Community Christmas Celebration
at the Stonehouse
Nevada City, California
Thursday, 24th December 2014

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Join Divine Spark at the Stonehouse in Nevada City for their annual Christmas Celebration on December 25th - Everyone Welcome!

Community Holiday Potluck Dinner - Divine Spark, Everyone is welcome, Lots entertainment. Holiday meals items are welcome, last year we had 300 guests, what a feast! So warming! We are taking donation for food, cars, shelter items, tarps, warm clothing, sleeping bag, blanket, socks, shoes, jackets, personal hygiene items for the less fortunate.

Divine Spark is hosting it's Annual Holiday & Christmas Dinner for our homeless & poverty-ravaged neighbors on Christmas Day, Thursday, 12/25/14 at the Old Stonehouse Bar & Grill (107 Sacramento Street, Nevada City). Although dinner will NOT be served at precisely 11am, the event will take place from 11am - 6pm. The vibe for this event will be casual, inclusive, and relaxed, to be sure! There are many volunteer opportunities available, starting as early as 8am to get all the food prep done, and going as late as 8pm, to assist with the clean up. Please consider joining us in this much-needed & worthwhile community endeavor!

Those interested in volunteer opportunities, may contact Shirley Kinghorn at (530) 913-2050 to arrange their participation.....or simply show up at the event, ready to lend a hand. Monetary and food donations are, of course, also welcome, needed, and greatly appreciated!

Plight of homeless at forefront in 2011

By Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The Union Newspaper

Editor's Note: As we head into the promise of a new year, The Union takes one last look back at the top 11 stories of 2011 and the impact they had on our community. The week-long series runs through Saturday, Dec. 31. Today we review our coverage of the homeless, which began with the death of William "Billy" Kelly, a homeless man who was found frozen to death in Nevada City on February 27th.

Old Man Winter visited Nevada County with a vengeance in late February, dropping an estimated three feet of snow in some parts and pounding overnight temperatures into the lower 20s.

When the sun rose on Sunday, Feb. 27, 51-year-old William "Billy" Kelly was dead. His frozen body was found along Miner's Trail, under the Broad Street Bridge in Nevada City.

A descendant of the last Maidu chief, Kelly's death brought the plight of the homeless to the forefront.

There are at least 500 homeless people in the county, according to Hospitality House Executive Director Cindy Maple, whose agency provides services and shelter for many of them.

"It gets more challenging every year, because the struggles are more pronounced with the economy, housing and employment," Maple said, adding that more people are staying homeless longer. "We've seen more people fall into homelessness who normally wouldn't.

"Awareness is absolutely growing. There is a lot of focus on homelessness right now," Maple said. "People are very compassionate and are very concerned."

Shortly after Kelly's death, another severe snowstorm struck in March and Nevada City responded by opening a warming shelter for two days, at an estimated combined cost of about $2,000 to the various organizations involved.

This season, Nevada City already opened a warming shelter in November, thanks largely to help from the Salvation Army, which coordinates most of the services and planning. Other partners include Nevada County Health and Human Services, Behavioral Health and Pet Services, the Food Bank of Nevada County, and the Hospitality House.

Homeless advocacy group Divine Spark also offers services in Nevada City. With the help of five local business owners, Divine Spark hands out 250 vouchers a week (at a cost of about $5,000 per month) that are exchangeable for food.

Divine Spark founder Thomas 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.

Vickie Goddard
Vickie Goddard, a Hospitality House guest, reads a book Tuesday afternoon
at the homeless service provider's Welcome Center, located at
230 S. Church St. in Grass Valley.
Photo for The Union by Annita Kasparian

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.

With no feeding center, Streicher turned to the voucher program, which he said he will expand if he isn't able to find a place to rent to house his hoped-for seven-day feeding center.

Streicher said his services are need more than ever, as he works with a population that has grown to nearly 300. Some live in homeless camps - or tent cities - on the outskirts of Grass Valley and Nevada City.

In November, a retired police officer shed light on the possible environment and health hazards of the conditions at a Bennett Street camp on private land in Grass Valley.

After hearing of these conditions, a Penn Valley couple took it upon themselves to bag one-and-a-half tons of decades-old accumulated waste, despite being officially designated as trespassers.

When word spread of Shane Slattery's and Heather Gereau's camp cleaning efforts, locals rallied to support them. Some offered to help bag trash, haul it away, cover gas or dumping charges and even just to ensure the couple can afford food while they toiled.

Slattery and Gereau moved on to a second camp of Coyote Street in Nevada City, with plans to keep cleaning.

Their goal is to get the camps to a point where it is only a matter of maintenance, enlisting campers themselves to do the cleaning and volunteers hauling the bags away.

Getting the campers to clean is one thing, getting them out of the camps is another matter.

"It is difficult to get these people connected to services," Maple said, as campers are more isolated and less visible than homeless people who qualify for Hospitality House's services, which prohibits pets, intoxicated clients and violent offenders.

In October, the Hospitality House closed escrow on a 6,500-square-foot facility at 1262 Sutton Way in Grass Valley that will become the organization's permanent home, providing year-round overnight sleeping quarters for as many as 54 guests.

Since Veteran's Day 2004, Hospitality House itself has been somewhat homeless, acting as coordinator and transporting guests to a rotation of host faith community center for dinners and overnight shelter.

Hospitality House has a welcome center at 230 S. Church St., downtown Grass Valley, where guests have access showers and social services.

The new facility is named after the late Hospitality House co-founder and homeless advocate Bruce "Utah" Phillips; "Utah's Place" will include a memorial library featuring some of his books, papers and music, said Phillips' widow and current board president, Joanna Robinson.

"The bigger thing for me is we're struggling every day to handle the numbers we're seeing every day," Maple said of Hospitality House. "The challenge is to not turn people away every day."

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, e-mail or call (530) 477-4236.

