Lighthouse Shines Hope

Sep 012005
Authors: Vimal Patel

Six crosses dot the wall and two comfortable couches rest atop a pleasant green carpet, evoking serenity and peace. Aside from occasional footsteps floating gently from the floor below, all is quiet.

The scene in this room was quite different almost one year ago. On Sept. 5, CSU student Samantha Spady lay passed out. She would never wake up.

The 19-year-old died of alcohol poisoning after a night of heavy drinking.

The room has since been turned into a prayer room – one of 29 rooms in the Lighthouse – a building run by Timberline Church that used to serve as the Sigma Pi fraternity house.

"It's full of life and love," said Lighthouse resident Amber Utesch, a human development and family studies freshman. "It's awesome. We're working on getting to know each other better."

The 24 residents of the house just moved in about two weeks ago. Although the house remains incomplete, several recreational attractions have been added, including a plasma TV, pool table and game room.

CSU shut down the Sigma Pi frat house after Spady's death. And for months, it languished until leased by Timberline. The building was in bad physical shape with trash strewn throughout. Some current residents who saw it in this condition recall the putrid smell.

"There's been a lot of people who have put a lot of work into this place to get it ready," said Jered Bartha , an intern at Timberline Church. "It's all been volunteer."

Residents said they want the house to be a place where community members can hang out and avoid the alcohol-induced party scene. Anyone who has had too much to drink can drop by the house for a safe night.

Bartha said the house is a welcoming environment where anyone can escape, even if only temporarily, the destructive alcohol lifestyle of a college town like Fort Collins.

"(Drinking is) a way for people to get away from their problems," he said. "But those problems aren't going to go away."

Bartha said he used to have a drinking problem, which he fought to overcome. "I realized it was not satisfying," he said. "It's not real. It's superficial.

"I feel like they're walking the Earth like zombies," he said of drinkers.

He added that it's welcoming environments like Lighthouse that can steer youth in the right direction. In addition to drinking to avoid problems, he said, people drink simply because there's nothing better to do.

He hopes Lighthouse, located at 709 Wagner Dr., will give students a wholesome alternative to getting wasted.

Some Lighthouse residents, for example, on Tuesday were playing Contra, a classic video game for the 8-bit Nintendo system, on the plasma TV. The room, along with all the non-residence rooms, is open to the community.

"I'm so glad I decided to do this," said CSU student Jared Petsche, a sophomore philosophy major. "Everyone here's so loving."

Bartha said he wants people to know that they can have a good time without booze.

But living in the house is not all fun and games. All 24 residents have a list of chores they have to do around the building. The chore list was posted in the kitchen Wednesday.

In addition, residents signed contracts stating they wouldn't drink alcohol while living in the building. "We're starting fresh," said resident Ben Zamora. "There's a lot more to do than just drinking…We want people to come here on a Saturday night."

Above all though, Bartha and others emphasized the tight-knit sense of community in the house. "Everyone here is so energetic, honest and open," he said. "It's uplifting."

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