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Noxon's Sandy Davis

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One small woman, one large heart

She’s been called the mayor of Noxon; the lady who won’t take no for an answer; the town’s number one beggar; and she has been known to charm just about everyone around into volunteering at one time or another for the good of the community. She is Sandy Davis, and to many in this rural riverside village, she is simply, at 5’2”, one small woman with one gigantic heart.

    The time has come, however, so Sandy says, for her to take a step back from the duties and responsibilities she has shouldered for the past 15 years. She announced at the end of October that she is retiring from Community Services Fellowship (CSF), the organization that has grown up around the community-oriented projects she has spearheaded since the middle 1980s.

    It’s impossible to talk about helping those in need in Sanders County’s west end without talking about Sandy Davis. Since the early days of the Trout Creek-Noxon-Heron Food Bank, Sandy has been on the front lines of fighting hunger, homelessness and poverty in this area, and it’s safe to say she and those who have been by her side helping have come a long way on all fronts. Since 1986, Sandy figures the food bank has provided meals to over 3000 families.

    A wildly successful program that Sandy launched in the early `90s was the Flattened Bambi Road Kill Retrieval Project. More than 200 deer and elk, plus a moose and a bear, killed on area highways have been salvaged and what meat could be saved has been passed on to needy families. Over a ton of venison has been utilized that way in the past eight years.

    Through the years, Sandy has garnered the reputation of refusing to take no for an answer. With the formation of CSF in 1993, her dream of finding a permanent home for the food bank and other endeavors designed to help local people never dimmed. The challenge of serving a sparse population in a rural valley never deterred her determination to help those in need.

    “Just because we’re in a rural area doesn’t mean we can’t go forward instead of backward,” Sandy remarked.

    Indeed, going backward or even glancing backward has never been a character trait of Sandy Davis, despite the setbacks she faced over and over again. The food bank was started upstairs over Nelsen’s Mercantile back when Gary Nelsen was still the proprietor of the store. Rummage and Stuff, which came along a couple of years later as the second- hand store for clothing and furniture and the like, and was housed in the old Post Office, soon joined the food bank upstairs. But then they both had to be moved when the mercantile was sold to new owners. That started an era of one move after another.

    They went to the old Mother Earth building out on the highway for a short time, then to what became a video store, followed by what became an office for The River Journal. Eventually, Sandy moved the food bank into her house, which was the old Methodist Church parsonage at the time, then into the basement of the church.

    But finally, with the donation of a couple of acres on Highway 200 by Avista, construction of that permanent home that Sandy had dreamed about began early in 1996. By the next spring, after the deep snow that had fallen all that winter was cleared away from the eaves, the building was enclosed and Rummage and Stuff moved in. The food bank followed two years later.

    Now, as 2001 nears its end, the Noxon Community Center, built almost entirely with donated materials by volunteers rounded up time after time by Sandy Davis, is nearing completion. There is still some flooring to take care of, some insulation to install, a bit of siding yet to go up, and a commercial kitchen to be put in place; but the community center has come a long way since Sandy’s dream of having one was just that – only a dream.

    Sandy will be the first to acknowledge she has not accomplished this feat on her own, and she expressed deep gratitude for the many volunteers who have worked hard to build the community center. She has certainly not acted entirely on her own, either, as Community Services Fellowship, the group responsible for the operation of the community center, has a volunteer board of local residents. Included on that board are: Sharon Larkin, president; Carolyn Trochmann, Tony Pitschner, Linda Hickenbottom, John Millard, Bob and Terry Lukes, Micki Dodson and Debbie Weber.

    The weight of responsibility Sandy has borne has been a heavy one, and so she said recently, “It’s time to walk away and go do something else. I’m tired and I need to let go and do some other things. All this running around and the stress, it adds up.”

    Asked if she is pleased with what has been accomplished in the past several years, she replied, “I’m thrilled, happy and disappointed. I feel like I could’ve done more, should’ve done more. There’s a lot of things to do, a lot of stuff to put together, but I think I learned patience.”

    Without hesitation, Sandy identified the most rewarding aspect of her work as being the time she spent with volunteers. “All I’d have to do is ask, and they’d come and help,” she humbly explained. “Just look at that building and land. We didn’t start out with any money. It all happened because of donations and volunteers. I want to say thank you to them all.”

    As for what Sandy will do now, it doesn’t appear she is going to sit down and relax. “There’s 20,000 things to do,” she exclaimed. Though she may be retiring from CSF, she will remain active in several other organizations. She serves as president of Sanders County United with Disabilities and is on the boards of Sanders County Community Development, Sanders County Solid Waste, and Little Bitterroot Services, a group that helps people with handicaps. She is also a peer advocate with Summit, who represents people with disabilities in a variety of social and legal venues.

    Yet, at the center of her heart has been the community of Noxon and all she can do for the people she loves so well. She may be stepping out from beneath some of the burdens she has borne for a long time, but her desire to battle hunger, homelessness and poverty will be no less intense. She may be thanking all the volunteers that have stepped up to help through the years, but the people of Sanders County will also owe Sandy Davis a heart-felt thanks for her labors, every one of which has been a labor of love.

    A written statement from the CSF board of directors has this to say:

    “The board of the COMMUNITY SERVICES FELLOWSHIP announces with deepest regrets the resignation of Sandra Davis, a long time member of the board.

     “Sandy, the spark that got the Fellowship going, announced her decision to withdraw from her position on October 25, citing personal reasons. Being a religious person, she had prayed on the matter and had been given the answer that it was time to move on to other pursuits, after years of work on this cause.

     “A rearrangement of the management of the Community Center and Food Bank will result, as no one director could possibly cover all the functions Sandy had taken on over her many years of service.

     “The area owes Sandy a large vote of "THANKS" for all she has done in the years she has been involved with this service.

     “The board would also like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt thanks for all the time and energy Sandy has given to the community and to the Community Services Fellowship.  She will be greatly missed, but we understand her need to move on to new and different pursuits.  We would like to extend our best wishes towards Sandy and all of her future endeavors.”

 

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Dennis Nicholls Dennis Nicholls was the founder, publisher, janitor and paperboy of the River Journal from 1993 to 2001. He passed away in 2009.

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