There has always been the understanding that “to tame the natives, you send in the missionaries.” The same juxtaposition can be said of the black community. Just create a non-profit, 501C-3 organization that tells poor black folks on the west side that it is interested in helping to solve our economic/social/educational problems and voila, everything will appear to be alright.
When Bethel New Life got started in 1979 that is what it offered. Bethel chose a passage from the Bible to create its mission statement. If you’re not a biblical scholar, I highly recommend pausing right now before reading this column and looking up Isaiah 58:9-12. Those verses are so ironic (especially the twelfth verse) when you think of why they were chosen in 1979 and how current leadership at Bethel has made them a mockery in 2010.
In doing the background research for this column, I found a statement that then founder Mary Nelson wrote a few years back. She reflected that in choosing those biblical passages for their mission statement, it would “keep Bethel focused on a combination of justice, compassion, and building on the capacities of its own people.”
Well can someone please tell that to the recently hired administrative staff at Bethel? You know the outside folks that now run it and the majority of whom have less than two years worth of experience working there. What “justice or compassion” did Bethel put forth when it fired almost everyone who worked at the supported living facility (SLF) located at 1134 N. Lavergne? The WestSiders who were terminated had ten-to-twenty years of service there plus they lived right here in the neighborhood. I’m not going to be politically correct and say “let go” or “laid off” because what Bethel New Lie did is to use that missing ‘f’ on both their terminated employees, the people living in the SLF and to the Westside community they purport to serve.
Bethel has reached out with its left hand to get money, from both governmental and private groups, while its right hand has done all it could to contribute to the very problem that plagues the black west side; a lack of employment Then to add to the irony of it all, Bethel recently announced it was going to help create 700 jobs this year. I wonder if all the employees they hired after firing the previous staff will be included in that count.
Bethel F’d their terminated employees because they were doing a “fine job” towards the residents of the SLF. I spoke with quite a few residents and they are in tears over losing those employees because they had come to know, like, and trust them. So much for Bethel “building on the capacities” when it claims that to do the job the person needed a college degree, yet the new “degreed” current employee can’t even manage to do something as simple as get the seniors at the SLF to the funerals of current and former residents. I got to keep shouting it so that everyone understands, college is theory. Real work experience can never be trumped.
Bethel has F’d the current residents because those living there are not nursing home patients. They are independent people who need the security of knowing that help is nearby should they need it. But there is no “help” to send when the new staff is so trifling that they removed photos of the residents from off the lobby walls and devastate the activity room by throwing away board games the residents had placed there so that they could be a community of elders. Now the once active residents of the SLF who used to go on several outside trips a week are now making a visit to the first floor television room their main outing. The residents who used to be very happy with the food are now infighting because some of them got two breakfast sausage while others only got one.
Even worst, some of those residents are being disrespected when current workers drop serving utensils on the floor and then when those workers attempt to still use the utensils without washing them off are told to “shut up” when they complain about the unsanitary actions. The residents who used to have a voice in how their building is run (it is their home) now are not asked for any input into what is going on. They are expected to accept what is offered. Several residents say that the new staff members haven’t even taken a moment to introduce themselves to the residents. Hey Bethel…, SLF is support and not manipulation. Those seniors are not in prison although the treatment of those seniors is closely approximating it. And rather than encourage those seniors to keep their minds active by having them read the morning paper, the new staff has taken to reading the newspaper to them as if they are in preschool.
Bethel mission statement for seniors is this: “Elders living to the fullness of life in community.” The question that remains is who gets to make the decision about that fullness? The elders or the employees?
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