Community Christmas Celebration
at the Veterans Hall
Nevada City, California
23rd & 24th December 2011

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Community Christmas Celebration at the Nevada City Vets Hall, Dec. 23rd & 24th

Two days of Divine Spark Christmas
Homeless advocacy group Divine Spark will provide free food and festivities to those in need from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 24, and Sunday, Dec. 25, at the Nevada City Veteran's Hall, 415 North Pine St.
"This is my apex of the season," said Divine Spark founder Thomas Streicher, "It's a really important event to me personally."
The focus of the event is health and wellness from a holistic perspective. Included in the event will be health care providers, a women's drum circle, a shamanic healing circle and music from 25 musicians playing for an hour each, as well as other entertainment. There will be a Christmas tree loaded with goodies for the children.
"We play a lot of songs from the heart," Streicher said. "When you sing them, people get what it feels like to be homeless and that's important because some people don't understand it." "It's unusual because we're offering a different perspective (to Christmas) - it's a different way of healing and belief," Streicher said of the event in its sixth year. "If you come to the event, you will get the feeling of being a part of something."

Protesters call for 7-day homeless feeding center in Nevada City

By Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer
Thursday, October 27, 2011
The Union Newspaper

As the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations dominate headlines in cities across the country, a handful activists took to the sidewalk in front of Nevada City Hall Wednesday night pleading for a place to provide a homeless feeding center somewhere in the city

Seven people holding signs that read "Please rent us a place to eat" garnered horn honks from passing drivers and questions from passersby. The protesters marched in the hour before a Nevada City Council meeting.

"We're not asking for a hand out," said Thomas Streicher, founder of the advocacy group Divine Spark, emphasizing the «please» and «rent» portions of his request.

Streicher organized the protest after a series of correspondence with City Manager David Brennan had yet to yield a viable location to rent a feeding center in Nevada City.

Streicher had been feeding between 30 to 60 homeless five days a week at the Veterans Building on Pine Street in Nevada City 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.

However, after failed solicitations to increase his agreement with the city to make the operation a seven day feeding center, Streicher struck what seemed to be a secondary solution with the help of a local restaurant, Amigos & Co., to instead feed the homeless seven days a week. With this agreement seemingly secured, Streicher gave his two-week notice to vacate and terminate his lease on the Veterans Building with Nevada City.

No sooner had Streicher given his notice to terminate his lease with the city then Amigos backed out of the deal, leaving the homeless feeding center itself without a home.

Amigos & Co. has closed its doors since then.

Streicher unsuccessfully appealed to reinstate his lease, but Streicher had to get creative to feed his more than 100 homeless with vouchers instead. At a cost of about $5,000 per month, Streicher secured bulk-rate discounts with SPD Market, Broad Street Bistro, Fudenjüce, Subway and Quiznos.

"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 city Manager dated Oct. 17. "The need for a facility in now reaching crises proportions."

In the most recent correspondence, Streicher said the city manager is advising against placing a feeding center in a resident neighborhood and advising against returning to the Veterans building. Copies of the correspondence show that Brennan advises looking into the old National Guard Armory on Zion Street and Ridge Road.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, e-mail or call (530) 477-4236.

NC Council moves forward with homeless cold shelter

By Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The Union Newspaper

Nevada City's Council took steps toward implementing a warming house for area homeless during extreme weather conditions.

Just where such a warming center will be located, how it will operate, when it opens and who manages it is yet to be decided.

"There is no question that this is a compelling concern," said Councilman Robert Bergman. "It's a question of how, not if."

Council members unanimously passed a motion to continue to engage with the Nevada County Department of Social Services, Grass Valley's Hospitality House, the American Red Cross, the Food Band, the Salvation Army and other area service providers and concerned parties to plan the operation of a warming center for at least this year.

In the meantime, the Council also gave the City Manager David Brennan the authority to implement a warming house in the event a major storm strikes in the next few weeks until the City can put a more permanent plan in place for this winter.

"This is the short-term solution," Brennan said.

Brennan suggested the council members keep their eye on a long-term solution for the City's homeless population to remain safe during extreme weather.

The warming center issue comes to the Council roughly eight months after the freezing death of William "Billy" Kelly, a well-known Nevada City transient and a descendant of the last Maidu chief, who was found dead under a Nevada City bridge in late February.

According to the Nevada County Sheriff's coroner's report, Kelly's death was a result of "environmental hypothermia from sleeping underneath (the Broad Street bridge over Highway 49) in freezing weather," noted Sgt. Paul Schmidt, chief deputy coroner.

"The manner of his death is accidental," Schmidt noted. "(Kelly) showed no sign of foul play."

Following Kelly's death, Divine Spark founder Thomas Streicher, as well as others, called for Nevada County and area communities to provide better emergency services.

"There will be more deaths in Nevada City, I know we don't want that," Streicher said at the meeting, stressing the need for a warming center.

Streicher added that Divine Spark, located at 308 Main Street, Suite 6 in Nevada City, services more than 200 homeless people and said that population is growing.

Shortly after Kelly's death, another severe snowstorm struck in March, during which Nevada City opened a warming shelter that cost about $2,000 to operate for two days. The effort was coordinated by the City with resource help from the county Department of Social Services and General Services, Hospitality House, the Red Cross, the Food Bank and volunteers.

Moving forward, Martha Sheppard from the Salvation Army offered logistical support in coordination, management, facilities, training of volunteers and, possibly, even liability insurance. Other organizations offering support at the meeting were Hospitality House and Divine Spark.

What weather conditions will qualify for opening of the prospective emergency warming center is a topic that council members and concerned parties in attendance expressed a need to articulate.

"That is going to be the tricky part is nailing the threshold of putting the warming center into motion," said Councilwoman Reinette Senum.

Minutes from a Sept. 27 subcommittee meeting of the Continuum of Care Committee lists 28 degrees in dry weather or 32 degrees with snow or high winds as a proposed threshold to open an emergency warming center. It also suggests "copious" amounts of precipitation be a determining factor.

With as many as 60 days in the coming season that would qualify for those conditions, Alison Lehman, director of Nevada County's social services, suggested that Nevada City act quickly.

Council also gave permission to the city manager to work with merchants and residents who have reservations with the proposed location of the warming house at the Nevada City Veteran's Building, 415 N. Pine St.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, e-mail or call (530) 477-4236.

Divine Spark feeds homeless through voucher program

By Brian Hamilton
Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The Union Newspaper

Since withdrawing from its lease agreement with Nevada City to host lunches for the homeless at the Veterans Hall, Divine Spark's meal program itself has been without a home.

To keep providing food for those in need, the nonprofit's director said he had to get creative and dig deeper into its donated funds.

The result has been a voucher program in which Divine Spark has partnered with five area businesses, said Thomas Streicher, Divine Spark founder.

"I see it as a real win-win situation for both sides," Streicher said. "Divine Spark funds the coupons, but we get them at a discount because we're buying in bulk from the businesses.

