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Service groups form community's backbone, heart

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | May 19, 2021 1:00 AM

Perhaps nothing is a better example of what makes this community special than its service groups.

From the Sandpoint Lions Club to the Ponderay and Sandpoint Rotary Clubs to Sandpoint Kiwanis to the Community Assistance League. From hosting community events and programs that aid everyone from students to seniors to those in need, these groups ARE the community. They are both its backbone AND its heart — they are proof of how, by working together, we are strong.

Sandpoint Lions Club

For 60-plus years, Sandpoint Lions have dedicated themselves to the community. The club is hosts both the Independence Day celebration, the annual local Toys for Tots program, and annual Easter egg hunt at Memorial Park.

The club has also brought in the Lions Foundation Health Screening Trailer for eye and hearing screening tests for almost every elementary and kindergarten student in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. The club also pays for eyeglasses or hearing aids for local children or adults who cannot afford them. The Sandpoint Lions recycle and recondition used eyeglasses and hearing aids for re-use in third world countries.

The Sandpoint Lions award scholarships to local students to help pay for continuing education. The Lions also make donations to local schools and other groups that work with children or disadvantaged adults.

Finally, the club puts out about 180 U.S. flags throughout the community on eight flag flying holidays.

Anyone interested joining the Lions are welcome to join them on the second and fourth Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at 609 S. Ella St.

Rotary Club

Boasting more than 80 members, the Sandpoint Rotary Club was chartered in 1966 and makes a significant impact by creating a host of physical improvements throughout the area as well as contributing to the higher education of Bonner County youth.

In celebrating 100 years of Rotary International, the Sandpoint chapter in 2006 helped build the clock tower at Farmin Park for its centennial project and funds for the Lake Pend Oreille School District's after school projects.

While things may have looked quiet – no CHAFE, no Gala — Sandpoint Rotary has been busy over the past year despite the pandemic shutting down its in-person fundraisers.

Locally, Sandpoint Rotary donated $50,000 to the Lake Pend Oreille School District in support of its literacy programs — thanks to generous sponsors who still donated even though the CHAFE 150 had to be canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Internationally, the club donate money to everything from a literacy project in Guatemala to a water project in Peru to a hospital in Mexico.

Members also raised money for Food For Our Children to fund a snack program in the Lake Pend Oreille School District, trail construction at the Pine Street Woods to the LPOSD Resource Closet — a dedicated storage spot at Farmin Stidwell Elementary used to provide necessities for students and families in need throughout the school district.

The Ponderay Chapter, which was chartered in 2005, contributes to the Bonner Community Food Center and provides scholarships for local high school graduates. They have two fundraisers each year: the Duck Hunt which is held at Schweitzer ski resort and a wine tasting event at the Sandpoint Center, which benefits Cancer Care Services held each October.

One of the club’s most passionate initiatives is supporting education. For the last 15 years, the Rotary Club of Ponderay Centennial has been committed to a scholarship program helping local graduates and residents to continue their educations. The club has given out over $125,000 to the community in educational aid over the years.

Through its health and well-being initiative, Saccomanno said the club supports the Bonner Community Food Bank, the Caring Corner and Sharing Cupboard, Food for Our Children, Distinguished Young Women, and Interact’s Warming Hearts Project, and The Pack River Store’s COVID-19 lunch program. The club has also partnered with Bonner County EMS buying and placing automated external defibrillators in the community for the PulsePoint program and sponsoring CPR classes. Of course, the club is continually helping Rotary International’s goal to end polio once and for all, she said.

In partnership with Community Cancer Services, Ponderay Rotary has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Night to Remember fundraiser helping locals affected by cancer. As well, the club assisted in building a handicap swing for McNearney Park, participated in the development of the Ponderay Dog Park, and helped furnish Kinderhaven when first opened.

Rotary members range from business and professional folks to local residents and community leaders. It’s essentially a network of community volunteers, members said.

And that, more than anything, might be what sets Rotary apart. In hometowns large and small — and on every continent across the globe — the organization has made it a point to make a difference.

Sandpoint Kiwanis

What does Kiwanis mean? It means “we gather, we serve.” Our mission statement is “Serving the Youth of Bonner County.” And that is what the Sandpoint Kiwanis Club does.

Sandpoint Kiwanis sponsors Boy Scout Troop 111, something it has done since 1935. The club also provides scholarships for additional education as well as shoes, boots, gloves, and bedding for children in need.

But the flagship project is Camp Stidwell, located at the southern end of Mirror Lake — 160 acres of timberland and 2,000 feet of lake front. The appeal being privacy, security, and large space between camp sites with no need to share space. Use of Camp Stidwell is by reservation only and is primarily used for youth groups. Other organization are welcomed to reserve the camp if the time has not been spoken for by youth. The camp has hosted weddings, family reunions, and various organizations that have enjoyed all the room and privacy, Sandpoint Kiwanis member Dick Vail said.

Vail said Sandpoint Kiwanis' two camps were running at full capacity in 2018, serving over 4,000 user days. In 2019, with a grant from Burlington Northern Railway Foundation, the group added a new facility called Camp Wilderness. At the same time, it received a grant from the Community Assistance League and was able to extend and enlarge its dock at Camp Ouimet.

"The combination was a success we didn’t see coming," Vail said, adding that the club set a record in 2019 with 5,441 user days.

Community Assistance League

Formed in 1980, the Community Assistance League of Sandpoint has been in existence for more than 40 years. CAL’s mission is to support the community through education, services and philanthropy. Members are united in the mission of raising funds to provide grants and scholarships to worthy non-profit organizations and students.

Membership is open to anyone with a willingness to volunteer and contribute to the well-being of the community. Applications can be found at calsandpoint. org.

All of the profits from CAL’s upscale resale shop, Bizarre Bazaar, are returned to Bonner County with members volunteering to run the store. As a result the club is about to donate tens of thousands of dollars every year to community groups and students.

Long Bridge Swim

The Northwest’s premier open-water swimming event is a 1.76-mile swim across magnificent Lake Pend Oreille. The swim is popular with observers because you can watch the entire race from the pedestrian bridge and cheer on your favorite swimmer.

It’s popular with swimmers because people of all ages (7 to 86 years old) have completed this fun event, and so can you. This community event is for fun and you do not need to be fast or any kind of a serious swimmer or athlete to take part in the Long Bridge Swim.

For volunteer opportunities go to sandpoint. org/ For more information on the Long Bridge Swim, go online to longbridgeswim. org.

Panhandle Alliance For Education

The Panhandle Alliance For Education is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the mission of promoting excellence in education and community support for public schools in Lake Pend Oreille School District 84.

To learn more about the Sandpoint-based Panhandle Alliance for Education, please visit the website — panhandlealliance. org — or call executive director Marcia Wilson at 208-263-7040.

PAFE welcomes donations to help make children’s dreams come true through academic achievement.