Nevada City homeless group’s Thanksgiving tradition altered
For the first time in more than a decade, a representative of Divine Spark did not travel to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, considered to be the poorest such community in the country, to deliver Thanksgiving donations.
It was while returning from such a delivery that Thomas Streicher, Divine Spark’s founder and leader, was killed after losing control of Divine Spark’s only van on an icy Wyoming stretch of Interstate 80.
“We are still pretty traumatized from March,” said Shirley Kinghorn, who stepped up following Streicher’s death to keep Divine Spark alive.
“We really aren’t equipped to do it; we don’t even have a vehicle,” Kinghorn said.
But Divine Spark isn’t abandoning Pine Ridge.
“There is a lot of will to stay connected to them, so we asked if they still need our help, and they said yes,” Kinghorn said.
Streicher’s daughters and the nonprofit raised the money to send care packages and purchased turkeys and other food for 200 people to be served at the Oglala Recreation Center Saturday where Thomas visited, said Kristi Streicher, one of the daughters.
“Divine Spark is making a presence this year at the reservation by helping the locals by purchasing all the supplies necessary to host a 150- to 200-person meal,” Streicher said in an email to The Union.
Divine Spark was founded to provide resources to Pine Ridge, which at nearly 3,500 square miles of land is the eighth-largest reservation in the country — larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
Population estimates of the reservation range from 20,000 to nearly 30,000, according to separate estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and Colorado State University. But both institutions agree the reservation is one of the poorest with 49 percent living below the federal poverty level.
Starting in 2002, Thomas Streicher made several trips a year to the reservation with a van stocked full of turkeys, warm weather gear and sewing materials, helping the women there launch the Lakota Quilts project.
“He had all the seats taken out and he loaded it as much as he could with clothing, fabrics, furniture,” said Regina Brave of Oglala, in an interview with the Rapid City Journal following Streicher’s death in March on his 42nd trip.
“We’re missing him terribly, horribly,” Kinghorn said. “And there is still grieving.”
Because the Lakota believe in waiting a year to memorialize a death, Kinghorn said members of Divine Spark are hoping to make it to South Dakota in March for a spring memorial, when more supplies would be delivered.
While Divine Spark’s Thanksgiving traditions have altered this year, the nonprofit is still planning its Christmas festivities, providing food, entertainment, services and company at the Nevada City Stonehouse for the holiday, Kinghorn said.
“This is not just for the homeless, but for anybody who would like to participate in a community dinner,” Kinghorn said. “It is (also) for people who are in a position to donate …”
Kinghorn is having trouble reconnecting with some of the people Streicher relied on to facilitate the event, and she is looking for anyone who helped previously or is willing to start helping this year, asking that they contact her.
“There were so many people important to Thomas and having them come would be a great gift to all of us …,” Kinghorn said. To contact Divine Spark, call 530-265-2620 or visit http://divinespark.us.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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