"It's not a total donation for them, they do make some money off it, and they help the homeless, so it's a good thing."

Lunch Vouchers
Divine Spark is providing vouchers from five area businesses to feed homeless people in the Nevada City area.
Photo for The Union by John Hart

Streicher said SPD Market, Beach Hut Deli, Broad Street Bistro, Fudenjüce and Summer Thyme's have all agreed to participate in the program, selling gift certificates to Divine Spark, which then provides them to homeless each week.

"I guess it's kind of one of those ‘There but for the grace of God...'" said Dave Painter, co-owner of SPD Market, explaining why his business participates in the program. "It could quite easily happen to a number of people.

"Homeless people are just as much part of the community as anyone else. This is one of those things where we are part of the community, always have been, and we try to help out where we can."

On Sundays, Streicher said he disburses envelopes containing coupons from each business to between 50 and 60 people. He showed a list with the first names of 103 homeless people he intends to help through the meal program.

"The numbers are growing now, too," Streicher said. "I've got to bring in more money to cover it."

Divine Spark is completely funded by donations, Streicher said, noting his organization receives no financial assistance from government agencies.

Streicher says Divine Spark started out five years ago, feeding about a dozen people once a week. But by the time he terminated the lease to use the Veterans Hall, with intention on teaming up with a local restaurant to host the lunches, the organization was feeding 30 to 60 people each five days a week at a cost about $3,000 per month. Renting the Veterans Hall at $20 per hour for each day's lunch cost about $500 a month, Streicher said.

Now he said he plans to spend about $5,000 each month on the voucher program, with hopes of eventually finding a place to host lunches by October when cold weather returns to the area.

"This is only a Band-Aid to the problem," Streicher said, adding that he estimates nearly 300 homeless people living in the Nevada City area.

People needing assistance with meals, Streicher said, should contact him at Divine Spark, 308 Main St., Suite 6, in Nevada City, or by phone at 265-2620. Visit the website www.Divine for more information on the program.

To contact City Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail or call (530) 477-4249.

A handout or a hand up?

As community comes to grip with homeless dilemma, Divine Spark looks to extend help
By Brian Hamilton
Staff Writer
Thursday, March 24, 2011
The Union Newspaper

Perhaps calling them "the homeless" makes it easier for people to dismiss the problem.

But Tomas Streicher says the people he is trying to help are first and foremost human beings.

Stereotyping their circumstances makes it easier to cast them off as "bums," "loafers" or "transients," but Streicher says they are real people with real stories and real names - when they feel confident enough to share them.

Streicher, 56, started feeding people stricken by poverty about six years ago, when his nonprofit organization "Divine Spark" took over operations of a community Christmas dinner.

Soon thereafter he began providing lunch on a weekly basis at the Madelyn Helling Library and during the past few years he's expanded his meal program to five days per week at the Nevada City Veterans Memorial building.

Streicher is looking to now offer free meals seven days per week, as the Nevada City Council is considering opening the Veterans Hall to be used by homeless people as shelter on nights with subfreezing temperatures (See related story).

Community members have called for a safe haven for the homeless in such weather, after the body of 51-year-old William "Billy" Kelly was found under the Highway 49 overpass following a freezing-cold February night.

The services Streicher and Divine Spark provide, which included handing out thermal underwear to those attending Wednesday's lunch, are essential to those in need, said 58-year-old "Christopher," who provided only his first name.

A construction worker who was laid off from a company nearly two years ago, Christopher had turned to work as a handyman. But when more contractors were forced to shift to smaller projects due to a stymied construction industry, small jobs were suddenly tough to find.

And after being hospitalized for an infection last summer, the best time for construction work, he suddenly could not pay his rent and found himself without a place to live.

"There's a shame with this," Christopher said. "Being a camper, at first I went out into the woods. It was a struggle, but I was able to get food stamps. But then I got snowed out of the mountains. Now I'm sleeping in my van.

"I'm new to this. I've been coming here for about five weeks now. This group has been really helpful. I didn't know what to do."

Streicher says Divine Spark started out feeding about a dozen people, but now provides meals for anywhere from 30 to 60 each day. It typically costs about $3,000 per month to provide the lunches, and he expects to add another $1,000 or more if Divine Spark provides meals seven days a week.

Maureen Hostetler
Maureen Hostetler talks about the services provided by Divine Spark
during Wednesday's luncheon at the Nevada City Veterans Hall.
Photo for The Union by John Hart

He said renting the Veterans Hall costs $20 per hour for each day's lunch, which would increase to $140 per week. Divine Spark, he said, is completely dependent on private donations and does not receive any funding from government agencies.

While a graduate school student, Streicher spent time researching spirituality at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He quickly was "appalled by the conditions they were living under" and found the reservation to be "a good place to start" his work with the poor.

He continues to support families he met there, traveling back four times each year to provide services. Divine Spark has helped set up a website - - to help women there sell their quilts.

Streicher's drive to help homeless people in Nevada City extends beyond serving them lunch. He has also served as an advocate for them, whether at community events or City Council meetings.

On Feb. 9, he told City Council that homeless people were having their civil rights violated with the Nevada City police taking their possessions. That was just more than two weeks before Billy Kelly was found dead and similar allegations swirled that officers had taken his bedding. The NCPD denies taking Kelly's possessions.

Maureen Hostetler said she's been sleeping underneath the Pine Street bridge for the past four days. Born and raised in Nevada County, the 54-year-old woman said she didn't want to move to Modesto with her friend after they recently lost the home they rented.

"Right now I'm going through hard times," said Hostetler, a home-care provider. "This is the hardest I've had it in my whole life, but I am looking for work. I cook and clean and help (elderly) people).

"The main thing I want to say is that we are human beings, but what they did to Billy wasn't so humane. And we really miss him."

Some Nevada City merchants have criticized Divine Spark's work, suggesting offering meals each day actually is more of a handout rather than a hand up. Streicher agrees that it's a fine line.

"We do think about that part of it," he said. "When does it turn into a codependency or turn into an enabling situation that is not going to be conducive to their well being? I'll say this. We believe we do have good boundaries with the homeless people we help."

During a memorial service for Kelly in downtown Nevada City, former mayor and current councilwoman Reinette Senum said it was time for the community to "walk the walk" and do something for the homeless.

