In life, Kathy Pelland touched many lives. Now, nearly 20 years after her sudden passing at the hands of a drunk driver on the Long Bridge, her spirit continues to live on and is changing the lives of members of this tight-knit community in amazing ways.
The grass roots organization, Angels Over Sandpoint, was formed to honor the memory of Pelland. What began as a group of few, the local nonprofit now has over 70 members, many of whom never even knew Pelland but are touched by the stories they hear.
Paula Marcinko was a friend of Kathy Pelland and is one of the founders of Angels Over Sandpoint.
“Kathy was my friend. (She was) a good friend, but there are so many people who can say that in this town,” said Marcinko. “When she died, several of us got together and decided to have a dance to add to her memorial funds. We had it at the Sagle Grange. We raised $3,000 and gave the money to North Idaho Bikeways to help build the bicycle paths from Sagle to Sandpoint and Sandpoint to Dover.”
The group of friends then wondered what do we do next, and it was Gail Lyster who suggested they continue to raise funds. “So almost 20 years later the Angels Over Sandpoint have given over a million dollars to residents in need in Bonner County,” said Marcinko.
Marcinko, like many in this town, have fond memories of the fun loving and generous spirit that Pelland was. “She would dress like a clown and deliver candy to a young friend in the hospital. She would offer help if she knew you were painting your living room. She would help with anything, and she had an amazing imagination!” recalled Marcinko, who adds that a recurring theme throughout the years has been people saying, “Kathy helped me when…”
The two friends used to enjoy collecting rocks for landscaping, going to Eichardts for Caesar salad and garlic fries and just stopping by to visit one another. “She was always there for me and tons of others that lived in Sandpoint,” said Marcinko.
Like Pelland was, the Angels have been an answer to prayer to many living in Sandpoint. Whether it is rides to a medical appointment or hosting a large fundraiser to help someone with mounting medical expenses, the group’s enthusiasm and generosity has made a large impact on the most vulnerable.
Some of the more unique ways in which the Angels Over Sandpoint have made a difference include purchasing orthopedic shoes for an elderly person who could not afford them, providing a mother and father with dinner and lodging at Christmas time when they lost their child, and paying for dentures for a hard working woman who was ashamed to smile.
But it is not just families and individuals in crisis who have been blessed by the generosity of the Angels Over Sandpoint; there are many of the area’s youth that have benefitted from the funds that the Angels Over Sandpoint helps to raise.
Each year, in conjunction with Ivano’s Ristorante, the Angels hold The Italian Open Golf Scramble, the proceeds of which go to the Jim Lippi Family Scholarships. In a ceremony in May of 2016, there were six scholarships given to high school seniors, ranging from $500 to $1,000 each, to assist them in furthering their post high school education.
Also benefiting the youth is the Angels Over Sandpoint / Festival at Sandpoint Arts Scholarship, which focuses on various talents including vocal, writing, visual arts and dance and theater—rotating each year. As a reflection of their mission, The Angels Over Sandpoint also recognize Bonner County graduating seniors who have given back to the community through community service.
Another way the Angels Over Sandpoint help area youth is with their annual Back to School program, providing backpacks and school supplies to children in Bonner County prior to each school year. With over 2,000 students in our community eligible for the free and reduced lunch program, the Angels Over Sandpoint start with those individuals when reaching out to families to let them know of the assistance that is available. Each year they provide approximately 1,000 students with backpacks and school supplies.
The group also has a New Direction Grant that is awarded to people who are seeking to better their lives and looking for a new direction such as going back to college.
Their fundraisers are many including the Angels Over Sandpoint High Tea, Sandpoint Style and numerous dances over the years including an annual New Year’s Eve party. The biggest fundraiser of all, which takes in approximately $40,000, is the annual Follies, which is set this year for the first weekend in March.
As Marcinko recalls time spent with her friend she said, “Kathy loved to love…and she always had a smile even though you knew there was something troubling her.” While memories warm the heart, there is still a sadness as though she passed away yesterday. “She died in 1997 so next year will be 20 years. That day Sandpoint stopped,” said Marcinko. “There were over 400 people at her memorial.”
To donate to the Angels Over Sandpoint, you can mail a tax deductible donation to P.O. Box 2369, Sandpoint, ID 83864. Visit their website at angelsoversandpoint.org or their Facebook page at f/angelsoversandpoint for more information.