Welcome to Divine Spark's website!

We provide support & guidance for people in-need without regard to gender, race, creed, age, or calling to activate the divine spark within each of them. We offer a Weekly Meal Program, allocation of donated Motor Vehicles & Bicycles, Pet Food & Veterinarian Care, Legal & Job Referral Help, and Meal/Food Vouchers are just a part of the assistance we provide. Here's the latest happenings...

Sunday Morning Meal & Voucher Program

Once a week Divine Spark and volunteers offer a prepared meal from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon on Sunday mornings at the front steps of the Divine Spark office at 308 Main Street in Nevada City. Food Vouchers, which has been donated from local merchants & eateries for meals, are offered to the hungry as well. Gently-used clothing, and dog food for Pets, is also available.

Click on a thumbnail image for a larger view...

Divine Spark Wishes to Thank the Community for All of the Wonderful Support it has Received to Make this Past Year Shine

A Letter of Thanks from Our Executive Director

...AS I REFLECT on this past year and on the passing of Thomas Streicher, the founder of Divine Spark, I feel a sense of deep loss and grief. Not only did he leave us with the blessing of his creation, Divine Spark – a non-profit serving the disenfranchised, he also left us the blueprint of service with love, compassion, and non-judgment. This journey has served to deepen mine, and others connections to that very Divine Spark that can be found within ourselves and in each other. It has been a healing journey to continue his life's work and to stay connected to Thomas's presence which lives on in the work of coming together in community to help those in need. The Board of Divine Spark would like to give thanks to all the volunteers and community members that enabled Divine Spark to continue in helping those in need in our community. Since the tragic death of Thomas Streicher many people have come forward to keep his work alive. So many volunteers are helping to sustain this environment of sharing, thus forming community. Special thanks go out to Law Offices of Haley & Bilheimer, B&C Home Center, SPD Markets, Save Mart Supermarkets, BriarPatch Co-op. We thank Jim Bell, Stephanie and Quique Barletta for their on-going support along with the many people who have handed me an envelope of cash donations --wishing to remain anonymous. We are grateful for the participation of local restaurants involving themselves in our voucher program -- Subway, SPD Markets, Save Mart Supermarkets, Fudenjüce, California Organics, and The Fix.

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Sunday Morning Meal at Divine SparkA BIG THANKS to volunteers who came with food on Sundays, bringing clothing, and who continue to lend support for those in need. BRAVO to Gregory and Dave for consistently being there; helping with donations, and in all facets of setup and take down. THANK YOU to Shiloh for your contribution of organizing clothing and helping in so many ways and Lenora for her many contributions, Pete for helping to pick up donations from SPD and Save Mart, Lee Pope for jumping in and organizing the donated hot meals each week, Roger for his ongoing support and donations, and all the volunteers who show up with food, sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, and a helping hand. MANY THANKS to Paul Emery for producing our very successful fundraiser and Concert in October, all the musicians who donated their time and energy, and to Dale Smith for his photographs of Dylan that were raffled off and for his creative efforts in Dylan Concert posters, and invitations to the Christmas Dinner.

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THE DIVINE SPARK CHRISTMAS DINNER at the Stone House in Nevada City was indeed special with the help of so many; THANK YOU to Nikko who entrusted us with her beautiful building; Maria who organized the Kitchen, prepared the menu and cooked all of the donated food, and her family who donated their time to help create a very special event; those who cooked turkeys; Steve and Debra, Marge, Roger, Alice, Cathy, and to Bob for cooking his special prime rib; the many people who brought their special side dishes; Carol for the donated Christmas Trees, and use of decorations; Magickal Florist for the festive flower donation, and Grass Valley Florist; Prospector's Nursery for the lovely Poinsettias; Flour Garden Bakery for yummy pies and treats; California Organics for the donated food and organic Turkeys; Natural Selection for the donated produce; BriarPatch Co-op for the Turkeys cash coupon; and to SPD Markets for the generous donation of food. A SPECIAL THANKS to Jessee for staying late and mopping the kitchen and dining room floors, and Grogory who was there from beginning to end helping to leave the building sparkling clean. Shirley Kinghorn, Executive DirectorMUSICAL THANKS to Annie McCann, Jeffrey, Lawrence, Mario, Bob and all the musicians that gifted us with their music.