"You can't point a finger and say to any one entity that 'it's your job to take care of this problem,'" Senum said Wednesday. "It takes everyone. It takes the police department, the City Council, the city staff, merchants, residents, churches and nonprofit organizations. Everyone is responsible for doing their part.

Roxanne Harrison
Roxanne Harrison serves food to the homeless on Wednesday
in the basement of the Nevada City Veterans Hall on North Pine Street.
Photo for The Union by John Hart

"That's what I mean by it's time to 'walk the walk.'"

Streicher said since Kelly's death he's seeing some changes for the good, in terms of people being more willing to discuss the issue.

"I see it happening," he said. "I like that, and we want it to continue. What we don't want to happen is that we get what we want and things return to normal. But, yes, I do see some cohesiveness happening right now.

"And why shouldn't it? How many people do you know who might be a couple of paychecks away from being homeless around this community?"

Christopher, the laid-off construction worker who has faced that exact scenario, wants people to know he does have a plan.

"When spring and summer comes, my jobs should get going and I should be able to get back on my feet," he said. "What people need to understand is that there are a whole gamut of people here who are homeless or need these services.

"There are people out there trying. There really are."

To contact City Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail or call (530) 477-4249.

Indian community to donate $1,000 to support Divine Spark

Special to The Union Newspaper
Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tribal members from the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC) along with members of other local Maidu tribes, service organizations and friends of William Kelly will gather Monday in Nevada City near the bridge where his body was found to remember his life.

Kelly passed away about three weeks ago after his body was recovered outside during the tail end of a freezing snow storm along Miners Trail under the Broad Street Bridge. Friends of Kelly are seeking to rename the trail and place a memorial plaque in his honor.

Chairman David Keyser of the UAIC is expected present a check in the amount of $1,000 at the event to Divine Spark director Dr. Thomas Streicher to assist in his fight against homelessness in Nevada County. Divine Spark was assisting Kelly and continues to help other homeless residents of Nevada County by providing free lunches, care for pets and other types of support.

Attendees will meet at 11 a.m. at the parking lot at the corner of Broad Street and Nevada Street in Nevada City and walk together across the street to the location near the Broad Street Bridge where William Kelly's body was found.

Second fatality raises concerns

Homeless man found dead was descendant of last Maidu chief
By Liz Kellar
Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The Union Newspaper

The death of Nevada City native William Kelly - whose frozen body was discovered on Miners Trail under the Broad Street bridge Sunday night - is raising concerns about the treatment of the homeless in Nevada City.

It is not clear whether Kelly died from exposure - or even exactly when he died. But according to several people in the community, Kelly had complained that his gear, including his bedding, had been taken by Nevada City Police.

This is the second recent incident in which a homeless man was found dead on a freezing-cold night; Mark Rye was found in his sleeping bag outside a Grass Valley business Jan. 10.

Kelly, 51, was a descendant of the last Maidu chief, Chief Kelly, for whom Chief Kelly Road in Nevada City is named, said John Fletcher, who got to know Kelly during his volunteer work at the lunch program for the homeless organized by Divine Spark. The Maidu are a local indigenous tribe.

William Kelly
William Kelly
The Union file photo

"He grew up here, went to school here from kindergarten to high school, and lived here all his life, as far as we know," Fletcher said. "He was a sweet, kind man who had a problem with alcohol."

John Fletcher and his wife, Irene, hosted a discussion with several of Kelly's friends on KVMR Tuesday afternoon.

"The last time we saw him was a week ago Monday when he came in for lunch," Irene Fletcher said. "As he was leaving, I insisted that he take a couple of sandwiches with him, as there was no lunch on Tuesday. He put his arms around me and hugged me."

"I lost my brother," said longtime friend Dave Figge.

Several of Nevada City's homeless - who did not want to be named because they fear retaliation - said Kelly had complained several weeks prior to his death that his bedroll had been taken, and that it wasn't the first time.

"He had been (griping) his stuff had been stolen, and he was going to freeze his butt off," said one man, who added that Kelly often would give him a blanket or even his own coat when he had none.

"To take his blankets away, you might as well have held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger," a woman said.

According to KVMR News Director Paul Emery, Nevada City Lt. Lorin Gage said the last time anyone from his department had seized anything belonging to the homeless was on Jan. 25, and that no one had come to the department to claim their belongings. Gage could not be reached for comment as of presstime.

Kelly - who had not been seen by any of his friends since Thursday - was found after temperatures bottomed into the low-20s following a massive winter storm that dropped up to three feet of snow in some parts of Nevada City. His cause of death was pending toxicology results, said Nevada County Coroner Paul Schmidt.

Divine Spark founder Thomas Streicher said he had known Kelly for about five years, since he began the homeless lunch program.

"He did come to me about two weeks ago, and complain his gear was taken by Nevada City police," Streicher said. "His gear was repeatedly being taken from him - that's what he reported to us."

Nevada County desperately needs more emergency assistance, and not just for the homeless, Streicher said.

"That's what needs to change," he added.

Tuesday afternoon, several of Kelly's friends toasted his memory with a beer and a mini-bottle of whiskey, recalling as many funny stories about him as they could. A memorial is being planned for 5 p.m. Friday at the "bark house" on Broad and Union streets, Streicher said.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call (530) 477-4229.


Non-profit gives those on the fringes a sense of hope
By Scott Gilbert
For the Nevada City Advocate
A Free News & Entertainment Newspaper Serving Nevada City, Grass Valley
December 2010

Thomas Streicher says he loves helping feed those in need, but you need to see him in action to get a sense of just how important it is to him.

Whether he is urging someone to take more spaghetti or strumming his guitar while folks eat that spaghetti, his joy and passion infuse a project that has just as many problems and obstacles as you might expect.

Thomas Streicher, the founder of Divine Spark, enjoys some dog time outside the Nevada City Veterans Hall where his organization feeds the hungry five days a week. Photo by Scot Gilbert

Streicher's organization, Divine Spark, serves a free meal five days a week at 1:15 p.m. at the Veterans Hall on Commercial Street in Nevada City. The non-profit started as a project to help the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota, but in the past five years has grown to fill an important need in Nevada City.

Beginning by serving just one meal a week, Streicher and his volunteers now provide lunch for up to 250 people a week, as well as offering other crucial services to those living on the fringes.

A visit to one of the lunches at the Veterans Hall reveals a group of people in a fairly wide variety of circumstance, but all of them are happy to have a hot meal.

