We are a California non-profit 501(c)(3) non-denominational organization providing support and 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 Lunch Program, allocation of donated Motor Vehicles & Bicycles, Pet Food & Veterinarian Care, Legal & Job Referral Help, Meal / Food Tickets, Sunday BBQ & Baseball Practice, and a Weekly Dream Circle are just a part of the assistance we provide. Here's more on our programs...
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The purpose of this letter is to clarify and sharpen the focus of the issues between Nevada City and Divine Spark, Inc. To set one issue aside, at the onset, it's clear that there is no love lost among the city fathers and mothers, the city manager, and Thomas Streicher, who is an advocate for the homeless and the director of Divine Spark. But that's a personal issue; there is nothing that has occurred, or the conduct of the homeless, that would warrant any hostility from the city or its manager, and it is for that reason that we are writing this letter namely, to clarify that it is unfortunate from the city's point of view that this discussion has become personal.
There does not seem to be any purpose in continued meetings and discussions at the City Council on agenda items, since they never result in anything other than criticism. What's needed at this time is a lease between the city and Divine Spark for the use of a city property that is available at a fair rent at the times when Divine Spark would utilize it. To my knowledge, there is such availability at the sites that have been mentioned in prior discussions. To the extent that the city has expressed concern about hosting the homeless in residential and commercial neighborhoods when they are present for the meals, we have responded to those issues with a proposal for encouraging the homeless to leave the meal site immediately after the meal is over; however, it is not within our control to have the homeless monitored throughout the city so that they are invisible. The issue is whether or not the city is willing to accept the idea that the homeless are citizens of Nevada City and entitled to the same freedom of movement and assembly as any other people in the city. This brings us down to one simple issue: Will or will not the city allow a city property to be leased to serve meals, seven days a week, to homeless people who have no other place to go to eat and to meet with friends and associates.
The City Manager has informed us that he does have the authority to enter into a lease at any time he deems it appropriate. It appears that it is only the fact that the people are homeless that prevents them from entering the buildings, and it is that issue that will keep us picketing City Hall, attending meetings, and speaking out on open time until there is agreement on a lease.
Thomas James Streicher, Ph.D.
Founder/Director, Divine Spark, Inc.
16 February 2012
By Christopher Rosacker
Friday, December 23, 2011
The Union Newspaper
'Tis the season for giving, but for five food-industry business owners December marks the eighth month they have provided vouchers to feed Nevada City and Grass Valley homeless people.
Fudenjüce owner Chuck Stuthard, Subway franchise owner Keith Miller, SPD Markets co-owner David Painter, Grass Valley Quiznos owner Kathryn Jechura and Broad Street Bistro co-owner Theresa Vojtech have worked with Thomas Streicher, founder of the homeless advocacy group Divine Spark, to provide 250 vouchers every week to the homeless in western Nevada County.
"These people know what it is like to be without, and they are coming to bat for others during their time in need," Streicher said. "I feel privileged to work with these caring people."
At a cost of about $5,000 per month, Streicher purchases vouchers at a bulk-rate discount from the businesses. Recipients exchange their five weekly vouchers for food at the corresponding establishments.
Streicher also hands out a bag of food containing a couple sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and usually some fruit or a can or tuna.
"There are a lot of merchants struggling, and I can't give much, but I can certainly open up my restaurant to help feed people," Jechura said. "I want to give to the community. We all need one another. I know it is a good cause for me."
Streicher turned to the business owners after the collapse of his homeless feeding center, housed at the Nevada City Veterans Hall on Pine Street, where he fed between 30 to 60 homeless people five days a week for a cost of about $3,000 per month, according to Streicher's estimates.
Renting the Veterans Hall was costing about $20 per hour, Streicher told The Union, for a monthly total of about $500.
After failed solicitations with the city to increase his operation to a seven-day feeding center, Streicher struck what seemed to be a solid secondary solution with the help of a local restaurant, Amigos & Co., which agreed to feed homeless individuals daily.
With this agreement seemingly secured, Streicher gave his two-week notice to vacate and terminated his lease of the Veterans Hall with Nevada City.
However, within days of Streicher's giving notice, Amigos & Co. backed out of the deal and the city would not reinstate Divine Spark's lease, leaving the homeless feeding center itself without a home.
Amigos & Co. has shut down since then and Streicher has been unsuccessfully appealing to get a new lease somewhere in the area.
With no feeding center, Streicher turned to the voucher program. After nearly a year, he said a majority of the homeless people he services prefer the vouchers because it provides independence to eat when it is convenient for them.
"Why is it a big deal to do something that is simple and the right thing to do? It was one of those things that I could do, so I did," said Miller. "We all need help sometime."
If Streicher doesn't find a place to house his homeless feeding center in the next month, he said he will expand his voucher program to meet the demand of the growing homeless population - something he said isn't ideal when temperatures drop.
