Hundreds line up for opening day at the Christmas Bureau: 'I am so grateful that this is happening'

<p><p>After a week of good weather, the first day of the Christmas Bureau dawned chilly and wet.</p></p><p><p>That did not stop the hundreds of people who lined up Saturday outside the front gates and into the parking lot of the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.</p></p><p><p>The Christmas Bureau provides a grocery store voucher to each family and a toy and a book for each child.</p></p><p><p>The first person in line was Karen Bradley. She arrived around 8 a.m. to get gifts for her two children, though the doors didn’t open until 10 a.m. </p></p><p><p>Bradley, who has visited the Christmas Bureau before, said she’s glad that it’s in person this year instead of virtual. Not looking for anything in particular, Bradley said she would wait to see what was available. </p></p><p><p>“It’s a surprise,” she said. “It always is.”</p></p><p><p>Bradley said she was grateful to the Bureau for providing a Christmas celebration her children would otherwise have to go without.</p></p><p><p>“My kids will each get a gift,” she said. “That’s amazing.”</p></p><p><p>The volunteers appeared happy to see everyone. Stephanie Gross, a book volunteer, flung her arms wide in welcome when the first recipients came in to pick out books. “Hey!” she said. “Merry Christmas!”</p></p><p><p>Gross said this is her first year as a volunteer. “I’m so excited,” she said. “I’m a preschool teacher and I love books.”</p></p><p><p>Suli Figueroa came to the fairgrounds with her 6-year-old daughter Ashley as well as her sister, her sister-in-law and her two nieces. She was visiting the Bureau for the first time after hearing about it from a friend. “I am so grateful that this is happening,” she said.</p></p><p><p>Figueroa let her daughter wander through the toy tables to pick out her own Christmas gift. In the end the young girl picked a pastel paint kit.</p></p><p><p>“She’s into art,” she said as her daughter browsed in the area full of arts and crafts kits. “She can’t make up her mind.”</p></p><p><p>The toy room quickly filled as parents and guardians worked to pick out just the right gift for each child. More than one husband was glued to his phone, talking or video chatting with his partner at home to go over all of the gift options.</p></p><p><p>The Christmas Bureau is open from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 16, excluding Sundays. Those who visit the bureau must wear masks and must provide either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test in the previous 72 hours.</p></p><p><h3>Donations</h3></p><p><p>The Christmas Bureau received $6,586 in new donations, bringing the total raised so far to $118,504.10. The goal this year is to collect $535,000 in donations.</p></p><p><p>Bill and Sharon Bronson, of Spokane, donated $1,100. “Merry Christmas!” they wrote.</p></p><p><p>The Patten Family gave $1,000. “Christmas at ‘our’ house begins when we honor Les Patten – husband, father, grandfather – with a donation to the Spokesman-Review Christmas Fund,” wrote Georgene Patten. “Every year Les began his gifting to your fund…the spirit of Christmas for our Spokane Community. His tennis doubles partner, Michael Soss, was a longtime volunteer and so we chose to honor them both. Thank you, Spokesman Review, for continuing this wonderful tradition, despite the social distancing and other restrictions.” The Patten family also includes Herb and Kathleen Patten, of San Mateo, California; Rich Patten, of Vancouver, B.C.; Barbara and Kelly Cunningham, of Naperville, Illinois; Tracy Cunningham, of Chicago; and Melissa and Brian Michalik, of Naperville, Illinois.</p></p><p><p>Kathryn Mautz, of Spokane, donated $1,000, writing, “My Xmas donation for 2021 with the hope it helps bring a bit of joy into some lives at Christmas and most of all I hope 2022 is a more peaceful and happy year for everyone.”</p></p><p><p>Linda Martin, of Spokane, sent $700, writing that she regretted she could not volunteer to work at the Christmas Bureau this year. “I hope that this contribution will help towards providing a Merry Christmas to families in Spokane,” she wrote.</p></p><p><p>Dave and Mary Larsen, of Spokane, sent $500. Paul McNabb, of Spokane, gave $500. William and Donna Harsell, of Spokane, contributed $500.</p></p><p><p>An anonymous Spokane donor gave $250. An anonymous Spokane donor sent $200, writing, “Thank you for organizing such a wonderful gift to those less fortunate than me. Bless you and Merry Christmas to each of you.”</p></p><p><p>Wyatt Schrader donated $100, as did two anonymous Deer Park donors. Ryan and Janel Medley, of Liberty Lake, contributed $100. John Ginsburg, of Spokane, sent $100. Thomas and Camilla Tilford, of Spokane, gave $100 in honor of Kathleen Lackie.</p></p><p><p>An anonymous donor sent $65.</p></p><p><p>Steve, Gail and Ben Quaid, of Colbert, gave $50. David and Evelyn Graves, of Medical Lake, donated $50.</p></p><p><p>Nancy Agres, of Spokane, sent $40. Mak Foley, of Spokane Valley, donated $31.</p></p>