Celebration: Frankenmuth home turns 35


When Bethesda President and CEO Mike Thirtle recently spoke to the 70-plus people gathered to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the organization’s group home in Frankenmuth, Michigan, he told them to remember three numbers: 3, 35 and 80. 

In the beginning, there were three Lutheran churches that believed strongly in Bethesda’s mission and wanted a group home in Frankenmuth so they could be more involved: St. Lorenz and St. John’s in Frankenmuth and St. Michael’s in Richfield.  

In 1982, 35 years ago, the churches’ wish came true.    

The 80 comes from the Finta family – Ann, Roger, Jayme and Zach – whose dedication to Bethesda’s mission and the Frankenmuth home is undeniable and inspiring. Counting all time worked at Bethesda by the Finta Four, they have provided 80 years of service to the people living in Frankenmuth. 

Ann has worked for Bethesda since the home in Frankenmuth opened and is now Bethesda’s area director for the state of Michigan. Her husband, Roger, who has passed away, worked for Bethesda for many years as well. Jayme started working for Bethesda in 2003, and Zach in 2007. 

As a young married couple, Roger and Ann assumed the responsibility as group home managers at Frankenmuth. They both had worked at another home near Frankenmuth. As group home managers, they lived in the home with eight people Bethesda supported. Five of them were people who moved from Bethesda’s Watertown campus to Michigan to have a more independent life.   

With group home managers living in the home, it felt very much like a family. Generally when group home managers were going to have a baby, they were no longer able to be group home managers for Bethesda. Ann and Roger were different.  

A woman at the anniversary party shared the history of St. Lorenz and also said that when she heard about Bethesda’s policy to not continue to have group home managers with a family continue employment, she said she personally wrote to Bethesda to ensure Roger and Ann continued their job. 

When Jayme was born in 1984, exceptions were made. When Zach was born in 1988, the exception continued. Two babies were raised in the home; they became part of the family.  

Some people living in that home take credit for the wonderful adults those children became, says Debbie Zubke, division operating officer for Bethesda, who attended the anniversary party. 

“When you talk to the people that live in this home now, they will tell you how much they feel respected, how welcoming the community is and how much they care about Ann and her family,” she says. “They talk about the independence they have; they do their laundry, assist in preparing meals and many have jobs in the community. They are part of the community and integral members of their congregations. ”  

There are two of the original people who lived in the Frankenmuth home still being supported by Bethesda on a minimal basis. Charles and Lydia have both moved to more independent settings and are active members of the community.  

Charles, although he no longer lives at the group home, wanted to do something special for the celebration. He decided to buy a big cake as his part of providing something for the potluck dinner. His cake was a major dessert on the dessert table, according to Debbie.   

The Frankenmuth home serves as an example of what Bethesda wants for all people it supports, she says. 

“They have been fortunate to have a family that has dedicated their lives to them,” Debbie says. “Ann stated that had she had the time, she could go person-by-person in that room and tell stories about how they have helped make this home so successful.” 

One of the guests at the anniversary was a woman who for 35 years has sent a birthday card with $3 in it to every person supported in the Frankenmuth home.   

“People are overjoyed at her card and anticipate it each birthday,” Debbie says. “Making people feel special on their birthday is a celebration of their life.” 

A direct support professional at the home, Cindy Padgett, assisted in setting up the potluck and did a wonderful job, Debbie says.  

“Her mother is obviously very proud of her for the work she does,” she says. “She said that if people don’t have plans for holidays, her daughter will bring them to her house to celebrate holidays with their family. Opening up their home and having such dedicated staff means so much to the people we support.” 

Bethesda highlighted the Frankenmuth home at their annual banquet five years ago. Watch the “throwback” video.  You can also read about one of the people who live in our Frankenmuth home and his sister, who serves as his guardian.



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