"This voucher system cannot survive the winter because it requires the homeless to travel distances not readily accessible during inclement weather conditions," wrote Streicher in a letter to the Nevada City Manager dated Oct. 17. "The need for a facility is now reaching crisis proportions."
Whether Streicher secures a feeding center location or not, he said he plans to continue handing out vouchers.
"It's our way of feeling like we need to give back the community that has been good to us," Vojtech said. "I think socially, it is meaningful and helpful to the community."
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.
We are fortunate to live in the community in which we live. As a community we have a growing love and respect for diversity, an awareness of the importance to be integral players in the many facets crucial to the development of an integrated community, we are in some respects moving towards localizing commerce and thereby becoming empowered towards taking care of ourselves as a community. In our quest for community development we must not forget those of us who are less fortunate. We call them the homeless; when we meet on the street we label them with any number of titles, we turn our heads as if to shun them from our sight, or at worst we work at ridding them from our community. We do not even begin to see the population that we have labeled the homeless. In our busy days and peripherally we see those who have enough courage to face our community. We do not see the invisible--the families, the women and children who are less able to withstand the stigma-but they are there. (continued below...)
By Christopher Rosacker
Saturday, November 12, 2011
The Union Newspaper
Four times a year for the last decade, Divine Spark founder Thomas Streicher has hauled donated frozen turkeys, hams, sewing machines and clothes to one of the largest, poorest Indian reservations in the country.
But the more than 1,300-mile trek from Nevada City to Pine Ridge, South Dakota, before Thanksgiving is especially important, Streicher said.
"We do this to improve relations with the original people of this country. We want to heal the intergenerational trauma of genocide," Steicher said. "We're trying to improve, not only their financial situation, but also improve communication between our two cultures."
(click on the image to see a larger view)
For this year's trip, Streicher is looking for warm donations like sweatshirts, stocking hats, winter clothing and heavy socks to help the Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge.
This will be Streicher's 36th journey 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 US Census Bureau and Colorado State University.
But both institutions agree the reservation is one of the poorest - with pre-recession figures hovering around 80 percent, with 49 percent living below the Federal poverty level.
Divine Spark, Streicher's nonprofit organization dedicated to servicing those in need, has brought more 400 donated sewing machines to Pine Ridge as part of the Lakota Quilts project.
Streicher said the sewing machines have allowed traditional Sioux artists to pursue quilt making, a traditional artform.
Visit www.lakotaquilts.com to see the works.
Streicher will be leaving for Pine Ridge the Sunday before Thanksgiving, but still needs donations. In addition to winter wear, he is also accepting food and monetary contributions.
To donate, call Streicher at (530) 265-2620. He said donations can be dropped off or he will pick them up.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4236.Learn more about our Pine Ridge program here...>>
Dear to my heart and for many years has been the plight of those who are less fortunate. For most of these years I have had this love/fear affair from a distance. It is only recently and through the efforts of Divine Spark that I have actually moved into relationship with the homeless and the less fortunate in a vital to our community way, which is simply to do something. I spent last year on the board of trustees of Divine Spark and while my experiences have been rich in many ways I primarily want to speak to the importance of becoming involved. There are many levels at which one can become involved and each and every one is valid, immensely helpful and fulfilling. Executive Director Tomas Streicher has through Divine Spark provided a service in our community and abroad-we must not forget the divine inspiration for his non profit organization-South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation – this local service however provides opportunity for those in our community who wish to experience making a difference and provides a bit of respite and community atmosphere for those who are less fortunate. (continued below...)
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,
A van donation will change someone's Life.
Divine Spark works in union with other non-profit organizations such as Telecare Bus Service who provides transportation for Nevada County seniors and person's with disabilities, enabling them to maintain their independence and participate in the community.
Bennett Park on Bennett St. near the Freeway Overpass, Grass Valley,
Wednesdays & Fridays at 11:15 am,
Sunday at 10:30 am.
Please arrive 10 minutes early.
Help us assist People in need by making a donation of the following:
There was a time when I walked by our homeless with compassion in my heart but fear in my mind. This is not effective or congruent behavior and my greatest learning has been to drop the fear of those who mirror to us our greatest fears and to move into right relationship with this population. Divine Spark has been a playground of growth for me in many areas. These range from being involved as board member in the necessary mechanics of group dynamics of effective communication to developing hands on report with the clients that are served by Divine Spark. We as human beings have many opportunities to learn through service-perhaps I am most appreciative of the respectful and safe environment that Divine Spark affords this population through the Lunch Program. I am as well a large proponent of self development through what is most simple and most needed now in the ongoing evolutionary process of humanity-We do to feel, meaning that if we get involved we can lose ourselves in the process allowing a greater propensity to feel, which then allows us to drop preconceived judgments, and experience each other as the community of human beings that we are.
Former Divine Spark Boardmember, January 2010