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OF GREATEST IMPORTANCE was the experience of warm feelings, love, and camaraderie being shared by and through the people. The Spirit of Christmas remains alive, and well at this annual community event ...A legacy and inspiration for all; with continuing gratitude going out to Divine Spark's founder, Tomas Streicher, whose presence was very much felt. And, finally, thank you to everyone who through their encouragement and support this past year gave me the courage to continue the vital and rewarding work of Divine Spark.

Shirley Kinghorn, Executive Director

Food Waste -- a Bigger Problem Than You Thought

by Jim Yong Kim
President, World Bank Group
21 March 2014
The Huffington Post

Here's a shameful statistic: up to a third of the world's food is wasted. In the developing world, that's 400 to 500 calories per person per day. But in the developed world, it's as much as 1,500 calories per person.

We cannot afford to waste that much food. About 842 million people today don't get enough to eat, and 98 percent of them live in developing countries.

In developing countries, food is lost on farms or on the way to market due to poor infrastructure and storage. In developed countries, food is wasted at the retail level and by consumers.

All of us have to take action. Every country -- and every person -- needs to minimize food waste as a part of the fight against poverty and hunger.

There is a lot at stake. People who don't consume adequate calories can't live a full, active and productive life. In addition, about 2 billion people in the world don't get enough micronutrients -- vitamins and minerals that are essential to physical and intellectual development. Malnourished children and adults won't reach their potential, and are less able to escape poverty and help their nations to grow.

Wasting food also squanders resources like water, energy, fertilizers, and land. All of these things are growing more precious -- and expensive. As the global population grows from 7 billion today to 9 billion in 2050, we need to improve rapidly, even as we face problems today with scarce water, variable weather, and limited arable land.

When food is wasted, many people are rightfully upset. They ask if food can be distributed more efficiently so the surplus reaches those who need it most. Could we all buy and eat just what we need? Why can't we treat food as a natural resource that should not be wasted?

The answer is we can do all of those things. Our Food Price Watch Report focuses on what may be driving food waste in the developed world, which is responsible for 56 percent of food wasted globally. Supermarkets order more food than they can sell; people buy more than they need, often in response to special offers or advertising; and food is thrown away when it's still good because people misunderstand the "sell by" labels on the packaging. People have the power to send signals to suppliers by buying smaller quantities at the grocery store, ordering less food in restaurants, or by consuming less protein, which requires more resources to produce.

In developing nations, where the remaining 44 percent of food losses occur, many farmers' crops rot in the fields due to impassable roads and inadequate storage. In sub-Saharan Africa -- where 1 in 4 people are estimated to be undernourished -- as much as a quarter of food produced is lost each year. The World Bank Group is working with governments and other partners to help farmers improve their access to markets and finance, as well as their ability to store their crops. We committed $12 billion to agriculture in the past year to boost agriculture programs and food security.

Some promising initiatives to reduce food waste include evaporative coolers in Tanzania and India, hermetically sealed plastic storage bags for crops in Nigeria, and small metal silos in Kenya. On a larger scale, developing countries need to improve and expand infrastructure, including roads, railways, electricity generation, potable water supplies, heating, ventilation, and storage facilities.

Each of us has to take action quickly to stop wasting food and the resources needed to produce and transport it. Your actions -- combined with those of many others around the world -- can help millions of people lift themselves from poverty so they can live fuller, more productive lives.

Please share your ideas for preventing food waste in comments below. In particular, if you're in the food or restaurant business, I'd like to hear about the challenges you face, and your ideas or initiatives for dealing with surplus food.

