Strengthening bridges with hope

PA Area Al-Anon 49th Annual Convention – RECAP

July 12, 2022

Chairing a Convention
(with a lot of help from my friends)

I didn’t intend to chair the 49th annual Pennsylvania Al-Anon Convention last month.

But in January, when our chair had to step down, as co-chair, I became “it.”

One of the first things I did was to call the past head of our state Convention.

“Be strong, confident and kind,” she said. I have tried to follow those words during this journey.

Our committee of 12 wonderful people met almost every two weeks via Zoom. Several had past Convention experience, which was a great help. While she was unable to continue chairing, our immediate past chair stepped in as secretary and helped me navigate the road to the Convention.

In April we went to Mansfield University to get the lay of the land. We also met with the head of catering. (Our catering issues are still unresolved. Our committee was deeply disappointed with the food service. We apologize to all our attendees, especially those with special food needs who had to travel off campus to eat.)

We faced other challenges.

Early on, the man who regularly recorded our speakers’ talks for sale as CDs confirmed he would do it, but then couldn’t. We couldn’t get a DJ for our dance party. The solutions? A bit of ingenuity, iTunes, an iPhone, and a member’s mother’s professional speakers saved the day.

Finally, the time had arrived. A total of 200 people registered—the number I had hoped for. Our committee drove to Mansfield on Thursday, June 9, before the Friday kickoff. We set up registration tables and stuffed manilla envelopes with maps, programs, contacts’ phone numbers, and lanyards with first-name-only name tags. We created and installed directional signs. With paint, we transformed pillows and overturned paper soup bowls into stepping stones (our theme) to decorate the auditorium stage. We were busy and we were excited!

Our first in-person Convention in two years kicked off on June 10 with a 5 p.m. early-bird meeting on anonymity.

Our one Alcoholics Anonymous and three Al-Anon speakers each received a standing ovation. The attendees’ survey forms included lots of praise for the workshops and speakers.

We’re still not finished paying bills. Although making a profit is not why we have Conventions, we hope to end “in the black.” According to the bylaws, whatever money we make will be split between the AWSC (80 percent) and the World Service Organization (20 percent).

A full financial accounting will be presented at the AWSC Assembly in Harrisburg next month.

But money and catering issues aside, I personally have been honored and humbled to chair this year’s Convention. It was so gratifying to be part of a group—for some members, it was their first Convention—dedicated to achieving something we could never have done alone.

It’s been an amazing, Higher-Powered example of Al-Anon in action.

Do I plan to help with next year’s Convention? You betcha!

Thank you for letting me share.
Ellen C.
2022 Convention Chair

When: June 10-12, 2022

Where: Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, Mansfield, Pa. (Tioga County, D14)

Why there: Other universities declined. Mansfield offered us a single-room rate of $28 and the option of staying longer at that rate to take in the area’s scenic and recreational attractions. Most of the rooms are singles; no roommate needed. Handicapped access is available.

The cost: $155 for a single room, three meals Saturday, Sunday breakfast and the cost of the Convention. The cost for a couple is $290. Vegan and special-diet options are available.

You will need: Single bed sheets/blankets, pillow, towels, toiletries. You may bring a coffee pot. Free Wi-Fi is available.

Events: Great workshops, inspiring speakers, AA participation, a basket raffle, 50-50 chances, and a Saturday night dance party with cake!

Registration: Register today! Online registration is available until May 27, 2022. There will be no extensions.

Spread the word: Please share the Convention flyer with your Group and with your Al-Anon friends.

Click here to view things to do and see in the Mansfield Area:  Things-to-do-in-Mansfield-revised

Questions: For questions or additional information, email [email protected]

Connecting at the Convention

Consider this year’s Convention as a weekend for connecting or reconnecting—with ourselves and with others in this beautiful fellowship.

It will be a weekend of inspiring speakers, enlightening workshops, and for reconnecting with the friends we’ve met through Al-Anon and the friends we have yet to meet. It’s a chance to get away from home and have fun. And even dance!

The PA Area World Service Committee is living up to its mission of  “Embracing the future in unity and courage” by holding our first in-person Convention since 2019. The decision was not made lightly.

“Our primary purpose is to help families and friends of alcoholics.” We help each other by coming together.

Slowly, cautiously, we are emerging from virtual to face-to-face meetings, even if a lot of us are still masked. And that’s okay. We respect that not everyone has the same comfort level as we move back into in-person meetings. We respect your choice.

Our Convention is NOT a business meeting. It is an opportunity for personal growth, and even laughter, through the interplay of conversations and experiences that are simply not possible when we are staring at a screen.

We are social beings, and if the pandemic has taught me anything, it is that I need to connect with other people. Last year, my home group in Ebensburg decided through a group conscious effort to hold our meetings in person, distanced and masked. Like many in our fellowship, I have an underlying medical condition. I am vaxxed and boosted. I went to our first (masked) face-to-face meeting with some measure of fear, but I went. We sat apart from one another. What I discovered was that we were all so happy to see each other again! The sharing is better, more intimate, and deeper, when it is in person. And no one has gotten sick. (Thank you, Higher Power!)

We encourage everyone who comes to the Convention to follow the continuing recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Our safety—physical, mental and emotional—is vitally important. We’re going to be able to socially distance ourselves in the workshop classrooms, cafeteria and auditorium. It will be summer; we can go outside during breaks and get some fresh air. We have options, choices to make.

And we’re going to have fun!

Fear will not stop us. We have the tools of Al-Anon to defeat fear and embrace the unknown with the help of our Higher Power.

Thank you for letting me share!

Ellen C.
2022 Convention Chair