Bethlehem Lutheran Opens Intergenerational Center

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

b1Pastor Jay Schrimpf is Bethlehem Intergenerational Center’s executive director and Susan Davidson is its director.Senior adults and children can significantly benefit from one another, but too often don't get the opportunity to interact. Bethlehem Lutheran Church is helping to bridge the generational gap thanks to its recent opening of the Bethlehem Intergenerational Center (BIC).

The BIC offers combined and enhanced day care for young children and seniors, building on the church's 46 years of experience in child care and education.

Group activities will include, but are not limited to, children and the elderly mutually tending to a vertical garden, making slime, blowing bubbles, sharing a meal, reading stories and piecing a puzzle together.

Where real friendships happen

And, perhaps most important, establishing friendships.

"The vision for the intergenerational center is to provide a safe and wonderful place of community where real relationships happen," said BIC director Susan Davidson.

b2A recent Grandparent’s Day demonstrated the value of children and senior interacting with one another."The important piece is not the planned activities but when small groups of kids are here and they can decide what they would like to work on with one of their new friends, whether it's gardening or puzzles or bubbles or slime or just that time where they can talk."

That's an idea parent Kerry Czubko wants for her two-year-old daughter, Lily, who's currently enrolled in the church's Hill Child Development Center.

"I love the idea of children not being scared of their elders, but instead being friends of their elders," said Czubko. "This will give her a more well rounded outlook."

Bethlehem Lutheran, 250 Commerce Ave. SW in Grand Rapids, founded the Hill Child Development Center in 1971, which cares for children birth to age 12.

Never standing still

The genesis for BIC started when the church's council president mulled the idea what the 225-member congregation's next "big idea" should be.

"We have certain ethos as to who were are and part of that is the belief that we're either moving forward or backward," said Schrimpf. "You're never standing still."

The BIC was opened following visits Schrimpf and Davidson made to four intergenerational centers in Ohio, Wisconsin, Oregon and Virginia "to see what was working and what we might do differently," said Schrimpf.

b3Now, BIC's second floor wing is dedicated to children and another wing is dedicated to seniors, with designed programs to intentionally bring both generations together. Shared activities will focus on relationship building between the two age groups.

Adults who are 65 and older who need the help of another person to assist them are eligible to enroll from two to five days per week at full or half-day rates. The full day rate is $78 and $49 for half day.

The BIC is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Activities, meals, and snacks are part of both the children's and senior's wings.

The BIC is for children and "frail" adults ages 65 and older who need the help of another person to get through the day.

"No adult will be with a child without a staff member present and attending," said Schrimpf. "Our ratio of caregiver to adults will be between 1 to 4 and 1 and 5. It's very relational where everyone's always in view."

Bethlehem Lutheran Church was founded in 1873.


Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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