For Aug. 16th, 2020
The countdown is on! In T-minus Camp Agape, deep-clean, move-in, school time.
This summer is flying by, but there are a couple more projects yet to be done in the next three weeks before classes commence (and yes… I said three weeks…)!
One of the major events many AO members have been working on this summer is the execution of a virtual Camp Agape Northwest. Since 1997, Camp Agape has been providing children with cancer and families a week’s break from life's everyday challenges.
Agape is one of the several associated ministries of Jeff and Deb Greer’s, who themselves were parents of a child with cancer.
This year Camp Agape said goodbye to Jeff Greer as they’ve known him since day one, Camp Director. While remaining very much involved, the Greers hope it will be a little more conversational (like perhaps between children and families over milkshakes...) and less administrative than it has been for their many years of service.
What more? In order to accommodate the current health crisis and ensure that families still feel loved, camp volunteers are throwing a virtual,
Camp Agape spectacular!
(insert exclamation points and lots of confetti!)
Typically, families can participate in Camp Agape for two years. So while not wanting to miss a summer of fun and Agape love, camp leaders didn’t want this quasi-Camp experience to count toward the two-year attendance limit.
This year’s theme of Camp Through the Ages deepens the sense of interconnectedness and familiarity in this uncertain time, with memories of Superheroes, Trolls, Rock ‘n Roll, and other themes alike.
As a staging ground for many of the virtual camp’s activities, the AO has been full of life and energy as volunteers pack boxes brimming with crafts, games, goodies, and fun that correspond with each day’s activities.
In less than a week, volunteers will be parading down the streets of the Seattle Area in a festive caravan, delivering camp-in-a-box, spreading cheer, and warming hearts. Families will have planned activities for each day, a library of videos / electronic resources to explain games and crafts (or just those that say howdy-hi-hello), and live video time with volunteers.
Every year, people come from far and wide to spend this week with families, drawn in by the Spirit and brought back by Agape’s lasting impact. This year would have been no different. But sometimes unconditional love calls us to make sacrifices today that benefit tomorrow.
This year, virtual Camp is what that looks like.
It’s an unprecedented feat, but it’s all for the love of the families and the kiddos who live everyday life with a health crisis of their own.
To learn more about this amazing organization and the people involved, visit our affiliates page under the “About” section, or donate today!
After that, it’s really crunch time for the AO folks!
All summer long, staff members and students have been working on maintenance projects as is custom for this time of year:
This post begs many-a-mention of Jeff Greer’s talents, one of which is fine woodworking.
Whether you’ve walked through our home on your own two feet or merely the website slideshow, you can attest to the beautiful art and woodwork that adorns the Alpha Omega House. Do you see those tall, elegant, way-too-expensive-to-be-living-in-a-college-house, wooden vases in the living room? Well, Jeff made them. The sturdy, I-can-rest-free-of-the-anxiety-that-this-will-crash-down-on-me-in-my-sleep, bunk beds?
Yep, Jeff Greer too.
He is wonderful.
In so many ways, we are blessed to have him as a role model, a leader, and bunk bed maker here at 501 University Ave!
And we are so excited to welcome students back into the house, despite all the questions that remain surrounding school this coming year. As almost, kind-of, not really, but in a way mentioned above, AO House leaders are preparing to enter the school year safely and healthily.
On top of pre-existing cleaning regimens, this will include things like a quarantine room should the need arise and other COVID-19 safety precautions.
Before we can even go there however, we’ve got our own final deep clean before students start showing up! Elbow grease on, toothbrushes out. Nothing feels quite as good as giving this house a little of the lovin’ it gives us all year ‘round!
August 16th folks. That’s the day. We’ll be waiting here with open arms (convenient for those whose arms will be full of boxes)!
Until then, stay happy, stay healthy. Get that vitamin D!
And one last thanks to all of you who participated in our Open House! It was a blast! (And that’s not just the wine talking (our AO House private label wine, that is)). If you missed it or couldn’t attend or just want to relive a super awesome time, you can check out the recording here.
And please reach out if you have any questions before the big day >> email@example.com
The AO crew
a reserved and independent resident of the Alpha Omega House since summer of 2019, has quietly built herself a life of service and friendships therefrom here in Missoula, MT. You would never guess because she would never tell you, but Bethany has played an integral roll in the lives of many of our community members since her arrival.
With who might you ask? What could be the cause of such high praise?
Well… I won’t get ahead of the story.
Originally from Illinois, Bethany first came West in search of nothing in particular; objectively, to enroll in the Rocky Mountain School of Photography; metaphorically, to satisfy her burning and innate appetite for adventure.
