Spokane Valley said, “I also work at the Interfaith Hospitality Network, and that’s how I got connected.”

Jan House, of Spokane’s Sacred Heart Parish, is also a first-time Christmas Bureau volunteer. “I’ve always wanted to do it, but I was always too late to volunteer until this year,” she said.

Many Christmas Bureau volunteers are far from being first-timers, however. Seated at a computer terminal, Rose Higgins, who says that she’s “on my own,” not associated with any particular group or organization, is back for her fifth consecutive year.

Patricia Garvin, a Christmas Bureau volunteer “since at least 2002,” helped entertain little ones in the child care area. “I’ll be here three days this time,” she said. “I volunteered for four days, but they had so many people volunteer so quickly and so early that they only need me for three days this year.”

Joe, a third-year volunteer, explained that a few years ago he was one of the people in line to get help from the Christmas Bureau. “Ever since then,” he said, “I come back to volunteer, to give back a little of what my family and I received when we needed it.”

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