By Lyndsie Kiebert
Mark Chevalier started Sandpoint Subies in August 2017 as a way to create regular meet-ups with fellow Subaru people — a species of car owner Bonner County has in spades. What began with about 30 members has grown to almost 300, all tied together by their choice of transportation.
But, according to Chevalier, it’s more than that.
“We started the group to be a community group versus just a large car group,” he said. “We really wanted to focus on having local members where we could all get together.”
The Sandpoint Subies resume is impressive — if you’ve had your ear close enough to the ground to hear about it. The group flies, or rather drives, under the radar delivering Thanksgiving meals and Christmas presents to families in need, and has now hosted two consecutive family friendly Trunk-or-Treat Halloween events at the Bonner Mall. The Subies have also volunteered at the Panhandle Animal Shelter Thrift Store and organized mass collections of pet food and other supplies for the shelter.
“We’re not doing it to get a pat on the back, or to get a break from the local police department or anything like that,” Chevalier said with a laugh. “We just do it because our families are here, our little ones are growing up here and we want to be able to give back to the people. In such a small town, it feels like it makes a big difference.”
Chevalier said Sandpoint Subies missions are also an opportunity to get local high-schoolers who may have only joined the group because of their car involved with charitable giving.
“I know when I was that age I wasn’t necessarily into the community as much, but they get to see that first hand — the connections that we make, and how something so simple can really change someone’s outlook on things,” he said.
Sandpoint Subies is sure to change one lucky local’s outlook sometime very soon, as they put the finishing touches on a Subaru Forester to give away to a community member in need. The group bought the car for $500 and have given its innards a makeover — even replacing the engine.
“The car is probably our biggest undertaking,” Chevalier said. “It started with an idea, like ‘Hey, this would be really cool to do,’ and then [someone] goes, ‘I’ll put $40 on it,’ and that multiplies into 40 people.”
A breakdown of every person and business that has donated to the car project is pinned to the top of the group’s Facebook page, revealing a truly collective effort. Once the car is ready to give away, Chevalier said he will make a Facebook post asking for nominations from group members, as well as from the public at large.
While having a Subaru might be the obvious qualifier for joining Sandpoint Subies, Chevalier said that qualifier actually encompasses people from all walks of life.
“That really was a minor part of it, as far as any of us are concerned,” Chevalier said. “There’s such a wide range of people, from 16-year-olds with their very first car to 80-year-old ladies who attend every one of our events, regardless of whether it’s standing in a parking lot or bringing food to a food drive. Just having the Subaru is the way in, and then we all have that in common, and that breaks down the barrier of whatever differences we have outside of that.”
Chevalier said Sandpoint Subies’ main focus as the group continues to grow is to keep bettering the place they call home.
“We all have Subarus and they’re fun and all that,” he said, “but I think [the] greatest achievements for many of our members are being able to give back whatever it may be to our community.”
Find Sandpoint Subies online at facebook.com/groups/sandpointsubies.
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