In the wake of the death of Divine Spark founder and executive director Thomas Streicher, supporters of the homeless service organization have rallied to continue his cause.
The doling out of foodstuffs, donated materials and food vouchers will continue for the time being, said Shirley Kinghorn, who as a member of Divine Spark’s board of directors has stepped into the role of interim executive director.
“The volunteers have been instrumental in keeping things going,” Kinghorn said. “They really want to keep the Divine Spark impulse going and serve that population.”
In addition to continuing the voucher program, the board itself has gotten a new member to replace Streicher, whose three daughters are serving as an advisory board.
“I am in daily contact with them. Every decision the board makes, we run by the daughters first,” Kinghorn said. “They are really interested in keeping it going if there is a will to do that. Right now we are trying to decide if there is enough of a will.”
On top of the voucher program, Kinghorn said the board is “doing all the legal things that need to be done to secure the (nonprofit) entity.” One of the largest uncertainties though is funding, said Kinghorn, a longtime Divine Spark volunteer and a therapist.
“We don’t know exactly if all the donors are going to continue,” Kinghorn said.
One funding source, in particular, was an anonymous benefactor who funded Streicher’s quarterly charitable trips to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the same community from which the departed executive director was returning for the 42nd time when he perished after losing control of his van on March 22 along Interstate 80, 45 miles east of Rock Springs, Wyo.
Streicher took some of his secrets, such as the identity of that anonymous benefactor, to the grave. It was only when sorting through his belongings that his daughters found receipts and were able to deduce the donor’s identity, Kinghorn said. Kinghorn hopes to meet with that donor when that person returns from a trip, she said, to discuss their plans following Streicher’s death.
“That is why we are looking at other funding sources,” Kinghorn said. “There are other large donors.”
Additionally, Kinghorn noted that Streicher left a substantial reserve fund compiled through frugality that will enable Divine Spark to continue in the interim.
“What was surprising was the extent and depth of connections he had. There were many long-term relationships that were helping out,” Kinghorn said. “At his memorial, I was surprised at how many people he knew and how many lives he had touched.”
The board is also looking to soon hold a fundraising event, but the details have yet to be finalized. A website is also expected to go online in the coming days with a Paypal facilitation for donations.
Streicher had estimated Divine Spark fed between 30 and 60 homeless people per week at a cost of about $3,000 per month through a food voucher system and recently expanded those services to Truckee.
“Without him, there could definitely be a gap in services,” said Cindy Maple, executive director of Hospitality House, the county’s largest homeless service organization.
“Certainly he was helping people who were not meeting our emergency shelter requirements. There is definitely a population that doesn’t utilize our services for various reasons,” Maple said. “He provided a lot advocacy for people and he did a lot of hands-on work with people, too.”
On Sunday, volunteers and supporters hosted Divine Sparks’ weekly meeting and provided 45 packs of vouchers and foodstuffs for those in need, Kinghorn said.
“There have been a number of volunteers that have come and shown and interest in expanding the work,” Kinghorn said. “There is a lot of will to try to continue Divine Spark in the direction that Thomas took it but also letting it grow into what is real for who is left.”
What Divine Spark might look like without Streicher remains to be seen, Kinghorn said, although there is no shortage of people trying to keep the organization alive.
“I don’t know where it is going to go, but there is so much goodwill and interest,” Kinghorn said. “There is a lot of energy. It’s not going anywhere.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.