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Where would we be without the Angels Over Sandpoint?

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Where would we be without the Angels Over Sandpoint?

The Angels are gearing up for one of their big, annual fundraisers and need your help now more than ever

Five kids. No heat or water in the trailer. And now hours cut again, to just four hours a week.

A single mom. Hours cut at work and then her roommate moves out.

House fire. Family there to help but new baby’s arrival is imminent and all baby items were lost.

Cancer. Thank god for insurance. But there’s the deductible, and the twenty percent, and now all the gas for treatments...

When people reach their limit, the Angels Over Sandpoint step in to help. Their mission: to embrace the gift of life. And they do so by organizing events where people can come together in fun and companionship, and by lending a hand when the need arises. They come from all walks of life, espouse all types of political viewpoints, yet share in common a desire to better their community by helping, and to fund that help through fun.

“We’re not really the angels, you know,” said Paula Marcinko, a member of the Angels since its inception in 1997. “The angels are those people who have touched us who have moved on. We’re just here trying to make it happen, helping out those who need us.

“It’s a lot of work, but then you look at the results,” she explained. “You’ve brought people together who had a good time, and you’ve raised some money to be used to help those who need it in your community. That’s what keeps me going.”

It’s a simple incentive that works for all the 40 to 50 (mostly) women who make up the Angels Over Sandpoint.

“Part of our history is to have fun while we’re alive,” she said, “to laugh and dance and have a good time. So we have fun events and we raise some money.”

Those fun events include the Semi-Normal, Semi-Formal New Year’s Eve bash, recently concluded, and the upcoming Follies, a production, often pretty close to X-rated, that’s a mainstay of Sandpoint’s Madcap Mardi Gras celebration.

It’s a variety show that offers up music, dance, men in drag, cleavage (real and otherwise) and short, comedic skits spiced with a dash of political commentary and an extra-large helping of off-color—way off-color—humor. If you’re easily offended, they warn, don’t buy a ticket.

Gail Fendley, known around town as “Velma, Queen of Fun,” is also a founding member of the Angels Over Sandpoint, and is a main force behind the Follies. Modeled after a similar production performed each year in Durango,  Fendley says the show, now in its eighth year, far surpasses what she had originally conceived.

“We are just blessed with the abundance of talent in this area,” she said. The local show features approximately 20 acts in a two-hour period. “In Durango, probably 70 percent of their show is lip-synced,” she said. “Here, almost no one does that. Everyone wants to perform.”

And it’s not just singing: last year’s show featured a re-enactment of the popular 60s television show Laugh-In, performances from local dancers, and various forms of stand-up comedy.

The performers, by the way, are not just volunteers; they also purchase their tickets for the event, so that the maximum amount of money possible is raised to help support the Angels’ mission. With on-stage talent, front of house workers, and a smooth-as-silk backstage crew, there’s 60 to 70 people putting their talent to work on behalf of people in the community.

“That’s really important,” Gail pointed out, “because in the last 18 months, our assistance requests have quadrupled. There’s a lot of need out there, so help is needed more than ever.”

An important part of the show comes at intermission, as the “naughty nuns” head out into the crowd with giant condoms in which Follies attendees can make additional donations. “The crowd that comes to the Follies is always very giving,” Gail said. “When it’s all over and I reflect on the talent, the laughter, and the money we raised to help people in our community, I know we’re doing what Kathy would have done if she were still here.”

The idea for the Angels started when Kathy Pelland was killed in a car accident on the Long Bridge back in 1997, and a group of her friends, in mourning, decided to honor her memory by doing what she had done best—helping other people. They give money to those who need it, cut and deliver firewood for those who don’t have the resources to do so themselves, provide home-cooked meals or other support as is necessary, and are there for many who would otherwise have nowhere else to turn. They even help to fund an annual scholarship, in partnership with the Festival at Sandpoint, for an area student with a talent in the arts.

“It could be you who might need help,” said Paula. “None of us expects to be there, but then you get sick, or you lose your job... no one’s immune.”

The biggest project the Angels undertake is to provide school supplies each and every year to local students who need them. Each student is allowed to pick out a backpack of their choice, and they’re also provided with a bag full of basic school supplies—everything from pens and paper to scissors and kleenex. This last year, Angels secretary Carol Beeber reported they gave out backpacks to 902 local students, so the need is large.

For this particular project, the Angels send out a donor letter asking people in the community to contribute what they can. Everything else they do is funded, for the most part, by the money they raise while having fun; at events, garage sales, dances or whatever comes to mind.

“We’re really blessed to live where we are,” Paula remarked. “Maybe it’s just we’re a smaller town and you hear about it more, but I think people here are incredibly giving. There’s a lot of people who care and they’re all helping.”

You can become one of those, become an “Angel” while you’re still alive, still dancing, still having fun. Visit their website, call 208-597-3670, or send an email to angelsoversandpoint(at)gmail.com to volunteer to help, and see what’s needed. Or simply mail them a check, to PO Box 2369, Sandpoint, ID, 83864. The Angels are a 501c3 organization, so donations are tax-deductible.

You can also support the Angels by buying tickets to the Follies, which takes place this year on Friday and Saturday, February 12 and 13, at Sandpoint’s Panida Theater. The show this year will be emceed by local veterinarian Rob Pierce. Tickets are still just $20 each, and are available, beginning January 15, at Petal Talk, Eichardt’s, Eve’s Leaves and online at the Sandpoint General Store Tickets have sold out early each year, so get yours right away.

Photo: if you don’t recognize these local men in drag, we won’t name them, but they are two among many who throw modesty to the wind each year to help out the Angels with the Follies production, a major fundraiser for the Angels’ efforts to help those in our community.

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Landon Otis

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Angels Over Sandpoint, Follies, cancer

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