(Photo Credit: Stephan Bachenheimer/World Bank)

Volunteers & Donations Needed

Help Divine Spark assist People in need by making a donation of the following:

Motorhome Donations, Too!

The gift of a running vehicle can touch the life of a homeless/houseless person in many positive ways, such as providing basic security and shelter. Your donation of a car, van, or motorhome can also create a greater potential for job opportunities, and the possibility for relocation and/or reunion with friends and family members.

Trish & Skip in front of their donated Home,
December 2011. (click on the image to see a larger view)

A van donation will change someone's Life.
Smaller vehicles ok. Bicycles, too!

Volunteerism, Charity...
Going Too Far for the Wrong Reasons
by Cheryl Zellers

Toxic Charity, written by Robert D. Lupton, is a book that offers an alternative to “handouts”, a new perspective, albeit a difficult look into the mainstream techniques that most charities run their services for the ever growing population of indigent and poverty stricken folks. Many of us reading this Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton newsletter pride ourselves in being able to serve, are full of compassion, and do scrapple with the pros and cons of one way charity. Churches, active individuals, non-profits, food banks, and all forms of charities can so easily fall into the blueprint of our nation – to give and not ask for any reciprocation, however simple. This can be damaging to those receiving the handouts when it becomes a chronic system—key word being chronic.

The issue of one-way giving does not include emergency and short term charity, it focuses upon long term and continual handouts and doing for others what they can ultimately be shown how to do for themselves – and isn’t this true freedom? I believe that the aforementioned book deserves a good look—as it offers us a new paradigm in just HOW can we take that giant step from sincere and heartfelt giving that may not be helping in a way that we imagined it might – to effectively empowering those in our care -- in a way that supports them to do for themselves.

I often sing the song, in my head, or sometimes out loud when it may help others see just how capable they are “I can do anything that you can do—better, I can do anything -- better than you.” We are all given the capabilities of striving for equality in all things, whether it be in taking back our civil rights, raising the bar of what we can do to create change for the better, or in taking that first step in truly caring for oneself and others. Sometimes our lives take a turn down a road or lead us on a journey that may render us incapable of living the life that we had before, or one that we had merely dreamed of living. We must remember that circumstances and timing have so much to do with all things effecting change.

While it is true that we are responsible for each other, we must be careful to do our kind and charitable acts in a way that is supportive to the growth of each individual that we serve. It would be a shame to serve for reasons that aggrandize our own egos, put us in positions that gives us a sense of false power, or that instills a sense of hierarchy between us.

Ask a lawyer from the
Nevada County Public Defender's Office
about a criminal or civil issue
in a private meeting room,
with no legal ramifications.

Lawyer In The Library

Private meetings are held in the
CTC Prospector or Gold Mine rooms
at the Madelyn Helling Library:
980 Helling Way, Nevada City, California.

Call 265-7050 to reserve your 10-minute meeting time.

Nevada County Public Defender's Office
224 Main Street, Nevada City CA 95959
publicdefender@co.nevada.ca.us

Is a Safe Ground homeless camp coming to north Sacramento?

Council member may work with group to establish village for chronically homeless Sacramentans
by Raheem F. Hosseini
13 March 2014
Sacramento News & Review

A developing plan to build an exclusive community for the city’s most chronically homeless may count a surprising political ally in Sacramento Councilman Allen Warren.

Around the same time that city leaders prepared to earmark $1 million for new homelessness programs last month, Warren’s office was in talks to lend a piece of his economically distressed district to a unique project that could result in up to 75 permanent sleeping cabins for homeless men and women, someone involved in those talks confirmed.

“We’re getting close,” said Steve Watters, executive director of Safe Ground Sacramento, the six-year-old charity that will forever be remembered for trying to legalize “Tent City” a few years back.

Safe Ground is a coalition of local homeless leaders and promises on its website to help reintegrate “unsheltered homeless adults who sign a covenant to be alcohol, drug and violence free.” At one time, that meant squaring off against the city over a teeming homeless encampment along the American River Parkway known as Tent City, which was eventually torn down, setting north of a hundred people adrift and headed for illegal camping busts.

