Bethesda, whose provincial office is in Abbotsford, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, with activities planned on Thursday, Sept. 16.

Bethesda, whose provincial office is in Abbotsford, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, with activities planned on Thursday, Sept. 16.

Abbotsford-based Bethesda celebrates 50 years of service

Organization supports individuals with diverse abilities and their familes

An Abbotsford-based organization that supports people with diverse abilities and their families is celebrating 50 years of service.

Bethesda celebrates the occasion with a provincial office opening and annual general meeting on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 2775 Emerson St.

Dignitaries expected to be on hand include federal election candidates Brad Vis and Ed Fast; MLAs Mike de Jong, Bruce Banman and Pam Alexis; Mayor Henry Braun; and Coun. Patricia Ross.

The event is open by invitation only, but tours of the building and access to on-site food trucks are open to everyone, with two time slots available – noon to 1 p.m. and 1 to 2 p.m. The AGM starts at 7 p.m.

To reserve a spot for the tours or AGM, call 604-850-6604 (ext. 301).

Bethesda was formed in 1971 to help families with children with diverse abilities.

It started with Relief Saturdays, when parents would leave their child with a volunteer family for the day. These services expanded to Sunday School and summer camps.

With no funding beyond donations from a small membership, everything was done by volunteers. The founding directors formed committees and did what needed to be done.

The founding members were also aware that families were seeking housing options for their adult children. In 1974, they started planning a residential home – or group home, as they were called – and in 1977, the first Bethesda home, Mt. Lehman Home in Abbotsford, was opened.

The membership and support from government grew, and administrative and support staff were hired.

The services expanded and grew into the organization that Bethesda is today: 23 staffed residential homes, five Community Inclusion programs, three supported independent living groups, 43 Home Share contracts, self-advocates, 291 people with diverse abilities and families, and 398 employees.

Services are provided in the Lower Mainland and southern Okanagan, but the provincial office is in Abbotsford.

Visit bethesdabc.com/50-years for more information.

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