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Bethany Homes celebrates service to elderly

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Bethany’s former executive director for some 20 years, Bruce Nikkel offers good health and best wishes to the staff and supporters of Bethany Home at the dinner celebrating its “50 years of caring”...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin/

POSTED September 17, 2013 3:14 a.m.

It was a family of some 350 guests that celebrated Bethany Home’s 50 years of success at a Saturday night gala at the Ripon Community Center.

Bethany Home has 240 employees today who serve the needs of some 400 seniors on its campus making the non-profit the second largest employer in the community.  Executive Director Andrew Lee told of fears that Medicare would cease to exist in five years with the elder care in the community having to rely on the support of Bethany’s foundation.

Lee said he hoped Bethany could raise some $2 million during the anniversary year that would add to the foundation’s coffers to provide help for the expected future’s shortfall.

Bethany’s total assets have grown to some $26 million today with an annual operating budget of $11 million.  Lee added that the Bethany Home Foundation has experienced significant growth and vitality in recent years and has become an influential part of the overall success of the operation.

During the last nine years the Town Square living units were built across Main Street that added a total of 79 units, a therapeutic swimming pool and a fitness center. 

Bethany’s current executive director said that he believes insurance companies will become the funding source for elder care and it will be called managed care.

“We struggle to accurately predict the costs associated with providing good elder care in the future,” Lee said. “ I believe the government and the insurance companies will stop funding health care for seniors.  When that day comes, our Foundation wants to be ready to pick up the slack and maintain the same quality of care that we experience today.  It is for that reason, Bethany Home needs to grow its endowment…..plain and simple.” 

Lee closed his remarks by quoting President Abraham Lincoln who said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”  He urged the audience to join him in that effort with their donations to the Bethany Home Foundation.

“A Walk Down Memory Lane” was presented by past directors of Bethany, Ken Hekman and Bruce Nikkel.  Hekman had taken over the post following his dad Martin Hekman some 40 years ago followed by Nikkel.  Both captivated the audience with their own stories about the evolution of the Bethany Home story.

Ken Hekman traveled from his Midwest home with his wife Marybeth and his 93-year-old mother “Gert” to attend the event Saturday night.  Hekman said he grew up with Bethany remembering the facility from the time he was 10 years old.  He noted that his dad, Martin, had been on the board of directors since Bethany was created as a nursing home in the community. 

Chuckling, he said he vividly remembered when he was in high school when his dad had him clean out the air conditioning system’s vents.  He said he was only 25 when he was named assistant manager. He became manager of the facility at 27. 

Hekman said when he was 30 years old Bethany achieved zero deficiencies in state inspections and praised Barbara Camping and her team for once again achieving zero deficiencies in the nursing home.  Hekman ended his presentation with a thought-provoking note about the love that is found within the Bethany family: “Love is compelling, love is enduring and love wins.  Love never dies.  Bethany encompasses love,” he said.

Nikkel followed, remembering when he first came to Bethany from his tenure at Trinity College. 

“When I came to Bethany there was an interesting line in the charter,” he said. It had been established for charitable purposes.  He quickly realized that this would be a place that was going to give rather than to receive.

“The people at Bethany expected that,” he quipped. “If it didn’t happen the administrator was going to be run out of town.  We keep coming back to the spirit of love and we were going to do what it takes to keep them comfortable and safe,” he remembers thinking over the years. 

The numbers living at Bethany Home under Ken Hekman’s administration totaled 180.  Bruce Nikkel saw the numbers grow to 300 and Andrew Lee now has 400 under his roof at the Ripon facility.

Master of Ceremonies Dirk Hoek and president of the Bethany Home Society Board of Directors called Nikkel to the lectern to lead the group in a champagne toast offered to the past, present and the future of the Christian movement that is dedicated to the loving care of senior citizens.

The history of Bethany dates back to 1957 when Reverend John De Jong returned to the Ripon community. He came with his special dream to make a difference for the aged in nursing care.  His vision gained momentum as he shared his thoughts with Andrew Douma and others in Ripon.  A year later a core of supporters from the Christian Reformed Churches began to meet in the launching of the Bethany Home Society of San Joaquin County.

It was in 1959 that the property for the nursing home was acquired on West Main Street with efforts being stepped up for the financing and construction of a 74-bed nursing facility.  The entire $300,000 goal was reached by the time the buildings were raised in 1963 through the generosity of the people of Ripon and its church communities. 

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