Building community one step at a time
December 31, 2020
SWAN VALLEY – "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree...," and so the song goes counting down the days. This song took on new meaning this year at Swan Valley School as each day, one of the 11 teachers or staff were called down to the office following the song. They were given a t-shirt and gifts of recognition for their hard work thanks to the group that calls themselves the Amazing Walking Women (AWW) of Condon. On the 12th day the staff and students all received ice cream.
"It is just a way to thank them for all of their hard work and thank them for working during such difficult times," said Marcia Tapp, one of the founding members of AWW of Condon. "Our teachers are working very hard on behalf of the children. That needs to be rewarded even if it is through cookies."
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Tapp and Mary Fitzsimon started the walking women's group a couple years ago.
"We decided it would be a good community building thing if we got a bunch of women who would be interested in walking and going to the [Mission Mountains] Merc and having coffee and discussing the world afterwards," Tapp said.
What started with just two women has grown to several from diverse backgrounds and ages 20-70+. The women meet at the Swan Valley Community Hall Mondays and Fridays at 9 a.m. and walk three to three and a half miles as long as temperatures are above zero. Afterwards they drive north to the Mission Mountains Mercantile for coffee.
"It is basically a walking, social organization that is not organized at all. You never know who is going to be there on any given day," said Tapp. "We have a lot of fun and have some really, really good conversations after walking. With such a diverse group we get lots of different ideas and different viewpoints but you really get to know people that way."
Tapp laughed when she said they just came up with the name "Amazing Walking Women of Condon." "But they really are amazing women. They are all diverse backgrounds, all diverse educations, but we all learn from each other. I think it is really good for the community," Tapp said.
Along with providing an outlet for exercise and building relationships, as the members see needs in the community, they bring them to the attention of the group.
Tapp suggested the idea to do something to honor the teachers and staff at the school. She serves on the Swan Valley School Board and saw the struggles the teachers were going through including teaching three grades, working with remote students and implementing all the new cleaning and safety procedures.
"It is just really strenuous for them. We couldn't necessarily afford a raise right now but we could do something to show them we cared about them," said Tapp. "I brought this up to the Walking Women and they were all excited. I think most people want to do the right thing and want to help. Sometimes you just don't know how to do it. Sometimes it is the simplest things that make the biggest impact."
The group agreed and walkers each chose a month through the end of the school year to do something special for the staff. The group started in November presenting the teachers and staff with a coffee card and chocolates. December's organizers wanted to incorporate the 12 days of Christmas by each day recognizing one of the 11 staff and giving the entire school ice cream treats on the 12th day.
Third, fourth and fifth grade teacher Jamie Matthew was the first one to receive a gift for the Twelve Days of Christmas
"It was such a surprise and brought so much joy to my day," Matthew wrote in an email. "This wonderful group had brought us chocolates and coffee cards the month before, which was so appreciated, and to have them go out of their way to put together such thoughtful gifts in December was such a great example of why I am so proud to be a part of this amazing community."
Matthew added that the theme for her classroom in December was kindness.
"It was so impactful for my students to see how this group of women were giving to others without asking for anything in return. It was a tangible example to them that no act of kindness is too small," Matthew wrote. "Thank you so much for all of the effort that went into this project. There are not enough words for me to express my appreciation."
Every day for the 12 days leading up to Winter Break, secretary Katie Gleason would play the song over the radio for that day and then call a staff member down to the office.
"I didn't know what was in the bags and I didn't know whose day it was until I opened the envelope," Gleason wrote in an email. "The Amazing Walking Women of Condon are just that, AMAZING! The coffee and chocolates in November really hit the spot and the 12 Days of Christmas has been so fun for both the staff and the students. We all looked forward to when the music would play and who's name might be called. We live in the greatest community and I am so thankful!!!"
Junior High Teacher Colleen Harrington's name was called on the fifth day. She received "five golden rings" as well as five bagels with cream cheese. Each golden ring had sayings about silver and gold. The first one said "And I keep searching for a heart of gold" a quote from Neil Young.
"I thought 'Ok, who is this person, do they know me?' That was the first song I ever learned on the guitar," Harrington said adding that she forgot her lunch that day so the bagels and cream cheese were another welcome gift. "The creativity is just astounding and hilarious. What a morale-boosting thing. We had no idea this was coming. What an uplifting, creative, fun thing to do for us."
Teacher Danni Parcell agreed. Her name was called on the seventh day. She received seven origami swans and a pole with seven blow-up swan floaties.
"It was so appropriate and I just loved it," said Parcell who has been a swimming instructor in the valley for decades.
"The Amazing Walking Women of Condon have really extended out to the school in terms of gifting each staff member in December," said Ralph King, Swan Valley School principal. "We just appreciate all of those ladies and everything they are doing in support of our school."
Anyone in the community is welcome to walk Mondays and Fridays with the Amazing Walking Women. Tapp emphasized there is no commitment, "It is just an organization where people can come together, enjoy getting to know each other and do some good."