While in the midst of that effort, Safe Ground began pursuing a less in-your-face housing strategy, one that seeks to bring long-suffering adults off the street and into a crisp cottage-style development with basic services.

“The organization has been building a lot of support since they changed their vision,” said Andrea San Miguel, Councilman Warren’s lead staffer on social issues.

Micro-cottage communities are already being tried in Washington, considered in New York and watched closely by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The approach isn’t as revolutionary as Utah’s efforts to set chronically homeless individuals up with apartments and case workers, but it’s close.

It’s a bold vision, no doubt: Instead of shabby tents pitched along pockmarked fields, Watters envisions tidy tracts of fully furnished sleeping cabins, plus a community center, dog park, kennel and landscaped gardens, all with the purpose of easing dozens of the city’s most chronically homeless men and women back into mainstream society. Counting couples, the community could house up to 100 individuals at a time.

A case manager would oversee new entries to the village, conducting needs assessments and developing tailored action plans that could include Affordable Care Act enrollment, addiction treatment, psychiatric aid, employment assistance, life-skills training and other basic services. Stays would max out at a year, but Watters expected most residents to do six-month stints. To save money, bathrooms, showers and other plumbing needs would be consolidated in the community center, while solar batteries would be installed to sop up the sun’s energy.

“It’s a well-thought-out plan,” Watters said.

To pull it off, Safe Ground could need as much as 2.5 acres of city-owned land and about $3 million, which Watters hopes to cobble from the city, foundations, the business community and grants.

It also needs someone to say yes. “It has been part of the problem, and I don’t say that with any judgment of any of the council members,” Watters hedged.

Enter north Sacramento District 2 representative Warren. In early 2013, the councilman, then only a couple months into his freshman term, agreed to meet with Watters. The Safe Ground director planned to make a hard sell. He didn’t need to.

“I went in prepared to do a song and dance, and before I opened my mouth, he said he was sold,” Watters recalled.

The politician and activist may now be closing in on a potential location on which to build. Watters expected to make a formal announcement later this spring or in early summer, though San Miguel framed the prospects more cautiously.

“We’re willing to hear out what [Watters] is envisioning and researching,” she said.

“I’m optimistic,” Watters added. “I have to be.”

The bid will test Warren’s political capital in his district and put him out on a limb that his fellow Sacramento politicians have, thus far, failed to reach out and grab. After all, it’s one thing to say you want to help homeless Sacramentans, and quite another to put your district where your platitudes are.

According to San Miguel, Warren isn’t interested in political calculus.

“The council member doesn’t make decisions based on whether he thinks it’s a good political decision,” she said. “He governs based on what’s important. And this is important.”

It’s also not entirely without controversy. The complex would be designed exclusively for the chronically homeless, those adults who have been living on the streets for a year or longer, rather than the larger ranks of homeless families and youth.

Asked why, Watters said there appeared to be more programs available for the latter groups.

Not so, according to Shahera Hyatt, director of the California Homeless Youth Project.

The only place in the five-county Sacramento region that provides shelter to homeless minors outside of the foster-care system is Wind Youth Services, which has a total of 12 beds at its emergency overnight shelter in north Sacramento. Wind nearly shuttered its popular drop-in center for youth this past fall due to a loss of grant money.

For young homeless adults between the ages of 18 and 24, who have different developmental needs than their older counterparts, Hyatt said there are “zero options.”

“I’m supportive of Safe Ground, and definitely understand the need to respond to chronically homeless adults in a much more robust way than we currently are, but unfortunately, Watters’ assertion that homeless youth and families are being adequately served by existing programs is mistaken,” she said.

Watters thinks the village model that Safe Ground hopes to realize locally can eventually be targeted to other populations. “We want to make it a showcase, something that Sacramento will be proud of and will want to replicate,” he said.

