“When you say the word disability, it takes the ability away from the person,” she said. “We all have abilities, and we all have things we use for modification — I have poor eyesight, so I use glasses; I’m bad at directions, so I use a car with a navigation system. That’s not really any different than going into a home and using a lift.”
The people Bethesda supports, and their families, can receive assistance in a variety of ways and at a variety of levels. Bethesda offers everything from full-time live-in support staff, to assistance with basic community-based skills like balancing a checkbook, to occasional respite care for families.
“We pride ourselves on individualizing the services,” Gumbel said. “We may have somebody that requires 24-hour a day, one-on-one support, or we may have someone who receives 4-6 hours of support a week…we take each person and we develop a plan based on their needs and wishes in conjunction with the needs and wishes of their family.”
Bethesda is currently active in 14 states across the country, and has more than 500 employees in Gumbel’s four-state region. Most of the regional team for the organization, which is a Registered Service Organization of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, is based in Fort Wayne.
Though clients and employees are not required to subscribe to a particular faith — or any faith, for that matter — there is nevertheless a commitment to religious life. Bethesda’s religious life services are funded by the organization’s donors. ‘Ministry consultants’ ensure that clients have the opportunity to be integrated into congregations of their choosing by assisting the individual, the church, and the individual’s care worker in the process.
“We don’t just want to be a nonprofit that receives,” Gumbel said. “We want to give back.”
Because of this, Bethesda was drawn to the idea of investing in an organization dedicated to improving the community.
“Greater Fort Wayne Inc. sat down, told us what they did, how we could benefit, and then explained the idea of being an investor,” she continued. “We walked away ready to write a check…we would have the opportunity to benefit from the other businesses, but also benefit from [GFW Inc.] putting the word out about who we are.”
Gumbel said that she feels like the organization has a voice, and the ability to help make decisions that will shape the community. In the year since Bethesda became a member, they’ve received a number of opportunities for publicity and networking as well as direct interaction with GFW Inc. staff.
“It’s not just your name in a directory,” she said. “Greater Fort Wayne Inc. is now investing in us.”