The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery has helped more than 72,000 area children since it opened in 1987. The nursery continues to aid more than 4,000 local children each year, offering a safe place for kids to go during a family emergency — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The organization also provides family counseling and basic supplies, with a budget funded by private donations and support from regional foundations, as well as several major fundraising events throughout the year

One of the Vanessa Behan Nursery's most anticipated fundraising events is the Santa Express, a holiday gift store for kids ages 4-12 to shop for everyone on their list. All gift items are offered at allowance-friendly prices, from 50 cents to $8 each, with all proceeds going to the Nursery. Last year Santa Express celebrated its 20th anniversary, and this year organizers hope to beat 2012's record-breaking total of $80,000 raised during the store's month-long run.

Santa Express runs through Dec. 23, though shopping early is encouraged. "Once we get things in, we don't reorder," says Santa Express Director Mary Macri.

Young shoppers can seek the help of volunteer "elves" who are on site daily to help them choose and wrap up their gifts before snooping parents outside can peek. While their children shop, parents can browse the Vanessa's Village boutique, with affordable items ideal for stocking stuffers.

Santa Express has become a holiday tradition for many families, Macri says.

"Many of our 600-plus volunteers shopped at Santa Express when they were only 4 years old, and now want to share their great memory of Santa Express with the over 3,000 kids who shop at the store," she says.

Santa Express • Through Dec. 23 • Mon-Sat from 10 am-8 pm; Sun from 11 am-6 pm • Crescent Court, Skywalk level • 707 W. Main • 220-5907 •

Music Finds a Way: The Spokane Symphony @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Jan. 10
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