Some hurry in and eat quickly, remaining as anonymous as they can. Others are eager to tell you their story. According to Streicher, almost everyone is a local with family or connections in this area.

The most common refrain is gratitude for what Streicher and Divine Spark are doing.

Chiropractor Rich Oberleitner volunteers when he has the time. He serves food with a smile on his face, which fits in great with the generally positive atmosphere at the meals.

"Feeding people is the most basic kind of service," Oberleitner says.

Some of the folks Divine Spark helps have drug problems, some are clearly sleeping rough, and some fit the homeless stereotype fairly well. Others, however, are working or recently laid off, have places to stay, and just need a little bit of help to get through a rough patch.

Thomas Streicher plays the guitar while volunteers prepare food at the Veterans Hall. The non-profit serves an average of 50 people per meal. Photo by Scott Gilbert

Besides food and donated items like blankets, dog food and assistance for pets are highly prized. One man insists that any article that doesn't include the story of how Streicher got his dog free veterinary care isn't worth writing. Another man is just grateful that someone is paying any attention at all.

Streicher focuses on helping people in need, whatever that need is. He says he "doesn't want to get politically involved. I want to remain service-oriented."

But he was a sergeant in the Marines and can be tough when it comes to what he thinks is right. This past summer he tried (unsuccessfully) to get the Nevada City Council to reduce the rent Divine Spark pays for its five hours a week in the Veterans Hall, and he was willing to ruffle some feathers along the way.

But when he grabs his guitar and gleefully says "anybody want some music with their food?" you know that he is going to keep helping people in need, and doing it with joy, no matter what.~~

Local residents bring Christmas cheer to others

Saturday, December 25, 2010
By Kyle Magin
Staff Writer
The Union Newspaper

Volunteers busied themselves uncovering huge tubs of salads and checking on turkeys as they cooked in the basement of the Nevada City Veterans Hall Friday.

They worked to prepare lunch for western Nevada County's needy, arranging table settings with holiday-colored bright green plastic cups and red napkins.

"I'm a sucker for volunteering," said Jerry Mehren of Grass Valley as he used a hose to clean a sink basin. "I'm disabled and I can't work, so instead, I volunteer."

He was one of 65 volunteers expected to help out with the two-day Divine Spark Annual Christmas Celebration. It's the event's fifth year running, said Divine Spark Executive Director Thomas Streicher.

"It's not a formal, sit-down event or anything like that," Streicher said.

Divine Spark's goals are to serve lunch each day to the homeless and needy and provide a place for them to celebrate Christmas, Streicher added.

While the volunteers readied Friday's lunch, visitors to the celebration took in a drumming performance next to a Christmas tree in the building's top floor.

Jim and Starr Palumbo

Jim Palumbo adds sautéed onions to turkey stuffing, while wife Starr Palumbo adds more ingredients at the Nevada City Veterans Hall in preparation for the Christmas dinner offered by Divine Spark from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today. The hall is at 415 N. Pine St., Nevada City. Photos for The Union by John Hart

"It's really a whole community celebration, lots of people help out," Streicher said.

Divine Spark, a local non-profit, serves five meals each week at the Veterans Hall, and was providing medical and spiritual services at the event as well.

While some donated their time, Bob "Farmer Bob" Keyser was donating a tree.

After selling Christmas trees for the past month, Keyser was giving them away on Christmas Eve from a lot off of Olympia Park Circle in Grass Valley.

"It's something I do every year," Keyser said, as he strapped a tree to the hood of Penn Valley resident Paula Onescu's car. "There's a few people who always come by today."

Onescu tried to pay Keyser for the tree, but he'd have none of it.

"I've been working 14 hour days... and I had to have a tree for my grandson when he comes tomorrow," Onescu, a hairdresser, said.

She wasn't the only one preparing for Christmas at the last minute.

Jay Gorcyca, in from San Luis Obispo to see family in Grass Valley, pulled an empty cart out of a stall at the K-Mart off of McKnight Way Friday morning.

"I drove up with my wife and we really didn't have much room in the car for presents," Gorcyca said. "That's my story, anyway. I hope they still have some good stuff in there. And wrapping paper."

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

Thursday, December 23, 2010
The Union staff
The Union Newspaper

Christmas meals celebrating health and well-being will be offered Friday and Saturday, Dec. 24 and 25, in Nevada City.

"Our desire is to invite the transcending spirits of gratitude, compassion and empathy to join us in our Christmas ... celebration!" wrote organizers of the meals offered by Divine Spark, a Nevada City nonprofit organization.

Doors open at 9 a.m. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the Nevada City Veterans Hall, 415 N. Pine St., downtown Nevada City. Food will be served starting at 10 a.m.

This year's annual celebration will include many health services offered by local practitioners. Services include medical, dental, optometry, ayurvedic and nutritional consultations; beautician and esthetician services; manicures and pedicures; and acupressure, breath work, drumming, energy work, homeopathy, massage, meditation, poetry and storytelling, reiki, reflexology, tai chi, qi gong and tarot readings.

Divine Spark provides support and guidance for people in need, calling to activate the divine spark within each of them. Founded by Thomas Streicher, the nonprofit is based at 308 Main St., Suite 6, Nevada City.

For more information, visit or call (530) 265-2620.

'Spirits of gratitude and compassion'
Juli Baggett, right, peels potatoes, Starr Palumbo, center, makes turkey stuffing, and husband Jim Palumbo sautés onions in the Nevada City Veterans Hall kitchen. All is in preparation for the Christmas dinner offered by Divine Spark from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today at 415 N. Pine St., Nevada City. Photo for The Union by John Hart

Christmas Celebration set for Dec. 24-25, 2010, Divine Spark will hold its annual Nevada City Community Christmas Celebration from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Dec. 24 - 25, 2010, at the Nevada City Veterans Hall. The celebration will include live music and dinner. Divine Spark also serves free meals for one hour beginning at 1:15 p.m. on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the Veterans Hall at North Pine and Cottage streets. If you would like to volunteer, make a contribution or learn more about this organization, visit

Nevada City Council hones in on loitering, lunch program

Thursday, August 26, 2010
By Michelle Rindels
Staff Writer
The Union Newspaper

Nevada City police and councilmembers brainstormed new tactics Wednesday to root out an entrenched loitering problem.

