Our History

1903

40 acres of landing along the Rock River in Watertown, Wis. were donated to Bethesda.

1904

Bethesda was officially founded in Watertown, Wis. by concerned Lutherans and opened its doors to five people. Bethesda focused on Christ-centered training and Lutheran education while providing people with a loving, supportive home.

1906

Bethesda lost its lease in Watertown so the school relocated to Milwaukee, Wis.

1907

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. Back in Watertown, Wis. 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.

1908

The school adopted the name Bethesda, taken from John 5:2-9 meaning House of Mercy

1923

More than 270 people called Bethesda home. The first full-time chaplain was called and workshops began.

1930

During the depression of the 1930s, Bethesda 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 pay cut. Then God blessed Bethesda with two bequests and numerous other contributions, making the building of a new chapel possible.

1940

Bethesda entered a period of expansion which began with renovations and still continues today with the expansion into community settings.

1960

The first Bethesda thrift shop was opened in Watertown, Wis.

1961

Between 1961-1968, Bethesda started occupational therapy, music therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy departments.

1969

Camp Matz was opened. Today it is a fully accessible camp for people with developmental disabilities.

1970

Bethesda began expanding its services across the eastern half of the
United States.

1985

Bethesda's National Christian Resource Center (NCRC) opened.

1992

Corporate members voted to change the official name of the organization to Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc.

   
1995

The organization made a greater commitment to serve people in the community when it created new Ministry Consultant (MC) positions. MCs work directly with families, teachers and pastors, ensuring that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive the Christian education and spiritual nurture they need. All of their services are free of charge.

2001

Bethesda signed an alliance that established a partnership, Impact, to assist individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities worldwide. Impact partners are v. Bodelschwingh Institution of Bethel, Germany; Bethesda Lutheran Communities, Inc., United States of America; the Deacony Foundation of Northern Norway; Mosaic, United States of America; and Bethphage of Great Britain.

2004

Bethesda celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Expansion into community-based homes and services led to a decrease in the number of people living on the campus in Watertown, Wis. For those people continuing to live at the Watertown campus, a $25 million dollar campus remodeling provided private rooms and more individualized living spaces.

2006

Good Shepherd Communities affiliated with Bethesda, expanding our services to the western part of the United States.

2008

Bethesda’s Board voted to officially adopt the name Bethesda Lutheran Communities.

2009

Bethesda officially launched the Bethesda Institute. The Bethesda Institute recast the NCRC and expanded its focus.

2010

Lutheran Disability Ministries and Lutheran Disability Outreach, both of Indiana, became part of Bethesda

 
   
   
   

© 2014 Bethesda Lutheran Communities
600 Hoffmann Drive, Watertown, WI 53094 Phone: 800-369-4636