Missoula’s impression didn’t fade with time after she returned home post-graduation, and eventually, it brought her back for a summer of work, which turned into a year of residency, and potentially a whole future, ready for the making.
THAT’S where our story begins.
Bethany moved into the Alpha Omega House upon the recommendation of a church member, a hope, and a prayer. A naturally introverted person, she didn’t know how well living in a house full of other young adults would blow over.
“I fought it for a while, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Bethany laughed when I asked about her year in the AO.
In the fall of 2019, as she began looking for ways to develop her photography, Bethany picked up a job working with a population for which she cares deeply and, at times, prefers to 20-year-olds: the elderly.
Home Instead hired more than just an employee when Bethany signed onto the job. They hired a friend, confidant, additional family member, and what would become a beacon of light for this at-risk community during the COVID pandemic.
“I’ve always had a huge heart for the elderly,” Bethany said in my conversation with her. In fact, she has tossed around ideas of serving this community by reconstructing stories and building end-of-life respect and appreciation through photography.
On the day of the shutdown, Bethany was serving seven clients in Missoula, soon to be eight.
“It was hard in the beginning,” Bethany said. Not only were the health practices rigorous (full PPE, intense sanitation, etc.), but Bethany, and all those like her, made the difficult decision to isolate themselves from family, friends, and loved ones for the safety of her clients.
“I didn’t want to isolate myself, but I couldn’t put my clients through that,” she said in reference to spreading the virus. “I don’t know what I would do if one of my clients got sick.”
Not many students remained in the AO House during spring break and for the rest of spring semester. But those that did, kept quarantine as lively and interesting as possible. Bethany, however, couldn’t enjoy such luxuries. She had to keep careful tabs on who was where and when, only using the kitchen and bathroom when they were empty of others, and spending most of her time in her room.
“It was breaking my bond with you girls and slowly wearing on me.”
Even so, it’s not something Bethany mentions without prompting. Several of her clients rely on Bethany alone as a caretaker, a detail that isn’t missed by her and certainly not by those she cares for. Although it was hard in more ways than one, Bethany spins perspectives and looks at situations through the lives of those she serves, day in and day out.
She even jokes about the small things. “I was happy that I was essential and got to be out while everyone else was stuck at home. That gave me a sense of freedom. But I could also wake up 10 minutes before my shift because no one was on the road!”
When asked how she stayed sane, she just smiled and shrugged, “Lots of movies I guess,” without hesitating to laugh at her joke, and say that the people make it worthwhile; she is just happy to take part in their lives.
One woman in particular has made herself quite at home in Bethany’s heart. With no family or other caretakers in Missoula, she and Bethany have developed a special friendship that epitomizes the role of caring for the elderly.
“Sometimes I just go over and say, ‘You don’t have to pay me, I help you because I love you and I want to help.’ She’s just a delight and a joy; she keeps me going.”
Bethany truly has a servant’s heart, always talking about the ways in which her clients have touched her life.
“I guess because I don’t have family here, my clients are my family.”
We can assuredly say that such positive ripples of love are reciprocal, not only between Bethany and her clients, but all those touched thereafter, including us at the Alpha Omega House. We are so proud and lucky to call Bethany our friend.
20-year Anniversary and Open House
Summer has always been a special time of year here at the Alpha Omega House, a repose and a preparation. The creeping vines are in full bloom and the back patio fonts are gurgling. Sweet birds serenade the sleepy grounds, their songs adrift lilac perfume and golden-morning rays. There is stillness. There is peace. But this summer is a little extra special. Amidst the stillness, there is celebration.
A CELEBRATION OF 20 YEARS!
For 20 years, the Alpha Omega House has been fertile ground for friendship, has born witness to spiritual growth, and has shaped the lives of students here at the University of Montana. Every person who has walked through these doors has placed a brick, and with careful guidance, partaken in constructing the story and the home that we are now so blessed to share.
In celebration and in gratitude, we raise a toast to you.
But it’s not just any toast, oh no. We needed to do something memorable for such a milestone. We raise a glass of our custom AO House Cabernet Sauvignon to your Sauvignon Blanc, with a “Cheers!” to the past twenty years and all of those to come!
Yes, to celebrate our 20th anniversary, we crafted a private label with Brutocao Cellars located in Mendocino, California, sparing no degree of excellence nor enthusiasm.
Don’t miss out on your chance to indulge in two personal bottles of AO wine! For a minimum donation of $100, you will have two bottles of wine shipped straight to your door, hassle-free. And you can be sure your money is going to a worthy cause.
