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Angels and Bears Benefit Community

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Angels Over Sandpoint- According to founding member Paula Marcinko, Angels Over Sandpoint isn’t a group that was ever created; it evolved out of the love members felt for a friend, Kathy Pelland, and their desire to continue her spirit throughout the community.

    “I never knew anyone who had so many friends,” Marcinko said of Pelland. “There were 400 people at her memorial service. Kathy was one of those people that was everywhere; and if you were new to town, she’d find you.” Pelland was also one of those people whose first impulse was to give; to her friends and to her community.

    “She gave me so much in my own life that (when she died) I decided I would strive to be more like her. She was always trying to get people together, and always made everybody feel they were special to her.”

    When a drunk driver took Pelland’s life on the south end of the Long Bridge four years ago, her friends mobilized. “First there was the Memorial Fund. We raised money with a dance at the grange hall in Sagle, and had about $5000 after the dance.” The first meeting of what would be the Angels Over Sandpoint was to determine what to do with the money. “We gave $3000 to North Idaho Bikeways,” Marcinko said, “and we pushed for lights, for better signage, and for changing the speed limit on the bridge.”

    They also decided to place a memorial bench down near Dog Beach, at one of Pelland’s favorite spots, the ‘bucket tree.’ “There’s this big bucket up in the tree,” Marcinko said, “and we’d really love to know the origins of it. I’m assuming somebody put it up there for a nest.” Pelland was taken with the phenomenon, and a favorite spot for her to meet with friends was “down at the bucket tree.”

    There were almost 20 people who formed the original “Angels,” and Marcinko said their simple goal was, “to do what Kathy would have done if she’d lived.” Since then the group has participated in some high-visibility events- the most recent being a roast for restaurateur Jim Lippi, a man Marcinko says lives up to Pelland’s standard of devotion to the community; “He has the same spirit as Kathy. It’s not like we planned to do a roast or anything,” she added, “and we probably won’t do one every year. That event just came to us, and it was one of the most successful and entertaining events Sandpoint has ever had. We just see things that should be done, and try to do them.”

    Those things include actions that make a huge difference in individual people’s lives; providing food, painting a house, or even just being a voice of support on the telephone to a cancer patient, reminding her to take her medicine and drink lots of water.

    “We want to put back into our community, (and) want to have some fun while we’re still alive and able to do so.”

    The Angels traditional Halloween dance was cancelled this year when they couldn’t book the City Forum (“That’s our home away from home”) but they’re looking to host a New Year’s Eve dance instead. And Marcinko says they’re always on the lookout for more things to do. “We want to do fun and different events.”

    Pam Aunan, Jacqui O’Neal, Helen Benefield, Debra McShane, Ree Clark, Cheri Murphy, Syndie Stern, Gail Lyster, Gail Fendley, Suzanne Wakefield, Jill Brow and Carolyn Pennington are just a few of the original members of the group, which continues to grow. “We meet every month, and have 25 to 30 people at the meetings every time,” Marcinko explained. “We encourage new people. This is a caring club that cares for each other and for other people. It has it’s own spirit, and everyone shares in the work. No matter what project we have, everyone takes a part.”

    If you’d like to learn more about the Angels, give Marcinko a call at Blue Sky Broadcasting. And let us know if you know the story behind the bucket tree.

Bearly There in Sandpoint- It is the Pacific Northwest, after all, so maybe folks aren’t too surprised to go through Sandpoint and see statues of bears all over town. They’re probably a bit more surprised, however, if they stop and look closely at one, as they’ll discover these are more than just bears- they’re works of art by some of the finest artists in an area well-known for its art. And they might be really surprised to know the bears are more than just a visual treat- they’re a way to raise money for some important groups that benefit the community: Habitat for Humanity, which provides housing to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it; Community Assistance League, which provides support for low-income families in times of financial need; and the Panida Theater, the hub of the local art community, providing a huge range of art experiences to a fairly small rural community.

    “It is public art at its most whimsical,” the organizers say of the display, which features the talents of 28 individual artists and a host of un-named “students” all displayed around town in the persona of 15 bears.

    On October 27, 14 of those bears will be auctioned off at a gala benefit evening at the historic Panida Theater. And one bear, known as “Rascal” and the handiwork of Gail and Katie Lyster, along with friend Gail Fendley, will be raffled off to one lucky winner.

    Tickets to the event are on sale now- call the Panida Theater at 208-263-9191.


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Landon Otis

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