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This Week’s LION: Tim and Beth Schoener: A Home Away from Home

This Week’s LION: Tim and Beth Schoener: A Home Away from Home

There is a large home located in the vicinity of Penn College. It’s in a rather lovely residential neighborhood in the city of Williamsport, but something odd was happening there. The neighbors wondered why there were dozens of cars parked around the place every Thursday night. What could possibly be going on there week after week? In fact, one night the police were even called because there were some young people ‘hanging around’ outside the house. Tim Schoener came out and met the police and explained that it was nothing more than an open house — a very special kind of open house. From September to May, some 60 to 70 college students come to the home of Tim and Beth Schoener every Thursday night. Amazingly, they have been doing so for ten years now!

Tim and Beth Schoener lived in Cogan Station a decade ago, when a Penn College student at their church discovered that Tim was, like the student himself, a fan of the television series, “Lost.” He asked Tim if he could come to his home to watch it with him. Tim agreed, and then the young man asked if his roommate could also come to watch. From there, it was three, then four, and by the end of the season there were a regular eight to ten Penn College students coming to the Schoener home weekly to get ‘Lost.’

Curiously, all of these students were associated with a campus organization called Cru. Formally known as Campus Crusade for Christ, Cru is an interdenominational Christian parachurch organization for college and university students. Founded in 1951 by Bill and Vonette Bright at UCLA in California, it has grown to 25,000 ministry workers in 191 countries.

Cru meets at Penn College for fellowship and listening to speakers on Thursday evenings, and it became a “thing” for a group to pile into a few cars and drive to Cogan Station for an “after Cru party” at the Schoener’s. For four years, Tim and Beth opened their home for the students to not only watch television, but also to enjoy fun, laughter, and fellowship in a comfortable family environment.

It was an organic kind of thing. It had started simply with the “Lost” groupies, but when the series ended in 2010, the weekly pattern had been established, so the students just kept coming. Tim, whose full-time job is Chief Information Officer for UPMC, is a ‘people person’ who easily meets and greets newcomers. Beth enjoys serving and has a particular empathy that reaches out to those who seem like they are going through difficult times. The Schoeners enjoyed their weekly encounters so much, that when they decided to move to Williamsport six years ago so Tim could be closer to his work location, they chose their home specifically to be able to host a large number of people.

And host they do! Where there were some 30 to 35 coming to their home in Cogan Station, now there are regularly twice that number at their home weekly for what is even listed on the Penn College Cru website as “Schoener Nights.” Spreading throughout the house, some students will be playing card games, others munching on Beth’s fresh popcorn, while others are just sitting around talking with each other. There is no agenda; it is merely a safe place to connect. The only hard and fast mandate is the Cinderella Rule — everyone must leave by midnight.

Tim and Beth just float around, acting as a type of surrogate parents to these young people. Surrogate parents is not hyperbole, as they have participated in 35 weddings from relationships that were birthed in their home. And there was one very special one that involved their own daughter.

This extraordinarily humble couple do not see this weekly hosting as a burden, but a blessing. They never imagined that a couple of guys coming over to watch television would turn into a booming engagement with hundreds of college students for ten years running. Students from Cru are now even coming from Bloomsburg University, so popular has the Schoener Nights become.

They realize it could end just as quietly as it started. But who knows — in 1951, Bill and Vonette Bright never imagined when they met with a few students from UCLA that their work would grow into touching millions of lives throughout the world. If nothing else, the gracious hospitality and sincere friendship shown by Tim and Beth Schoener will resonate in the lives of those they have touched for many, many years to come.

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  • Evelyn Lewis
    May 24, 2018, 7:39 pm

    We feel so privileged to know these two special people. So great that they offer their home to these young folks. It is a safe place for them to be as comfortable as they would be in their own home. Not very many people would be able or willing to open their house to this many kids. Kudos and blessings to Tim and Beth.