People sitting on the sidewalk of Commercial Street with outstretched legs intimidate pedestrians and tourists, business owners have said.

Since the council discussed the issue a few weeks ago, Mayor Robert Bergman attempted to talk with the loiterers about their behavior. That was unsuccessful; he now plans to write out the city's expectations and hand it out to the loiterers.

Police are limited in how they can control the lingering: Voters handily rejected an anti-loitering ordinance placed on the ballot in 1998, according to City Manager Gene Albaugh.

Bergman commended police officers for holding public workshops with business owners to devise solutions for the problem.

"Through your continued efforts, things are getting better," Bergman said.

Meals for the homeless

City councilmembers voted to take no action to cut rent for Divine Spark, a nonprofit that provides free meals for the homeless.

Divine Spark rents the Nevada City Veterans Building during lunchtime five days a week to feed about 50 homeless people at a time. The city charges $20 per hour for the rental; Divine Spark asked for a 50 percent reduction.

City staff said such a discount is not possible, even if the cause is noble.

"We're just breaking even," said City Attorney Hal DeGraw. "If we go below the break-even point, this becomes a gift of public funds, which is precluded by law."

City councilmembers in April authorized Divine Spark to serve from the Veterans Building five days a week, up from two days a week.

The relationship between city representatives and Divine Spark Director Tomas Streicher has been tense in recent weeks. Bergman confronted Streicher at Wednesday's meeting for leaving packages of leftover food behind a cedar tree in Calanan Park.

Streicher said he didn't want to waste the food and hoped homeless people could pick it up. Albaugh said that was unacceptable, posed a health risk and could inflame a rodent problem.

Councilmembers suggested Streicher fundraise to cover Divine Spark's costs, or ask other organizations to donate space for the meals. Streicher said three downtown churches declined his requests for space.

"I think we should get the churches more involved," said councilwoman Reinette Senum, who abstained from the vote. "That's a central role of the churches."

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

Non-profit to serve more free meals at Vet's Building

By the Nevada City Advocate
May 2010

A successful appeal to the Nevada City council means that a local nonprofit can serve the homeless and working poor two more meals a week at the Veteran's Building.

Thomas Streicher, the founder and president of Divine Spark, brought the request to the council after City Manager Gene Albaugh had previously rejected it.

"I felt that we needed the building for other opportunities," Albaugh said at the April 14 council meeting.

Divine Spark had been serving lunch three days a week at the building at 415 Pine Street. Streicher, who testified he serves an average of 75 people at the free lunches, wanted to extend that to five days a week.

There was no opposition to the request, while five residents testified in favor of it.

The council voted 5-0 for the extension as long as Divine Spark agreed to continue paying a $20 an hour rental fee and to not use the facility if there is a scheduling conflict.

The non-profit has been serving the free lunches from noon to 1 p.m. on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Park and Recreation Supervisor Dawn Zydonis will work with Streicher to schedule the additional two days per week.

Divine Spark is located at 308 Main Street, Suite 6, in Nevada City. To learn more about the organization or to make a donation, visit or call 530-265-2620.

To: City Council of Nevada City,
      Gene Albaugh, City Manager

Re: Divine Spark's Use of the Veterans' Hall
      On Council Agenda for April 14, 2010

Dear City Council and City Manager:

For the last year or so my son Evan and I have been involved with preparing and serving meals to the homeless with the non-profit (and non-denominational) organization Divine Spark. It started with a third grade community service project Mrs. Darden assigned Evan at Deer Creek and has grown from there. It has been an honor and a pleasure for me to participate in this community endeavor. Evan continues to participate regularly in serving meals, and he sometimes plays the piano while people eat their lunch.

Dr. Thomas Streicher, the founder and director of Divine Spark, has been consistently feeding local homeless for over four years. The program now provides lunches to the needy three times a week, currently at the NC Veterans' Hall. The Veterans' Hall is not ideal, and Divine Spark is looking to purchase or rent its own facility. But for now, it is what they have. Divine Spark always leaves the place as clean as (or cleaner than) when they arrived and are finished with the entire meal in about an hour. People disperse after the meal and many take the bus generously provided as a community service by Gold Country Telecare.

Weekly Lunch at the Nevada City Vets Hall

I also happen to live on Cottage Street, just a few doors up from the Veterans' Hall. I have spoken to some of my neighbors, including Gene and Gail Fox at 115 Cottage Street and Jenny Darlington Person, who lives directly across the street from the Hall. There were no complaints from anybody with whom I spoke. I think they all recognize that the homeless and less fortunate are among us, and that we are all better off if they are not hungry.

Dr. Streicher wishes to expand Divine Spark's program to five lunches a week. Mr. Albaugh has told him that this is not permitted, because this is not "the intended use" of the Veterans' Building. I am curious about Mr. Albaugh's authority for his interpretation of "intended use." On what is this based? Do the Veterans have anything to say about the "intended use" of their building? I understand that the Veterans support us and I know personally that we serve many veterans on a weekly basis.

Certainly, if there was a problem or concern raised by any of the neighbors, by the City, or by the veterans themselves, we should know about it so that it can be corrected. We have heard no such complaints. From my perspective, it seems arbitrary and capricious to deny Divine Spark the right to rent the Hall. (There are currently more than three "Zumba" classes a week and they are much louder and more boisterous than we are! As are the late evening teenage gatherings that the neighbors have complained about in the past).

I regret that I cannot attend the Council meeting on April 14th in person to speak out in favor of allowing this group to expand to five meals a week, but I will be returning from Washington DC late that evening. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

M. Catherine Jones
Nevada City, California
March 29, 2010

Council OKs lunch for homeless

By Michelle Rindels
Thursday, April 15, 2010
The Union Newspaper

Lunch for the homeless will now be available five days a week at the Nevada City Veterans building.

A group from the nonprofit Divine Spark successfully appealed City Manager Gene Albaugh's decision not to expand the group's current three-day-per-week rental, which costs $20 per hour.

Booking Divine Spark lunches, which attract up to 75 people, can cause scheduling conflicts with other groups who want to rent the building. Expanding to five days per week could result in a loss of rent revenue.

Divine Spark Director Tomas Streicher, backed up by a dozen people affiliated with the group, read an emotional letter urging the council to have compassion on the homeless by extending the rental.

One man who testified said he was living in a van given to him by Streicher. With cuts in library hours, Divine Spark lunches offered another place to hang out.