Watters believes naming a possible construction site is still months away.

Watters has seen similar models fall short by cutting corners or moving forward without proper support. He doesn’t want this proposal to end up being another well-intentioned casualty. “I think we can do this really well,” he said.

This particular journey has taken a couple of years already, he added. If it takes a couple more, that would mean opening the village just as Sacramento County’s “10-year plan to end homelessness” reaches its 2016 deadline.

Gratitude Bowls Feed Body & Soul

by Diana Pasquini
San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center
April 2014 Newsletter

Stormy May

Made from excess food and simple ingredients, Gratitude Bowls are meals that are prepared at local restaurants and made available for free to people in need. Participating restaurants are reimbursed by fundraising efforts so that they can continue to buy, prepare, and serve nourishing food in our community. Gratitude Bowls founder Stormy May (pictured right) explained that the inspiration for this project evolved from her love of horses. “I work with horses. I spent many years training horses for sport and pleasure and eventually realized that the horses were being harmed by riding and training. I spent a few years promoting the idea of a sanctuary for horses so that they could live more natural lives, not controlled by humans, except for what's absolutely necessary for their safety and health. I tried to promote this way of being with horses. Then I realized that human consciousness would need to change. In a more peaceful world we would not be forcing horses to do what we want. The breakthrough came when I realized that I needed to help humans. If people feel cared for, they care for others and realize the kinship between all living things.”

Matteos Public with Gratitude Bowls

Believing that the elimination of the fear of hunger by “providing a bowl of good food when needed” would help achieve her vision of a kinder world, Stormy “searched my mind to find a niche that hadn't been explored.” She realized that restaurants were “the perfect places to do this because they already have the ovens, the chefs, and the food.” As a result of her efforts, two Nevada County eateries now provide Gratitude Bowls to those who are in need of a meal. Participating restaurants are the Ridge Café in North San Juan, and Matteo's Public in Nevada City with other restaurants planning to start serving Gratitude Bowls in the coming months.

Those who wish to help support Gratitude Bowls will find prominently displayed donation boxes in each of the participating restaurants. Diners are encouraged to contribute any amount to help cover the additional costs of feeding the hungry. Stormy May is firm in her resolve. “We live in an abundant world and are channeling this into feeding people. We value kindness over money.”

If you are hungry and can not afford to eat, you can receive a free Gratitude Bowls meal at the following locations and times:

Gratitude Bowls
  1. The Ridge Cafe - 29318 Hwy 49, North San Juan
    • Monday - Friday, 7:00 am - 5:00 pm
    • Saturday - Sunday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm.
  2. Matteo's Public - 300 Commercial Street, Nevada City
    • Monday - Thursday, 4:00 pm - 9:30 pm
    • Friday - Saturday, 11:30 am - 5:00 pm, 10:00 pm - 11:00 pm
    • Sunday 11:30 am - 9:30 pm (not available on parade days & summer nights).
  3. Java John's - 306 Broad Street, Nevada City
    • Daily 10:30 am - 4:30 pm.
  4. Crazy Horse Saloon & Grill - 230 Commercial Street, Nevada City
    • Monday - Thursday, 11:30 am - 11:00 pm
    • Friday 11:30 am - 12:00 midnite
    • Saturday 9:30 am - 12:00 midnite
    • Sunday 9:30 am - 11:00 pm.

Help us feed our family by donating to Gratitude Bowls at any of the above eateries. Find us on the web at www.gratitudebowls.org

Lessons of the street

The way to end homelessness is to prevent it in the first place.
by Mollie Lowery
17 March 2014
Opinion Page
Los Angeles Times

Lourdes was 69 years old when I first met her in 2012. She was living next to a bus stop on a busy four-lane street in front of a Silver Lake supermarket. Lourdes had claimed the spot three years earlier, after she was rousted from her encampment in Griffith Park. Before that, she'd lived in her 1973 Toyota, but it was eventually impounded because of overdue parking tickets.

