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Bethesda Lutheran Communities
40 acres of land along the Rock River in Watertown, Wis. were donated to Bethesda.
was officially founded in Watertown, Wis. by concerned Lutherans and opened its doors to five people.
focused on Christ-centered training and Lutheran education while providing people with a loving, supportive home.
In 1906, we lost our lease in Watertown so the school was relocated to Milwaukee, Wis.
The first confirmation was held in 1907 at Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.
In 1908, due to overcrowded conditions and a long waiting list, Bethesda built the first building on the 40 acres of land that was donated in 1903. Staff and 42 people receiving services moved back to Watertown, Wis., where individuals who received support and services helped with the farming, gardening, and tending of livestock while also helping to take care of those less able.
In 1923, the school adopted the name Bethesda, taken from John 5:2-9 meaning House of Mercy.
By 1926, more than 270 people called Bethesda home. The first full-time chaplain was called and workshops began.
During the depression of the 1930s, the people sold wool batts and thistle tea to raise money. Of the 368 people living at Bethesda, 245 received no financial support.
Money was a problem, so the staff took a paycut. Then God blessed Bethesda with two bequests and numerous other contributions, making the building of a new chapel possible.
In the 1940s, Bethesda entered a period of expansion which began with renovations and still continues today. [Current renovation projects]
In 1960, the first Bethesda thrift store was started in Watertown, Wis. [Current list of Bethesda Resale Shops]
Between 1961-1968, Bethesda started occupational therapy, music therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy departments.
In 1969, Camp Matz, a unique outdoor campground that is fully accessible to people with developmental disabilities, was opened. [More about Camp Matz]
Bethesda began expanding its services across the eastern half of the United States. In addition to Wisconsin, services were now offered in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri and Texas. [Current Bethesda support locations]
In 1985, Bethesda's National Christian Resource Center (NCRC) opened. The NCRC provides resources worldwide to families of people with developmental disabilities, pastors, volunteers, teachers and professionals in the field of developmental disabilities. [More about the NCRC]
In 1992, corporate members voted to change the official name of the organization to Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc.
Late in 1995, the corporation made a greater commitment to serve people in the community when the board authorized the new Parish Ministry Consultant (PMC) positions.
Located in regional offices, these consultants work directly with families, teachers and pastors, ensuring that people with developmental disabilities receive the Christian education and spiritual nurture they need. All of their services are free of charge.
In 2001, Bethesda signed an alliance that established a partnership, IMPACT., to assist individuals with developmental disabilities in Eastern Europe and worldwide. IMPACT. partners are v. Bodelschwingh Institution of Bethel, Germany; Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc., United States of America; the Deacony Foundation of Northern Norway; Bethphage, United States of America; Bethphage of Great Britain; and Bethphage Fund Latvia. [Visit IMPACT.'s Web site]
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