A Florida girl at the heart of Sandpoint
By Abigail Thorpe
“I have loved Sandpoint since the day I arrived,” smiles Kathy Chambers, Sandpoint Living Local’s Finest Person of the Year. A Sandpoint local who, in addition to much else, serves as the Board chair and volunteer coordinator for Kinderhaven, Kathy was born and raised a Florida girl, but 30 years in Sandpoint have made her a Pacific Northwesterner, and she embraces it with gusto.
There aren't many who would say they haven’t been impacted in some way by Kathy, whether it be a welcoming smile, a helping hand, a word of encouragement, or—one of her favorite ways of showing love—a home-cooked meal. She has a heart for those in need, and she makes it a priority to do more than just talk—she puts her words into action.
“Suffering is something I cannot bear to witness, so relieving that is what drives me,” explains Kathy. “There are so many people hurting in this world, and anytime we can alleviate those burdens of pain, loneliness, hunger, sadness and loss, we cast a spark of change which expands out.”
Kathy moved to Sandpoint with her husband of now 33 years, Chris, back in 1991. He had grown up here and wanted to raise his own family in the town he had such wonderful memories in, and Kathy was quick to fall in love as well. “Being a member of a tightly knit community that truly takes care of its own is beyond rewarding. Raising my kids in Sandpoint afforded us a life reminiscent of older times: slow-paced, simple, close to nature, safe and inspired by an entire community,” she says.
Those community bonds that make Sandpoint so special are because of the proud members who live here and care deeply for the people around them, and Kathy is one of those inspiring leaders who rolls her up sleeves and dives in.
“So much talk and so little real action is the theme these days. If you complain but aren’t willing to roll up your sleeves and dig in, I have no time or energy for you,” she reflects. “We are all on some sort of path, and sometimes that divides us, but I believe we all want a similar outcome. Everyone has a story, and listening is the only way we will ever invoke progress. That is something I want to improve in myself and in my community.”
Kathy joined the Kinderhaven board in 2009, and the nonprofit has since become her heart. Kinderhaven first started when Kathy’s dear friend Marsha Oglivie learned local children experiencing abuse and neglect were taken from their homes, and many were separated from their siblings, sent out of town or even housed in juvenile detention due to lack of foster homes in Bonner County. Kinderhaven stepped in and made a home for these children to experience stability, love and care.
Kathy has served as chair of the nonprofit for five years now. “I am incredibly proud of where we are today, able to care for 16 children, keeping siblings intact and working to heal these children with a therapeutic approach from the moment they enter our home. While we may not see into the future the fruits of our labor in changing these children’s lives, we know that by planting seeds of loving and healthy bonds we are making our world a better place.”
Growing up, Kathy was encouraged by strong, loving parents to have the confidence to trust her instincts, and was herself surrounded by stability, love and strong attachments—something she and Chris work hard to pass along to their own children, Katie and Buddy—and what she dedicates much time and energy to helping provide children in the community who don’t have the same.
She’s passionate about being a force of change, and part of that for her is challenging her perspectives and learning from others. “I believe having friends with different viewpoints on the world is important. We’d learn so much more if we expanded our relationships to just beyond those who agree with us on everything,” she shares.
Kathy loves to cook, and she’s always quick to use that love to bless others. “I think feeding someone is such a loving act any human can express, and it’s healing to all in many ways.”
But she also prioritizes her family and caring for herself. When she’s not serving others, you’ll often find her teaching fitness classes at her company, Sandpoint Dance Fitness, or paddle boarding, cross-country skiing, or off on the family boat in the San Juans, traveling, dancing, cooking and treasuring time with her kids. And she laughs, a lot!
“I believe that YOU are the most important person in your life,” encourages Kathy. “So many times we give ourselves away to people in unhealthy ways without realizing it. Taking care of yourself is an act of love, and that strengthens you to better care for others. Keep that tank filled and know when it needs attention. Your mind will lie to you all the time, but the body keeps score and never will. Listen to it!”
In the midst of her adventures, work and fun, Kathy never grows tired of experiencing the incredible people her children have become—for her, her greatest achievement.
“To know Chris and I brought forth kindness, generosity and hard work into our world leaves me completely and utterly joyful.” It’s the same spirit she loves about Sandpoint and its community.
“I applaud what has been done to maintain Sandpoint as a small town while honoring its colorful history. I hope we never lose the funky, friendly atmosphere, and that we continue to protect and respect our natural resources. There is plenty of room for opposing thoughts and opinions, and I wish for forward movement as a whole for the good of our community.”
After three decades, Kathy is intrinsically linked with this community and as part of its spirit and life as you can be. She’s made this home, and in turn, Sandpoint has benefited in countless ways, and those who know Kathy can testify to the life and spark that Kathy brings to so many through her work, her volunteering and her joy.
“Thirty years later and I am a PNW girl now, and still think Sandpoint is heaven on earth,” she laughs.