"It's good to have a place just to go for another hour in the day," said the man, who identified himself as Tom.

When the council voted to allow the rental up to five days a week, the small Divine Spark group broke out in triumphant applause. Group members were so loud, talking and hugging one another on their way out of council chambers, that council members had to shush them.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

A warm meal and the warmth of giving help those in need

By David Mirhadi
Friday, December 26, 2008
The Union Newspaper

They braved the snow and treacherous roads, trudging in by car and on foot for a few minutes of good food, good music and good vibes.

Some of them were homeless, others car-less, and still others were meting out a tenuous existence.

But on this day, this Christmas, they were equal, and no one asked who they were or what brought them to the Great Hall inside the Miners Foundry Cultural Center.

"I'm just gonna hang out with family," said Travis Cooper of Nevada City, digging into a hot meal while a guitarist strummed popular tunes. "I'm just thankful for being alive."

They were served heaping plates of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and just about everything that makes Christmas a holiday to remember, complete with presents for them under a Christmas tree.

Christmas at the Miners Foundry, Nevada City

It was a common scene writ large for Tomas Streicher, the founder and organizer of Divine Spark, a nonprofit that serves weekly meals to those less fortunate in western Nevada County. The dinner on Thursday saw more than 500 partake of holiday generosity, made possible by legions of volunteers who gave of their time and goods.

"We're trying to give gifts and raise consciousness of there being another perspective of how people live their lives," Streicher said. "We want to be more giving to others."

For three years, Streicher has served a free weekly community meal at the Madelyn Helling Library's community room. In addition to providing meals, Divine Spark also gives out meal tickets to those who need them, while spreading a non-threatening message of service.

"The work I'm doing has brought me closer to a segment of the population I never really dealt with," said Streicher, who began the local chapter of Divine Spark several years ago after receiving a load of donated food at his home. He thought about taking it and helping San Francisco's less fortunate, he said, but realized it could go further in Nevada County. He's developed the process a bit since then, culminating in Thursday's feast.

David Figge, who lives on Nevada City's streets, attends the dinners routinely staged by Divine Spark.

"Tomas is a great guy, and if it wasn't for him, a lot of us would starve to death," Figge said.

This winter, Figge said, "has been horrible, but we all learn how to live."

Dozens of volunteers plated food during the day, as musicians played piano, guitars, harmonica and bongo drums.

All told, Divine Spark and volunteers provided 30 turkeys, 20 hams and 300 pounds of potatoes for the meal.

Volunteer Dawn Cecil of Nevada City said she came to the Foundry to spend Christmas differently.

"It feels good," she said. "I just called Tomas, and he told us about this. We feel like changing Christmas this year, and wanted to get the feeling back - the warm fuzzies.

"It's good to be here. I didn't realize there was such a need." ~o~

To contact Staff Writer David Mirhadi, e-mail or call 477-4239.

People, animals in need get help

Divine Spark working to provide daily meal for homeless
By Laura Brown
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The Union Newspaper

Every Sunday for the past year and a half, Tomas Streicher and his organization, Divine Spark, have provided free meals and occasionally softball games to the area's homeless.

It isn't enough, Streicher said.

On Wednesday, Streicher will appear before the Nevada City Council seeking a venue where he can serve one meal every day to the city's 30 to 60 homeless people.

"I think it's really needed in the community. One meal greatly reduces the stress level. They can count on this every day," Streicher said.

He would like to offer the meals at Seaman Lodge, the hall at Pioneer Park that hosts bingo games, Cub Scout meetings and wedding receptions. But the building is difficult to reserve on a daily basis, said Dawn Zydonis, the city's parks and recreation coordinator.

"It's definitely a worthy cause, (but) doing something there on a regular basis would be a little challenging. It would be hard for the city to commit to seven days a week," Zydonis said.

Joyce Bell
Joyce Bell, 78, has been sewing since she was a girl on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
She and three other women stitch Sioux star-pattern quilts by hand. Submitted photo

Building a link with Pine Ridge

Whether at home or thousands of miles away, Divine Spark's mission is to serve people who are poor and "in need," Streicher said.

Streicher recently returned from a visit to South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where he delivered clothing, sewing machines and bicycles and spent Thanksgiving with Lakota Sioux Indians.

People from all over western Nevada County donated the materials and more than $500 to pay for the gasoline to get Streicher and his donations to the reservation.

Ernestine Joyce Bell, a life-long resident of the reservation, has been sewing since she was a little girl. Now, the 78-year-old woman makes quilts using the colorful Sioux star pattern, stitching them by hand.

"If I don't sew, I just get nervous. I sit there and sew and sew and sew," Bell said.

Streicher is trying to bridge a healing link between people living in Nevada County and those who make their home on the poverty stricken reservation.

Bell is one of four women quilters living on the reservation who want to capitalize on their talents by selling special-order quilts, ranging in price from $250 to $350. Orders can be made by [contacting the quilters directly at

Homeless animals need shelter, too

Divine Spark already pays for pet food, licensing fees, rabies shots and heart worm medicine for dogs belonging to the area's homeless, because, Streicher said, the benefits outweigh the expense.

He estimates about 30 percent of the homeless people he works with have dogs or want one for the companionship they bring. And although some animal rights groups are opposed to the idea, Streicher said the animals, for the most part, are well cared for and often get more attention than if they lived with a busy working family.

But Grass Valley's Hospitality House, the traveling shelter that offers an evening meal and sleeping areas at local faith congregations, does not allow pets. It also bars people who are intoxicated or on illegal drugs, or people with a violent criminal history.

Streicher is trying to establish a shelter somewhere in Nevada County for "high risk" homeless individuals who can't meet the criteria for staying at Hospitality House and has the financial backing from private investors to do so, he said.

Streicher offers a free lunch every Sunday in the Community Room at the Madelyn Helling Library, 980 Helling Way, next to the Rood Center in Nevada City. In summer months, a softball game follows at Tobiassen Park, up the hill from the library.

Streicher is determined to find a facility, whether or not the city will help him in his quest.

"I'm going to do it; whatever it takes, there will be a free meal everyday soon," Streicher said.

