A few times a year, Divine Spark founder Thomas Streicher would hold a parking lot fundraiser, bartering off and giving away items he had collected throughout the year.
Outside his Nevada City headquarters, next to the Nevada County Courthouse, Streicher would dole out those assembled items. Many were donated, others he found. All were directed toward raising funds for the homeless advocacy and support agency he ran.
Streicher was killed two months ago in an icy Wyoming wreck on his way back from his 42nd trip to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where he would deliver quarterly van-loads of donated goods and foods.
In the wake of his death, Divine Spark supporters, such as acting director Shirley Kinghorn, have picked up the pieces and tried to carry on Streicher’s dream.
On top of coordinating volunteers and service providers, asking for donations and facilitating meals for the homeless, Kinghorn and crew plan to hold another yard sale/giveaway today — the first since Streicher’s death.
Among the random collection of furniture, desks, lawn mowers, bird cages and camping equipment will be some of Streicher’s own items, such as tools from his contracting days.
“His daughters really believe in giving his things away,” Kinghorn said. “They have been very generous with his clothing. They gave it right away.”
Many of those items are stowed in the substructure of the shared office building on Main Street out of which Streicher ran Divine Spark. On the way there, Kinghorn fumbled with the keys, not yet familiar with each one’s purpose.
Down a corridor beneath a porch lined with Divine Spark’s Sunday meal program materials — coffee cookers, seasonings, hygiene kits and sleeping bags — is the door to an approximately 30-by-25-foot storage space with boxes and items stacked as tall as a man.
“An army of us will meet here at 7 a.m.,” Kinghorn said, looking at the vast quantity of assembled items. “It is going to be a treasure hunt. Who knows what valuables are hiding beneath.”
Closing the door, Kinghorn again flips through her large knot of keys to latch the lock.
“For the first month, we couldn’t figure out how to get the keys to the vehicles,” she said in reference to several cars Streicher would fix up and give to transients who had demonstrated they were ready for the responsibility.
Then, one day, when Kinghorn was talking with a volunteer in Streicher’s office, he pointed to a set of nails tacked into the door frame behind the hinges.
One wall of Streicher’s office is lined to the ceiling with books stacked on shelves he built. The organized room has a computer corner, filing cabinets and several decrepit printers. Its other walls are adorned with mementos from Streicher’s life. In his absence, the office serves as a memorial to him.
“I come here at least once a week to answer messages,” Kinghorn said. “I’m struck by the sweetness of the smell. I don’t know what it is, but it hasn’t gone away.”
The door to the office is the trickiest of all the locks, Kinghorn said. To lock or unlock it takes a certain amount of finesse.
Unlike the keys, not all of Divine Spark’s donors have been located. One of its largest was anonymous to all but Streicher.
“We have enough donations to keep the weekly voucher program going and volunteers to facilitate the Sunday feedings,” Kinghorn said. “But I’d like to talk to the big donor, if only to reflect on their connection with Thomas.”
In the meantime, vouchers continue to be supplied by SPD Market, Fudenjuce, Subway, Save Mart and Vicks, Kinghorn said, adding that 40 to 60 clients converge Sundays in Nevada City for Divine Spark feedings.
“It’s like a festival,” said Kinghorn, who boils 100 eggs and boils a vat of coffee. One couple makes 100 sandwiches each week.
“Miraculously, even people I don’t know will bring hot food on Sundays,” she said. “We haven’t missed one yet.”
Kinghorn’s next challenge is figuring out how to continue supporting Pine Ridge, regarded as the poorest reservation in the country.
“We are being very conservative with funding right now because we don’t know how much will come in for how long,” she said.
For those interested in supporting Divine Spark or for information, visit divinespark.net.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.