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Bethesda Lutheran Communities

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  • 1903
    40 acres of land along the Rock River in Watertown, Wis. were donated to Bethesda.

  • 1904
    In 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
    In 1906, we lost our lease in Watertown so the school was relocated to Milwaukee, Wis.

  • 1907
    The first confirmation was held in 1907 at Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.

  • 1908
    In 1908, 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. Staff and 42 people receiving services moved back to Watertown, Wis., where 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.

  • 1923
    In 1923, the school adopted the name Bethesda, taken from John 5:2-9 meaning House of Mercy.

  • 1926
    By 1926, more than 270 people called Bethesda home. The first full-time chaplain was called and workshops began.

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

  • 1940s
    In the 1940s, Bethesda entered a period of expansion which began with renovations and still continues today. [Current renovation projects]

  • 1960
    In 1960, the first Bethesda thrift store was started in Watertown, Wis. [Current list of Bethesda Resale Shops]

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

  • 1969
    In 1969, Camp Matz, a unique outdoor campground that is fully accessible to people with developmental disabilities, was opened. [More about Camp Matz]

  • 1970s-1980s
    Bethesda began expanding its services across the eastern half of the United States. In addition to Wisconsin, services were now offered in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri and Texas. [Current Bethesda support locations]

  • 1985
    In 1985, Bethesda's National Christian Resource Center (NCRC) opened. The NCRC provides resources worldwide to families of people with developmental disabilities, pastors, volunteers, teachers and professionals in the field of developmental disabilities. [More about the NCRC]

  • 1992
    In 1992, corporate members voted to change the official name of the organization to Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc.

  • 1995
    Late in 1995, the corporation made a greater commitment to serve people in the community when the board authorized the new Parish Ministry Consultant (PMC) positions.

    Located in regional offices, these consultants work directly with families, teachers and pastors, ensuring that people with developmental disabilities receive the Christian education and spiritual nurture they need. All of their services are free of charge.

