Committed to hope, compassion and joy
By Abigail Thorpe
Photo by Kiersten Patterson Photography
Kathy Chambers and Christine Denova are well-known names in the Sandpoint community. Both have given their time and energy to making our community a better place, and each brings joy, compassion and hope to individuals in our community.
Born and raised a Florida girl, Kathy Chambers moved to Sandpoint with her husband of now 32 years in 1991. She serves on the board of Kinderhaven and is the owner/instructor of Sandpoint Dance Fitness.
Christine Denova, her husband and son came to Sandpoint from Chicago looking for a small community where people know and genuinely care for one another. She is the executive director of Life Choices Pregnancy Center and volunteers with Kinderhaven.
Q. Is there a specific memory, story or person that has greatly influenced who you are today?
Kathy: My parents instilled in me the confidence to trust my instincts. They provided a life of stability, love and strong attachments, something Chris and I worked hard to pass on to our children (Katie, 27, and Buddy, 26). 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.
Christine: My mother has greatly influenced who I am today. Growing up my mother always helped others. I remember waking up several mornings seeing strange women sleeping on our couch because my mom was helping them get sober from alcohol. My mom never turned away anyone in need. She taught me that everyone has value and deserves respect, love and kindness, no matter what they have done or where they have come from. Her compassion for people rubbed off on me, motivating me to live life serving others.
Q. What makes our town such a special, unique place to live?
Kathy: I have loved Sandpoint since the day I arrived. Small towns provide strong community bonds that many people yearn for. Those bonds only remain healthy by the actions taken by its members, and proud Sandpoint citizens obviously care deeply; just look at the number of nonprofits that are registered here and supported by locals (over 250). People are quick to help, wave hello or attend a fundraiser for a cause they believe in. The outstanding natural beauty and outdoor adventure opportunities are a big plus!
Christine: Sandpoint is like Mayberry to me. A slow-paced community of compassion where everyone believes the best about everyone else. One example I can give was 14 years ago when we moved here, we went to the Bonner Mall Cinema and tried to pay with our debit card. They were not accepting credit or debit cards at the time but told us that we could see the movie and get our popcorn and just come back later to pay. We were in shock. That would have never happened in Chicago. We knew then that we were in the right place.
Q. What has been the most rewarding and exciting part of the work you do?
Kathy: Kinderhaven is my heart. I joined the Board in 2009 and have been Chair going on five years now. My dear friend Marsha Ogilvie created Kinderhaven when she learned that when our local children were taken from their homes due to abuse and neglect, 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. 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. Our Tour of Trees (formerly Festival of Trees) December 9 through 12 is our only fundraiser, and we feel confident that our community will support its local children like they have every year since 1996.
Christine: I have witnessed the miracles of God through the work of [Life Choices] supporters, staff and volunteers over the past six years, and it is truly an honor to be a part of a ministry that loves people where they are while encouraging them through their challenges.
I must say that we get to see how the unconditional love of Jesus Christ transforms lives. We literally get to see God’s miracles daily. When men and women come to us they are scared, confused, upset, guilt-ridden and feeling trapped by their circumstances. We get to watch as they become courageous, peaceful, empowered and free. What a gift!
Women and men have an instinctive desire to love, protect and nurture their children. The circumstances of their lives fight against their desires, and all they need is a little education, assistance and a caring friend who will walk alongside them. Equipped with these elements, they are empowered to make healthy, life-giving choices.
Q. What has been a piece of advice or experience that you’ve carried with you and that has impacted your life for the better?
Kathy: I believe that YOU are the most important person in your life. 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!
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. 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.
Christine: My life was very difficult growing up. I grew up in a poor, single-parent home with lots of dysfunction and heartache. Over the years I watched each of my parents persevere in their desire to become better people. This was fueled by their faith. They modeled determination and faith, and because of those two things my life, today is drastically different from my childhood.
My relationship with Jesus has taught me that I am deeply loved and has motivated me to be a person who loves well. I have recognized that my circumstances don’t dictate who I am, my value or my capabilities. I have realized that the most important thing is not how much money I make/have, or how popular I am, or what degree I hold. The most important thing in life is to love well and be loved. The choices we make will impact our lives, and if we make those choices by seeking to love well, we will always make the right choice.