To contact Streicher or donate to his organization, call 265-2620. (He recently moved, but the number should be working soon.) ~~

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

Free Christmas Meal
On Christmas Day (Tuesday, Dec. 25th, 2007), Divine Spark will hold a holiday gathering and free hot meal.
The community is invited to attend and to bring gifts for the area's homeless people. Gift ideas include rain gear, tarps, sleeping bags, tents, socks, hats, thermal underwear, toiletries and gift certificates to local restaurants and coffee houses.
The meal will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Dec. 25, 2007, in the Community Room at the Madelyn Helling Library, 980 Helling Way, next to the Rood Center in Nevada City.
Divine Spark's office moved last week, but the telephone number, 265-2620, is expected to work in a few days. ~o~

Connecting with the poor

Divine Spark takes Thanksgiving feast to Lakota Sioux
By Laura Brown
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
The Union Newspaper

On Nov. 18, Tomas Streicher will leave Nevada City in his battered van - full of frozen turkeys, hams, sewing machines and bicycles - to travel 1,300 miles to one of the largest and poorest Indian reservations in the country.

Streicher is the founder of Divine Spirit, a nonprofit organization dedicated to servicing the needs of poor and needy people around the globe. The group believes in raising consciousness through gift giving and relies heavily on community donations for its projects.

This Thanksgiving, Streicher will return to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota with donated food, clothing and other goods as part of his eight year on-going commitment to the reservation.

Listening to stories

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is the eighth-largest reservation in the United States, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island, with a population of about 45,000 Lakota Sioux.

Unemployment on the reservation hovers around 85 percent, and 97 percent live below the federal poverty level. Many families have no electricity, telephone service, running water or sewer. It's not uncommon for families of 12 to live in rundown mobile homes.

"It's time to hear their stories," Streicher said. Streicher has a master's degree in transpersonal psychology and locally holds healing circles and provides dinners for the homeless. He says his interest in spirituality has been lifelong.

Tomas Streicher
Tomas Streicher, founder, director and president of Divine Spark, holds a traditional-style talking stick in his Nevada City office. He visits the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota four times a year to help the people there.
The Union photo by Louise Caulfield

Donations needed

Some of the provisions needed for the Thanksgiving feast include: Enough frozen turkeys and hams for 200 people, warm winter clothing for severe winters and sewing machines for sewing Lakota Star quilts. Monetary donations are also welcome. Streicher said gas for the trip will cost $500.

"Every trip, I barely squeak by," Streicher said.

The Lakota Sioux don't accept donations from just anyone, said Streicher. "They want a connection, too," said Streicher. He said if community members want to participate beyond donations through his trips there they can write letters and cards.

"They can start making a connection with these people," Streicher said.

Streicher was first invited to the reservation after attending Native American spirituality workshops with a medicine man named Basil Braveheart eight years ago. Since that time, Streicher has returned four times a year, once a season, to gain a deeper understanding of a people with spiritual resilience in the face of poverty and a history of genocide.

A tough job

The population on Pine Ridge has among the shortest life expectancy rates of any group in the Western Hemisphere - approximately 47 years for males and in the low 50s for females. The infant mortality rate is five times the United States national average. Adolescent suicide is four times the national average.

"This was the hardest work I've ever done in my life," Streicher said. Gaining acceptance from the Sioux hasn't come easy and he says he has a long way to go. He says what he hopes people in Nevada County will gain from his trip is an awareness of a wider, global community that is struggling with deep-seeded pain.

"There's a big need. There's a lot of pain in the world. Maybe that's my purpose - to help reduce that pain," Streicher said.

To make donations, call Streicher at 265-2620. ~o~

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4230.

Maidu sculpture pondered for Nevada City

By Josh Singer
September 20, 2006
The Union Newspaper

A sculpture of a Maidu family could be built in Nevada City soon, as representatives of the Indian tribe discuss the monument with artists and the city government.

The proposed sculpture, sketched by nationally renowned New Mexico sculptor Cliff Fragua, could appear in a number of downtown locations, including Calanan Park. Location and other aspects of the project remain to be decided, with the new "Arts in Public Places" committee chaired by Councilor David McKay expected to play a leading role for the government.

Proposed Maidu Sculpture
Sketches of one angle of the proposed Maidu Indian sculpture for Nevada City,
drawn by sculptor Cliff Fragua. Submitted rendering.

Tomas Streicher, advocate for the sculpture and president of the nonprofit "Divine Spark," hailed the project and city's support for it as a "huge starting point" for raising awareness of the history of the Maidu tribe, which inhabited western Nevada County for 10,000 years before miners arrived in the mid-1800s.

"It's the start of recognizing," Streicher said of what he hopes will begin a "focus on community healing" over treatment of the Maidu, who all but disappeared from the area by the dawn of the 20th century.

At least 2,000 Maidu Indians formed a settlement in what is now downtown Nevada City, Don Ryberg, chairman of Nevada County's Tsi-Akim Maidu tribe said, adding the area's overall Maidu population was probably close to 10,000.

"There was already a community here," Nevada City Mayor Steve Cottrell said. "It's part of our legacy that needs to be recognized."

During warmer months, Nevada City's Maidu settlement used to branch out into small groups to hunt and gather. Recognition of one of the tribe's traditions, a "Calling Back the Salmon" Ceremony, will take place the weekend of Oct. 7 in Bridgeport, Ryberg said.

Ryberg points to the sculpture as a way to show some respect to a people and culture that frequently receive little attention and were almost completely eliminated by miners, other pioneers and government policy. There are currently 64 members in the local Tsi-Akim Maidu tribe, according to his numbers.

"There are plenty of mining artifacts around," Ryberg said. "I thought it would be nice to have a Maidu Indian display." ~o~

To contact staff writer Josh Singer e-mail or call 477-4234.

Coming together to dine at Christmas

Photos by Louise Caulfield
Monday, December 26, 2005
The Union Newspaper

Christmas Dinner, 26 December 2005
Community members and volunteers, from left, Shea MacAran, Denise, MacAran, Steve Wade, Rachel Teiter, Denise Blanchard, Mark Shelak, Stuart Pfeiff and Nancy Vance gather to eat around a table Sunday afternoon at a community dinner at the Madeline Helling Library in Nevada City. The event, sponsored this year by Divine Spark, offered free Christmas meals to local homeless and needy community members.

Christmas Dinner, 26 December 2005
Chris Winter, left, and Shanna Keefe, in Angel shirt, volunteer as servers and kitchen staff.

Christmas Dinner, 26 December 2005
Rowen of Grass Valley provides music during the dinner.