  • 2001
    In 2001, Bethesda signed an alliance that established a partnership, IMPACT., to assist individuals with developmental disabilities in Eastern Europe and worldwide. IMPACT. partners are v. Bodelschwingh Institution of Bethel, Germany; Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc., United States of America; the Deacony Foundation of Northern Norway; Bethphage, United States of America; Bethphage of Great Britain; and Bethphage Fund Latvia. [Visit IMPACT.'s Web site]
  • Benefits
    Benefits Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. BENEFIT SUMMARY Employees of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. hired for at least 60 hours per two-week pay period may be eligible for our full benefit package. All employees may be eligible for some of the listed benefits. Please refer to your Employee Handbook for details on Bethesda’s benefits and policies. This information is a brief outline of benefits ONLY. If there is any discrepancy between this information and information contained elsewhere, the appropriate Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. policy or benefit contract will govern. Regularly scheduled employees who are hired to work 60 hours per pay period or more and are not limited term are eligible for the following benefits: PAID TIME OFF (PTO): Bethesda offers Paid Time Off. PTO accrual begins from the date of hire and accrues for each regular paid hour of work or other benefited hours. The accrual rate is based on statused hours and years of service. PTO can be used after 90 days of employment and can be used in ¼ hour increments. EXTENDED ILLNESS BENEFIT (EIB): Bethesda also offers an Extended Illness Benefit. EIB also begins accrual from the date of hire and is based on statused hours. These hours are to be used to assist benefit eligible employees with extended illness benefits for long-term illness in accordance with stated schedules and procedures. They are available on the fourth day of absence due to illness, or on the first day of absence if other circumstances apply. This benefit is available after 180 days of employment. SHORT-TERM DISABILITY: This benefit provides partial income replacement (60% of gross pay up to $500 per week) beginning on the 15th day of absence due to illness or non-work related injury for a maximum period of 26 weeks. Bethesda covers the cost of this benefit. LIFE INSURANCE: The benefit is equal to the employee’s annual earnings, up to a maximum of $100,000. The premium is fully paid by Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. VOLUNTARY SUPPLEMENTAL LIFE INSURANCE: Employees may purchase additional life insurance. Employees may elect up to 5 times their annual salary up to a maximum benefit of $500,000. Employees are responsible for premium. VOLUNTARY SPOUSE AND DEPENDENT LIFE INSURANCE: Employees who purchase the voluntary supplemental life insurance may also elect to purchase life insurance on their spouse and/or dependents. Spousal insurance coverage can be up to 50% of employee voluntary life amount purchased. Dependent life has a maximum benefit of $10,000 per dependent. PENSION PLAN: The entire cost of this plan is paid by Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. An employee is eligible for the plan upon attaining 18 years of age and having completed one full year of service. Any employee who completes at least 1,000 hours of service each year may be eligible to participate. Complete details of the plan are covered in the Pension Plan booklet. DIRECT DEPOSIT: Bethesda offers a Direct Deposit program that automatically deposits your paycheck in your checking or savings account. Employees must complete an authorization form and return it with a voided check or savings deposit form. Earning statements are distributed the same as paychecks. FLU/HEPATITIS VACCINATIONS: Some of Bethesda’s locations provide for these vaccinations at no cost or a reduced cost to employees. TAX SHELTERED ANNUITY WITHHOLDING PROGRAM: Employees of a non-profit organization are eligible to establish a personal tax sheltered annuity program. This type of plan is another savings plan for retirement. It allows an employee to set aside a sum of money each pay period without paying income taxes on it at this time. The money is taxable when you start to draw from the plan. Bethesda will deduct the specified sum from your paycheck each month and forward it to the investment entity you select. You are responsible to initiate the investment contract. For more detailed information, contact your investment agent or investment advisor. You must have scheduled hours in each pay period in order to participate. HEALTH INSURANCE: Eligible employees may participate in their choice of available plans. Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. pays a significant portion of the premium for either single, single + one, or family coverage. Bethesda offers multiple options – please contact the regional HR office to see what is offered in your area. In general, an employee’s health insurance takes effect the first day of the month following three full months of employment. Premiums are withheld a month in advance and are deducted from an employee’s paycheck in two installments. DENTAL INSURANCE: Two options are available. The Low option provides coverage for routine dental services such as cleanings and yearly check-ups. The Hi option covers routine dental services plus some coverage for more complex services. Dental coverage is available for single, single + one, and family. The premium is the full responsibility of the employee. VISION CARE PROGRAM: This plan offers employees discounts on eyewear (frames, lenses, contacts, laser corrective surgery) at approved eye care providers. The cost of the plan is $13.00 annually and is the responsibility of the employee. PERSONAL ACCIDENT INSURANCE: This plan provides full 24-hour accident protection anywhere in the world, on or off the job, on business – on vacation – at home. The employee selects the benefit level and the premium is fully paid by the employee. PRE-TAX HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUM DEDUCTION PLAN: Employees who participate in the health and dental insurance programs are eligible to participate in this plan. It allows an employee to have a portion of their insurance premiums deducted from their gross pay before taxes are calculated. Because the deduction reduces your taxable income, it results in less tax being withheld from your check and less of a tax obligation at year-end. Benefit eligible employees are provided a summary plan description at the time they begin employment that explains this plan in detail. Because this plan is beneficial for the majority of employees, employees are automatically enrolled in this plan unless a waiver is completed. FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNT: Bethesda allows eligible employees to set aside up to $1,200 to be used for qualified health-related expenses. Deductions are made on a pre-tax basis and are taken two times per month. DEPENDENT CARE ACCOUNT: In accordance with IRS regulations, Bethesda allows up to $5,000 to be set aside to pay for qualified dependent care expenses. Deductions are made on a pre-tax basis and are taken two times per month. EMPLOYEE BENEFIT FUND: This plan is for the benefit of all employees. This fund pays for memorials, flowers or fruit, Thanksgiving and Christmas gift certificates for eligible employees when funds allow. For details, refer to the benefit section of the Employee Handbook.
    Mission, Vision & Values
    Bethesda's Mission
    To enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through services that share the good news of Jesus Christ.

    Bethesda's Vision
    To be the foremost provider of supports and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
    Bethesda's Values
    - Christ is preeminent in all that we do.
    - All people are inherently valuable to God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
    - People are empowered to realize their personal goals through the discovery, development and use of their skills and talents.[Bethesda's Support Services]
    - People direct decisions that affect their lives, positively impact the communities in which they live, and are supported in living life to the full.
    - Our Lutheran organizational identity guides our services and enriches our relationships.
    [About Bethesda's church affiliation]
    - Stakeholders contribute to the goals and priorities of the organization through open, honest communication.
    - We are flexible and responsive to needs; faithful in keeping promises; and timely, fair and honest in all dealings.
    - Christian stewardship of all our resources is expected of everyone.
    - Innovation, creativity, learning, and continuous quality improvement are integral to everything we do.
    - Fun and fellowship in the workplace are encouraged.
    Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc.
    600 Hoffmann Drive
    Watertown, WI 53094
    920.261.8441 (fax