YOU choose where the funds go. Ranging from causes like student scholarships to house trips and retreats, this wine label is not only a celebration but a fundraiser to keep the Alpha Omega House a vital piece of UM students’ lives. The link will be on the front page of our website all year, with proceeds supporting many more blessed years here at the Alpha Omega House.
But you didn’t think we were going to celebrate this momentous occasion alone, did you?? How could we when YOU were such a big part of making it happen!?
Join us TOMORROW at 7:00 p.m. MST for our Open House!
Come, take a seat in the living room, pour yourself a glass of AO wine, kick back, relax, and mingle with alumni from hither and yan. This year we’re making it really easy to get there. You can find us located at:
Home Page of the AO House Website
20th of June, 2020
Although we’d rather see you all in person, consider this an extraordinary way in which technology is pulling through and uniting us not only from the far reaches of the world but the deep, dark crevices of our Corona-proof couches.
Our Director of Operations, along with numerous alumni and longtime friends of the AO House, have collaborated on this epic project that is our virtual Open House. Through their efforts, we will be able to share in not only the story, but the key sentiments of life here at the AO. It’s open to anyone and everyone, so bring friends, family, neighbors and all.
Aside from our Golden Birthday celebration, we are thrilled to announce that the beds are filling up! After a low census year and the uncertainty of COVID-19, we were hoping to reach our 15-student goal. Well, ladies and gentlemen… we surpassed that goal with flying colors, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome a wonderful crew for the coming year!
BUT WE STILL HAVE SPACE!
So if you know of a college student looking for a safe space to grow, a spiritual support system, or just a place to call home, send them our way! They can download an application from the “Housing” or “Contact Us” pages on our website. We’d love to meet them.
All that to say, there is much to celebrate and the future is looking bright for the Alpha Omega House. Typical summer projects are underway: All the rooms now have a fresh coat of paint (thanks to our staff members, Aunika and Elizabeth, and Burke, a student in the House); the annual flowers have been planted in their potted, patio homes outback; the herb garden, sprouting; the big umbrella, outstretched and inviting of good conversation and shelter from the summer sun (if and when that decides to come around).
It almost seems normal! Oh yeah, other than the need to throw a 21st birthday bash in-house because, you know, downtown isn’t quite the same... that was new. But hey, we do what we must!
We had a blast partying-down with Hannah, a three-year resident, on her 21st here at the AO House. Aunika, with the help of Elizabeth and friends, converted each room into a different downtown bar, with matching signs, decorations, and even music to create the appropriate ambiance of a 21st in downtown Missoula.
During the school year, the Alpha Omega House is dry for all purposes of safety and respect, but we have no quarrel with celebrating our students and walking alongside them through all the corridors of college life. This was certainly one of those opportunities and we were so blessed to have been a part of it!
In all reality, there probably won’t be another 21-run like Hannah’s here at the AO. But that makes it all the more special and another memory of AO House life to hold as precious and fleeting. Like so many memories made here, “you just had to be there.”
Slowly but surely, as things open up, our students are returning to work, finding new jobs, or in some cases continuing the essential work they’ve been doing throughout the shutdown. (Stay tuned for a student highlight on Bethany Bryant, and what it means to be an essential caregiver during the height of a pandemic!). It’s a joy to share in each other’s little triumphs.
As we are comforted in knowing that this too shall pass, we reflect on our fortune to have one another, and we do what we can to make the best of its passing. Christ sees our stories, every season of pain and every point of celebration. Superseding it all, he calls us to live in community and love one another. That is what we do here at the Alpha Omega House.
We hope you are feeling our love! And we hope to see you all this Saturday at 7:00 pm.
Blessings from all of us to all of you.
Hello to the community of the Alpha Omega House and all you readers out there!
What a strange and unprecedented time we are living in, huh? And an interesting month to commence the exciting new venture that is the AO Blog. We deeply hope you have stayed healthy over the course of these past few months. We are praying for your wellbeing and that of your friends and family: physical, mental, financial and all!
Although Corona Virus might be the last thing you want to read about (and honestly the last thing a person wants to write about), it is the sign of the times. Years from now, when you, me, a prospective student, friends and family are looking back, we’ll want to remember this season for what it was, not what we’d be trying to make it by not mentioning COVD’s impact on our lives here at the AO.
When Spring Break made clear that our students would not be returning to finish out the semester, life at the AO took a slight turn for those who remained. Our leadership team had many conversations developing policy, determining best practices, and just trying to make the “next best move” in this ever-changing sea of safety precautions.
