The Abbotsford-based Bethesda recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and the opening of its new provincial office.
The organization, which supports people with diverse abilities and their families, opened its new office Sept. 16 at 2775 Emerson St.
The opening was attended by a small group of Bethesda staff, dignitaries and people it has supported over the years.
Board president Rachel Ludwig shared a brief history of Bethesda, telling the story of its origins, when dozens of volunteers provided weekend respite care to families, started summer camps, and opened their first home in rural Abbotsford.
Today, Bethesda operates 23 staffed residential homes, five community inclusion programs, three supported independent-living inclusive communities, 43 home-share contracts, and dozens of self-advocates with a total of 291 people supported by 398 employees.
CEO Jody Siebert talked about the deep roots Bethesda has in the Fraser Valley and how the new office building will meet the needs of the expanding organization and help to provide quality service to people with diverse abilities.
Also attending the event were MP Ed Fast, MLA Pam Alexis, MLA Mike de Jong, MLA Bruce Banman and Mayor Henry Braun.
Fast expressed his gratitude “for the ministry and the investment Bethesda has made in our community here and across British Columbia in providing support and the love for those who perhaps are not as fortunate as those of us who are fully abled – to invest in those lives in a way that brings them joy as well.”
Alexis thanked Bethesda for 50 years of leadership, compassion and community service and for the “dedication and commitment” the organization has shown over the years.
De Jong talked about the role Bethesda has played in creating awareness and education and helping people understand the need to allow people with a broad range of abilities to maximize and achieve their full potential.
He shared a story about being sent as a young boy to Bethesda’s first summer camp in 1972, along with the neighbour boy who had a disability, and the impact that experience had on him for the rest of his life.
“The impact of that week on me, seeing the joy on the faces of the kids my age when they were in a setting that allowed them to fully explore their own abilities – I’ve never forgotten that.”
Braun offered congratulations and thanks on behalf of the City of Abbotsford for serving people with diverse abilities.
“Bethesda is a great example of how compassionate people saw a need, created a vision and acted. Today we celebrate your growth and legacy. Your work helps build our community.”
The event wrapped up with a ribbon-cutting, guided tours of the building, and a parking lot lunch with on-site food trucks, Barking Irons Roastery and Rock n Roll Burgers.