Bethesda House: A mission in the making

Published 10:39 am Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Beautiful things emerge from the depths. Through soil, water, even mud – various kinds of flowering plants suddenly appear, stretch toward the sun, and bloom. Yet even before they are visible, before their blossoms open, they are forming.

Such is the way with the making of the Bethesda House mission. During the past four years the Board of Directors has patiently and persistently worked to provide Covington County with a house that is up to code and a program for women and children which will put them on the road to healing and wholeness. The work we do is unique, as it often flies under the radar of the community around us. This is necessary for the security of those we serve, as well as the staff members doing the work. We are much like those flowers – always developing just under the surface, then emerging as something beautiful.

We understand that the nature of our work raises questions. Questions are good, as they help us engage what others need to know and understand about our mission.  Therefore, in this article, the first of a weekly column for the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we are responding to the questions most frequently received in recent months.

When will Bethesda House be open for victims? Thanksgiving of this year.

What kind of organization is Bethesda House? Bethesda House is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization in good standing with the IRS.

Why has it taken so long to open? Every Board member has hoped to open Bethesda House before now. Various organizations and individuals have been financially generous in supporting improvements to the property. Yet raising sufficient funds for operating expenses (you know, the money that keeps the utilities on, trains and pays staff – even a small staff, feeds and provides trauma-based therapy for victims, etc.), has been more challenging, and therefore more time-consuming. Further, securing staff members who are adequately qualified is essential. Getting the pieces in place simultaneously has been part of the journey. Bethesda House was established in 2015. While interviewing directors from other shelters, as well as those who are in various stages of establishing shelters, it became clear that taking several years to open a program such as ours is normal; the average seems to be between five and seven years.  If this is the case, we are ahead of the curve – certainly within the five-year mark.

Where is Bethesda House located? We are located in Covington County. That’s really all we can disclose for the security of our future residents.

What are the goals of Bethesda House? Our mission begins with the goal of providing a safe, nurturing environment for women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Once here, women will establish an individual case plan for moving toward healing and increasing employment readiness. Children will also receive support in the form of therapy when needed. Additionally, Bethesda House is developing various outreach programs for the community, including a teen action program, a read-aloud program for preschool and elementary children, and workshops for churches, civic groups, medical personnel, and emergency responders. We have also set a goal to develop a batterer intervention program (BIP), changing the narrative of domestic violence in the hope of eventually keeping families together.

What kinds of roles can volunteers do? If you are a person of faith, please pray for Bethesda House. You can be assigned to a Prayer Team and receive texts regularly for BH prayer requests. If this is of interest, send an e-mail to Alison Jackson-Wood at execdirector.bethesdahouse@gmail.com to be added to a team. Beyond prayer, volunteers are needed for many jobs, such as clerical work, social media support, reading or playing games with children, helping in the kitchen, and driving residents to various appointments. More information will be available about volunteering for Bethesda House in upcoming articles.

What items are needed? A Bethesda House Wishlist will be provided in next week’s article. Until then, think good thoughts for us, as goodness always finds a place to land.

Dr. Alison Jackson-Wood, Executive Director, Bethesda House