February 23, 2016 | 9 a.m.
By Hannah Johnson ’17
Tami Moberg ’85 will never forget the first time she saw “Jeremy’s” room at home. Bags of garbage piled ceiling-high and dispersed in clumps made up his bed. Dog feces were stomped into the carpet, the stench trapped by makeshift plastic-covered windows inside the kennel-like trailer home. Insulation hung by its pinky finger, threatening to fall.
Moberg had a dream to create a safe place to land for Jeremys of varying backgrounds, a refuge where each one could be reminded they are “lovable, capable, and worthwhile,” she says. So in March 2015, she started the Quincy TreeHouse in Mounds View, Minnesota, for Irondale High School students with home situations similar to Jeremy’s. A partnership with Minneapolis-based TreeHouse—a Christian non-profit organization whose vision is “to reach every at-risk teen so they are loved, feel hope, and realize life transformation”—put breath in the lungs of Moberg’s Quincy house.
Moberg graduated from Bethel with a degree in social work. As a freshman, she met her now-husband David ’81. Now, the Mobergs live in a five-bedroom home on Lake Johanna Boulevard. “We’ve been to Ukraine several times. I’ve been to Haiti. I have done these trips around the world and yet you only have to go a mile down our own road to really see poverty and to see conditions that no one should have to live in,” says Moberg.
Quincy officially opened to students in September. There, girls and boys have a place to call home — and for some, it’s their first. “I come to Quincy because a lot of people care for me and support me. My favorite part is having so many new opportunities, like actually having a real Christmas tree. We have just a plain plastic one at home,” says Elena, age 16.
An average of eight girls gather for a support group on Tuesday nights. They learn coping skills, such as yoga and painting. On Thursdays, anywhere from five to 15 boys meet for their own support group, Real Men. They have hard conversations about their fathers — who some describe as “criminal,” “not there,” or worse — which sometimes force the boys to storm out of the room. Quincy co-founder Wayne Andersen had created the group at High View Middle School, New Brighton, Minnesota, in 2010 after realizing the boys’ deep need to be loved and cared for. Moberg and Andersen realized their shared passion and calling, and combined the two ministries.
For the Mobergs, caring for troubled teens and children has meant sacrificing their time and a few of their five bedrooms over the years to be foster parents to more than 50 children through Ramsey County Crisis Nursery. “(My kids) can’t really say which bedroom was ever theirs because they switched so many times, having different kids come in,” says Tami.
Fifteen-year-old Aryius currently lives with the Mobergs — a decision he made so that he’d be able to make better life decisions. Tami now washes his maroon-and gold-embroidered Irondale basketball shorts and sweatshirt weekly. When asked why he goes to Quincy, he says it’s “because Tami forces me.” But he knows better. “I know I can be a leader. It’s just me not bein’ lazy and wanting to do it.”
Leadership is one of the primary lessons the students are taught at Quincy. Quincy TreeHouse mentor Jake Thompson ’16, who’s majoring in teaching English as a second language (TESL) at Bethel, believes these lessons should be taught and applied outside of the house’s white stucco interior, too. Thompson wants to build lifelong friendships with the students at Quincy, extending his time beyond the ministry and into the boys’ daily lives. “Guys don’t need to join a gang because we have our own different kind of gang,” Thompson says. The Quincy TreeHouse “gang” took a trip to First Covenant Church in Minneapolis in December to serve the homeless, another opportunity to serve and grow together.
Meckenna Woetzel ’17, a Quincy TreeHouse mentor and a Bethel English education major, walked through the empty rooms in May when the house still had “nasty” wallpaper and zero trim or siding. Now, as the house continues to grow, she giggles with the girls about cute teachers at Irondale or social faux pas made while friends are sharing. She would agree that Quincy is its own kind of gang. “It’s not just an effort on our end to get girls to the house.They definitely have parents who are dropping them off every single week,” says Woetzel. “I think it speaks highly of how much the Quincy House is doing and what it means to the kids.”
For more information on Quincy TreeHouse, visit their website.