It all started with exactly what you might have expected: a head-to-toe deep clean of your’s truly, the Alpha Omega House, sleeves rolled up and music blaring. As far as quarantine goes, this hasn’t been a bad place to do it and a good ol’ deep clean wasn’t a bad way to start!
Six students remained in the House for the majority of Shelter in Place, slowly coalescing under the new circumstance that was (and still is) COVD-19. Funny little “you had to be there” habits started popping up, like reading horoscopes from the daily paper to lighten the mood, telling us “how we’re supposed to feel” as a mock change in the monotonous march of life in quarantine. Over mugs of steaming coffee, the crosswords were completed with increasing perfection before morning walks by the river and other such lovely frivolities.
The living room saw a steady rotation of zoom class after zoom class; “okay who gets it at 11:00??” Just as frequently, Shawn T’s Hip Hop Abs and live-streamed yoga classes were woven into the common space’s new tapestry, with Pictionary making one or two appearances of its own. The roof, allegedly, was host to a few evening picnics and mid-afternoon tanning appointments. The kitchen accommodated more than one dance party; the television, witness to unparalleled episodes of New Girl, Carpool Karaoke and Saved by the Bell.
We had to make the difficult decision of asking Lisa, our dear cook and friend, to stay home as we adapted to a minimal-traffic lifestyle. Graciously, our interns cooked dinner most nights, which was still a wonderful way to spend intentional time as a group. We traveled the world with our cuisine and attire, having themed dinners starring music and ambiance of wherever suited our fancy. We even visited home. One by one, we took turns cooking meals from Mom, Dad, great Grandma or Uncle Tim to share a little piece of the home-baked pie, so to speak.
One of our students (whom we just celebrated with a little graduation party on the back patio, cap, gown, Pomp and all) chose to quarantine at the local fire station where he volunteers so he could still respond to calls. A boxed-up, homemade meal on the station’s front step was the least we could do to show our appreciation and connect at a distance!
We’ve seen many such small joys. Drive-by birthday celebrations, surprise cookie deliveries, outdoor dinners, Easter packages and more. Although we have not been together, Corona is no match for this tight-knit community.
The back patio saw it’s spring makeover, with plant beds trimmed and raked, furniture unpacked and ready for warm weather festivities, the lawnmower put to use, and the bike pavilion once again enjoying regular visitors. Time is marching forth! However warped and wonky it may seem.
Somehow, we are already transitioning from the school year into summer. As our students trickle back from hither and yon to clean their rooms, which sat empty for the last half of spring semester, we are reminded of not only the bountiful laughter we shared but the sting of lost time.
It was a wonderful year, no matter how quickly it seemed to fly. (You know what they say about time when you’re having fun, after all…).
We kicked off the year with another treasured retreat on Lake Mary Ronan, all thanks going to our dear friends who once again welcomed us into their “home away from home.” Before we knew it, the days spent floating the Clark Fork river waned into pumpkin carving, Harry Potter Halloween parties, “Pass the turkey!” and decorating stockings to hang upon the blazing mantel.
After the Holidays, several of our own launched into the new year with another blessed trip to serve cancer kiddos in El Salvador with Campamento Esperanza, quickly followed by the yearly trip to Washington DC for the National Prayer Breakfast..
Even from the top of the world, who could have seen this coming?? Certainly not us. When worlds are shaken, it becomes easy to lament the time we’ll never have and to question the quality of time we did:
I should have accepted that hiking invitation… If only I had just stayed up for that movie… Oh, if only we could have finished the year off together… What if? What if? What if?
The truth of the matter is, each moment is sacred and time is passing as it should and always does. It is no time to yearn for what wasn’t and never will be.
Yet another school year, of blessings and trials alike, is coming to a close. Only with the recognition of how this year’s experience has shaped us can we begin to build a future as a House, community, and for ourselves as individuals.
We would have rather spent this time with all of our people, but the Greer’s have instead spent it with their immediate family and focussed on the direction of the Alpha Omega House, which has been a blessing in itself. In addition to the blog (woohoo!), this summer we will be doing more to expand guest rentals, which we hope will include retreats of various kinds, catering to the needs of the wider community and sharing our home with others through VRBO and Airbnb.
So! If you have a family reunion coming up, are looking for a nice location to host your business or church retreat, or just about anything in between, don’t hesitate to reach out! Or heaven forbid, you reach out just to say hello… ;-)
As we move toward normalcy, we hope you all stay well. We look forward to seeing your smiling faces and to the days where we can greet each other with warm hugs and laughter.
Until then, we’ll be here, together at a distance.
Blessings to you all.