Marguerite Bonnema, the last living co-founder of Bethany Christian Services, passed away this week, days before her 100th birthday. The impact of her legacy cannot be overstated. What began as a dream to serve children in crisis nearly 70 years ago among friends in Grand Rapids, Michigan eventually blossomed into a global initiative serving vulnerable children in 19 countries across five continents.
Like most organizations, Bethany’s beginnings were humble. In 1944, Ms. Bonnema and Mary DeBoer, her friend and roommate, took in a baby girl who needed a home. Five other infants who also needed boarding soon followed, with Ms. Bonnema and Ms. DeBoer providing a loving environment for the children within the confines of their cozy apartment. With a desire to offer critical support to more children in crisis, the friends purchased property in Grand Rapids with the help of a local church, invited Andrew VanderVeer, a local missionary, to join their work, and obtained a license to run a home caring for children. Thus, Bethany Christian Home was born.
Through the love and compassion of Ms. Bonnema (above far left) and her fellow co-founders, Bethany Christian Services has become one of the nation’s premier family preservation agencies — from its beginning in a humble home providing care for vulnerable infants — to today finding families for children in need around the globe. Bethany is serving tens of thousands of children and families each year through providing critical training and support to developing countries, such as China, Ethiopia, and Haiti, in creating sustainable child welfare services. Such efforts are vital in combating the global orphan crisis, including more than 153 million children around the world.
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“While I am saddened by Marguerite’s passing, I rejoice that she is with the Lord,” said Bill Blacquiere, Bethany’s president and CEO. “As a result of her vision and courage, Bethany has touched the lives of many thousands of children and families since its founding. In her memory, we will continue our commitment to find loving families for children in crisis.”
For more information on Ms. Bonnema’s historical impact on vulnerable children, visit www.Bethany.org.