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Snowflakes, Smiles and Service


Sandpoint embracing the spirit of the season

By Damen Rodriguez

During the holiday season, Sandpoint comes alive. It's a time when the community wraps itself in a blanket of warmth, and the spirit of giving echoes through the streets. As the snowflakes dance, so do the residents of Sandpoint, stepping up to spread joy, kindness, and a touch of that classic Idaho spirit.

At the forefront of this benevolent movement stands the Sandpoint Lions Club, a symbol of altruism and community support since 1953. Janice Rader, the current president of the club, shares insights into its roots, saying, "Several local businessmen began the club to provide support for our amazing community. We are currently moving forward with technology and bringing our programs into a more modern format."

Delving into the club's initiatives reveals a rich tapestry of love and compassion that weaves through the community. The Lions orchestrate a symphony of good deeds throughout the year. Their Sight and Hearing program ensures that low-income community members receive the gift of clear vision and the beauty of sound through eyeglasses and hearing aids. They actively participate in diabetes awareness by sponsoring children to attend Camp Stix. Education holds a special place in their hearts as well, offering scholarships to local high school students pursuing further education. But it's during the holiday season that the Sandpoint Lions Club truly shines.

Despite the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic, the club's resilience and adaptability have been nothing short of remarkable. "We have been changing our programs as needed to help protect our community," explains Janice. Their Toys for Tots program, a beacon of hope for families in need, has been adapted to prioritize safety while ensuring the joy of the season reaches every corner of Sandpoint. Through scheduled appointments, they have found a way to make the holidays a little brighter for those facing hardships. This year's Toys for Tots campaign is no exception, with lofty goals to provide assistance throughout the often-stressful holiday season. To support these efforts, the Sandpoint Lions Club is hosting a Family Bingo Night every month on the third Friday. It's an invitation to the community to try their luck, win some fun prizes and, most importantly, contribute to the Toys for Tots initiative. As Janice aptly puts it, "The Sandpoint Lions Club has survived the last few years by listening to the volunteers and changing our path when necessary. We focus on what works, change what needs to be changed, and try to implement new ideas when needed."


The Lions Club's commitment to evolving while staying true to its core mission is the secret to its lasting impact. Looking ahead, the Sandpoint Lions Club envisions a future where they continue to grow alongside their members and remain attuned to the ever-changing needs of their community. With unwavering dedication and a heart full of hope, the Sandpoint Lions Club is poised to be the guardian angel that Sandpoint needs in times of joy and sorrow. In the warm embrace of this community, the Sandpoint Lions Club stands as a testament to the power of collective goodwill and a reminder that even the tiniest roar can make the world a better place. So, let's join hands and be a part of this remarkable journey to uplift Sandpoint, one act of kindness at a time.

But the Lions Club is not the only entity in Sandpoint orchestrating a symphony of generosity. The Bonner General Health Volunteer Council presents its annual Parade of Trees, a spectacle that transforms the hospital's classroom into a winter wonderland. From Monday, December 4, to Thursday, December 7, trees adorned with treasures and treats will be on display and open for bidding from 8am to 4pm each day. Margo Johnson, volunteer chair, sheds light on the significance of this event. Not only does it finance the Bonner General Health (BGH) Volunteer Council's Employee Education Fund, offering scholarships for continuing education to BGH employees, but it also contributes to education grants for junior volunteers seeking college in various medical fields. This year marks the 11th iteration of this heartwarming event, showcasing the steadfast dedication of the community to support education.


The Parade of Trees is not merely a visual spectacle; it's a testament to the creativity and community spirit that defines Sandpoint. Margo shares, "We (our Volunteer Council members) are required to put into an Education Grant Fund Account each year; $2,000 for BGH employees and another $2,000 toward BGH volunteer education." The funds raised during this event, which have exceeded $4,500, are a testament to the community's commitment to education and the well-being of its members. Each tree tells a unique story, reflecting the passions and creativity of those who decorate them. Margo reminisces about one tree that featured a sleigh ride with huskies pulling from a local Iditarod team and another adorned with dogs and all the equipment, including outfitting. The themes vary, but the common thread is the commitment to spreading joy and contributing to a meaningful cause.

Notably, a mother and daughter team has been a highlight for at least seven years now. Each year, they take on the challenge of decorating a tree, surprising each other with their chosen themes. From bears to laughter-inducing surprises, their dedication to the Parade of Trees has become a cherished tradition. This year, after experiencing the loss of a brother and the mother undergoing cancer treatment, they've decided to create a memorial tree—a touching tribute that adds a deeper layer of emotion to this festive event.

Adding a heartwarming touch to the Parade of Trees, on Wednesday, December 6, from 3 until 4pm, three local nursing homes with buses have been invited to bring patients and residents able to attend. This serves as both an activity event and a moment of joy for those who may find themselves in challenging circumstances. Margo reflects on the positive impact of this initiative, saying, "I suggested this before COVID and had a great turnout then. Those in wheelchairs were thrilled to be able to come." As the Parade of Trees unfolds, the community comes together not only to appreciate the creativity on display but also to contribute to a cause that transcends the holiday season.


During last year's Parade of Trees, an impressive $5,600 was raised, demonstrating the community's commitment to education and well-being. The funds are strategically utilized, replenishing the education fund, purchasing trees for the following year, and covering the costs of tree ornaments and gifts under the tree. In the spirit of Sandpoint's season of giving, let's not merely be spectators but active participants. Whether it's joining the Sandpoint Lions Club for a night of Bingo to support Toys for Tots or attending the Parade of Trees and contributing to the auction, every gesture counts. In the words of Margo Johnson, "Not only does it help finance our education fund for BGH employees' special needs, it also goes toward education grants for our junior volunteers seeking college in many medical fields."

Amidst the glittering lights and festive cheer, Sandpoint's commitment to community service extends beyond traditional events. Local businesses have also joined the holiday symphony, organizing donation drives for essential items like warm clothing and non-perishable foods. Their storefronts adorned with seasonal decorations serve as collection hubs, inviting residents to contribute to the well-being of their neighbors. It's a heartening reminder that the spirit of giving permeates every corner of Sandpoint, creating a tapestry of generosity that enriches the holiday season for all. So, let's embrace the holiday season with open hearts and outstretched hands. Together, we can turn this festive time into a season of lasting impact, a time when the echoes of kindness reverberate through the snow-covered streets, leaving behind a legacy of community, compassion and shared joy.


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