Although young, Jonah and Montana Renter have lots of history at The Hope Center for Kids in Fremont.
Both Midland University students when they met, the Renters worked together at the center — and even married here.
Now, they plan to leave their jobs at the center to embark on new opportunities for personal and professional growth. Today is their last day. Leaving isn’t easy, but they’ll take lots of good memories with them.
Jonah Renter has served as the local site director and Montana as education and volunteer coordinator — both roles that grew out of their earlier days at the center.
The Renters met in the winter of 2014 during a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event at Midland and became part of the same group of friends.
Jonah’s parents, the Rev. Troy and Brenda Renter, knew Hope Center founders Ty and Terri Schenzel years ago and encouraged him to apply for a job when the center opened in Fremont.
In January 2015, Jonah started working part time as a program assistant while still in college. Montana began interning at the Hope Center in the spring of 2016.
As time passed, they started getting to know each other better.
Hope Center kids encouraged him to ask her out on a date. They began dating and he proposed to her in Central Park in New York City in December 2016.
And she said, “yes.”
She graduated from Midland with a degree in psychology in 2016 and began working at the Hope Center that year as the education/volunteer coordinator.
He graduated from Midland with an education degree in May 2017.
They married in June 2017 in the backyard of the Hope Center. They even had a couple of Hope Center kids in their wedding.
Jonah became the Fremont site director in November 2017.
Today, the Hope Center serves about 60 youths per weekday.
Students come by bus to the center after school. At the center, they receive homework help. Their grades are checked and goals are set. They have free time in a safe, supervised place where they can have fun with their friends. During night classes, they learn life and social skills, financial literacy and skills that can help them get and keep jobs.
Guest speakers have come to the center to talk about careers — from being a tattoo artist to a doctor and about everything in between, Jonah Renter said.
In their time at the center, the Renters have enjoyed serving the youth and seeing them make progress.
Montana said she’s liked watching students achieve and even exceed academic goals they’ve made and seeing them do well in school and at the center.
“It’s a lot of fun and also I do like the collaboration of the Fremont community, going out and working with other businesses and the schools,” Montana said. “We’ve had good communication between us to help the kids be successful.”
The Renters note that leaving is difficult.
“I kind of grew up here a little bit and made great relationships and friendships through it and developed as a professional,” he said.
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They appreciate the students.
Montana recalls the recent reaction of one teen after learning the Renters were leaving.
“He was so sweet,” Montana said. “He raised his hand really slow and said, ‘Who’s going to teach me my social skills?’”
The teen was assured that other staffers would be able to assist him.
“It’s sweet to know that the kids understand that you were the ones investing in them and they appreciate that,” Montana added.
Jonah Renter has a good memory of taking a group of middle school students to a college visit in Wisconsin.
They also went to the Six Flags Great America theme park in Gurnee, Illinois.
“The kids had an absolute blast. Those kids are in high school now and they still talk about that trip and how much it meant to them,” he said.
Jonah appreciates the opportunity to help carry on Schenzel’s legacy in his hometown.
Fremont native Ty Schenzel and his wife, Terri, founded The Hope Center for Kids in Omaha. Years later, they founded one in Fremont as well. The Schenzels died in a two-vehicle accident in South Dakota in 2015.
“He (Ty) had a very lasting impact on my parents,” Renter said. “He worked with my parents and then I got to work in a place he created. It’s cool how God works in that way.”
The Renters plan to move to Omaha. Montana will become an admissions adviser at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“I’ll be helping high school kids get connected to Iowa Western,” she said.
Jonah is looking toward getting into the teaching profession.
Montana said she’s excited to get back solely to education work.
Jason McGee of Omaha will serve as interim site director in Fremont as a contract worker.
He previously was the regional program director for both the Omaha and Fremont Hope Center sites.
“I’ve been doing this type of work for 15 years professionally,” McGee said.
McGee also has roots in the Fremont area. His great-grandfather was Dodge County Sheriff Pelham McGee. He still has family living in the Fremont community.
“It’s an honor to be able to still stay connected to Hope and the Fremont community,” McGee said. “I’m excited to basically help keep things stable until the next chapter becomes apparent.”
On Monday, Hope Center hours will be changed. They will be from after school until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Office hours will remain the same from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Three other staffers are remaining. They are: Jesse Vitamvas, youth program coordinator; Caitlyn Ostry, program assistant and membership coordinator; Edgar Gallardo, intern/program assistant. Two volunteers, Dave Hahn and Edna Wilson, also will continue to come to the center daily.