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‘Raising the steel’: Bethesda supporters celebrate $21 million expansion project; hear update on $3 million ‘town center’ fundraising effort

Nancy Geiger speaks Thursday during the “raising of the steel’’ celebration for one of the new buildings at Bethesda’s senior care campus in Willmar. Rand Middleton | Tribune

WILLMAR — Friends and financial supporters of Bethesda celebrated the “raising of the steel’’ for one of the new buildings on the $21 million redevelopment of the senior care campus in Willmar and received an update Thursday on the $3 million fundraising campaign for the new “town center’’ portion of the project. Construction on the redevelopment began last summer and will be completed in the spring of 2016. The redevelopment involves replacing the aging Heritage facility with new “neighborhood”-style, long-term care beds on the Pleasant View site. A 36-bed short-term stay and therapy center is being developed on the east end of the campus. The town center with a cafe, chapel and other amenities will create spaces where people can gather and mingle and the community can be invited in. Bethesda officials and board members say that the town center will provide amenities that are critical to Bethesda’s mission and quality of life for residents and their families. The redevelopment reflects a changing paradigm for how services are provided to older adults: more options, more flexibility, an environment that is home-like rather than institutional, and an emphasis on social connections, activity and the needs of the whole person. The major portion of the redevelopment is being financed with an $18 million loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, covering the long-term and short-stay therapy buildings. The remaining $3 million to finance the town center portion must be raised through private donations, which is the reason for the fundraising campaign, explained Ken Behm, former Bethesda board member and honorary fundraising campaign chair. Behm, speaking to about 115 people who gathered under a tent and ate box lunches in the middle of the construction site, said Bethesda will be one of the finest continuums of care in western Minnesota and the finest facility between here and Fargo, North Dakota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Behm said Bethesda has been important to his family. The town center campaign has raised nearly $1.25 million, and he thanked those who have provided financial support and he encouraged others to make a commitment. Other speakers shared their personal testimonials about Bethesda, which was established in 1897 as an orphanage, and is a partner with 25 area congregations. The raising of a 40-foot steel beam by a crane with Landwehr Construction of St. Cloud signified that the highest point in the structural or “steel’’ phase of the building had been met. The event was also held to thank those who have generously given of their time and philanthropy. Board Chairwoman Carla Lagerstedt said the raising of the steel celebrates a very visible milestone in Bethesda’s journey, and she thanked the many people involved with conceptualizing and working on the project. “There has never been a more exciting time in the history of Bethesda than now,’’ she said.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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