Lourdes was one of the folks we call "chronically homeless." She'd been surviving on the city's margins for 20 years after losing her low-cost housing because of gentrification. When she couldn't find another affordable place to live indoors, she found another way to survive, making do with disability benefits as she struggled on the streets with scoliosis, arthritis and hearing loss.

But just because she didn't have a lot doesn't mean she didn't cost a lot. She cost us taxpayers a heap of money, as she circulated in and out of psych wards and jails. Mind you, Lourdes never sought these services. Her crime was to live in public places, and this was our response.

A homeless man is seen last year sitting in a shady spot at the intersection of 3rd and Main streets in downtown Los Angeles.

A homeless man is seen last year sitting in a shady spot at the intersection of 3rd and Main streets in downtown Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

Before I met her, Lourdes had been approached by several outreach teams offering food, warm clothes and temporary shelter. But in exchange they asked her for a lot of personal information, which she was unwilling to share. Besides, she had one goal — to have a permanent home of her own. No one was offering that. But then one day I took her a housing subsidy voucher application with her name on it, and we had something to start with.

Lourdes began her journey home slowly and cautiously, often overcome by fear and distrust. It took daily visits for three weeks for Lourdes to trust me enough to provide the information required for the application. Applying for an identity card at the DMV involved a whole day of anxiety and panic. Getting six months of bank statements, a Social Security card, and SSI income verification swallowed up another week's efforts.

Each day began with my making new reassurances that if Lourdes got in the car with me, I wouldn't take her to a mental hospital. This level of fear and distrust does not emanate from some genetic pathology. It comes from years of being marginalized, excluded, exposed and traumatized. It comes from living one's life in such a public way, and yet being isolated and invisible. Our journey could only succeed if we, together, could dismantle the years of trauma and build an enduring relationship — a bridge back to a genuine place in the community.

We ultimately succeeded. Lourdes now lives in a senior citizen community. She's a proud American who has a home, privacy and new family.

You can see from this one, small tale that the often-repeated goal of "ending homelessness" is far more complicated than those two words convey. And we'll never get there without understanding the roots of the crisis, which include economic recession, the draining of resources caused by wars (as well as the damaged veterans wars produce), the deinstitutionalization of people with serious mental illness in the 1960s and the failure since then to provide adequate community-based mental health services, urban gentrification with its resulting loss of affordable housing, an influx of immigrants forced to live on society's margins, the ready availability of cheap and damaging drugs and our continuing failure to adequately address such issues as racial tensions, gangs and domestic violence.

In cities across the nation, groups and individuals have tried to solve homelessness with heroic rescue operations — shelters in church basements, food banks, drop-in centers and soup kitchens. And governments have gotten involved, too, with a focus on building and operating affordable housing. But for all the effort and money and good intentions, we've barely made a dent in the number of homeless Americans.

Why? Because we have yet to address the entrenched systems that are hurling people to the margins without an adequate safety net. Yes, with patience, financial resources and a long-term commitment of time and energy, we were able to get Lourdes off the street and into the home she so wanted. But a far more humane, effective — and cheaper — strategy would be to prevent people like Lourdes from winding up homeless in the first place.

As long as we focus on individual pathologies and solutions, we won't touch the problem. In recent years, the nation's priorities have included funding wars in Africa and the Middle East. We've pursued a costly and ineffective "war on drugs" and poured resources into sustaining an economic system that rewards the rich and corporations while penalizing people living in poverty. We've built ever more prisons to house people who are mentally ill or drug abusers. But we haven't looked at how to keep those on society's lowest economic rung from losing their footing and falling into homelessness.

As the country's costly wars in the Middle East wind down, perhaps we can finally focus on some of their victims — homeless veterans and those they share the sidewalks with. Keeping people from ending up on the streets in the first place is the only way we can finally end this immoral, unjust, violation of human rights that we call homelessness.

Longtime homeless advocate Mollie Lowery is the development director for Housing Works.