For more than 35 years, Bethany Christian Services of Western Pennsylvania has been helping families thrive. In 2021 alone, the organization served more than 4,340 children and families through its refugee resettlement program, foster care services and Safe Families crisis management program, among other offerings. We spoke with Missy Reeder, a Bethany donor engagement and marketing specialist, to learn more about how Bethany is ‘changing the world through family.’
North Hills Monthly (NHM): What is the mission of Bethany Christian Services?
Missy Reeder (Reeder): Our mission is to share the love and compassion of Jesus Christ with children and families through the services we provide. Though our corporate office is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we have local offices in 36 states as well as in numerous countries. We are a global, nonprofit organization.
NHM: Do you offer the same services in all areas?
Reeder: We gear our services and what we do in each area to the specific needs of that community. What we offer in Michigan may not be what we offer in Pennsylvania, for example. We serve alongside families meeting different needs and demographics in whatever way they require.
NHM: Let’s start by talking about your adoption and foster care services.
Reeder: While we have brought families together through adoption in the past, we are not currently doing any adoptions, either international or domestic, in Pennsylvania. Right now, we are highlighting family preservation, supporting children and their families who are in crisis, and helping them to deal with whatever they are going through. Our programs are designed to protect children and empower and strengthen families through our services.
For example, our Safe Families program is designed to keep children out of the foster care system. A family may be in crisis in the community, and we try to nip the problem in the bud to solve whatever issues that family is going through before Children & Youth Services gets involved. Our goal is to prevent children from entering the foster care system, especially since it’s become so inundated as a result of COVID and other factors.
NHM: What if children do need to be removed from a home?
Reeder: We offer domestic foster care, providing loving, temporary homes until a child’s family members get back on their feet. Because there was such a need, we also recently added a new transitional foster care program in western Pennsylvania that is geared toward the children of refugees. These children sometimes get displaced from their families at the border, so we give them a home to stay in until they can be placed with their families.
NHM: You also help children once they are integrated into a home as well.
Reeder: Adding a new family member can be hard sometimes, so we provide post-permanency services to help families adjust. This is a really cool program that is eligible to any Pennsylvania family who has legal custody of a child through adoption or a kinship agreement, and it’s designed to support the family as a whole, including the parents and children.
We provide case advocacy, or if the family has financial needs, we can help make funds available to help. Families are also eligible for respite funds; for example, to help them take a small vacation for the weekend to help the family bond.
NHM: In addition to helping with transitional foster care, you have a number of other ways that you help refugee families as well.
Reeder: We introduced our immigrant resettlement program to help refugees to our area become better acclimated to their new homes. These are people who have fled injustice or other issues going on in their countries, and who have already gone through the government processes to come here. We help them get jobs, housing and transportation, as well as help them with translations for paperwork and medical care. The type of support we provide is different for different families. Our goal is to provide a loving atmosphere where they can thrive. In the past six months, we’ve helped between 80-100 individuals resettle in Pittsburgh.
NHM: You’ve introduced quite a number of new programs lately. How do you decide what services to offer in such a rapidly changing world?
Reeder: Our main goal is to love on families, and on a broader scale, that means bringing on new services to help the wider variety of people who are hurting right now. We do pay attention to what’s going on in the world and in our local communities, and our programs are growing because of people’s need for a safe environment.
For example, we’ve seen a huge increase in the need to resettle refugees and immigrants in response to what’s happening globally. We’ve seen an increase in children being placed into the foster care system, possibly as a result of the pandemic. We’re also working on a program for human trafficking, though that’s just getting up and running.
NHM: How do people who need your services find out about them?
Reeder: A lot of it is word-of-mouth, though we do market our programs—which are free to children and their families—as well. Connecting with churches is a huge part of what we do. Though we are a nonprofit organization, we do contract through the state for some programs, like foster care. We also have generous donors who support us in different ways. The government does provide some help, but families may need more than the government provides.
NHM: How do you measure your results?
Reeder: We keep track of two things: how many clients we’ve served, and how many individuals we’ve impacted. What we do for one child impacts the whole family on a broader scale.
NHM: Do you get a lot of volunteer help?
Reeder: We’re really trying to grow our volunteer teams in light of all of the new programs we’ve added. Our staff is small but mighty, but we need all hands on deck to give these families the love and care they deserve. Volunteers can become involved in multiple capacities, including helping with our refugee resettlement program. They can provide transport, get families from one point to another or provide translation services. We also have a Volunteer Neighbor program where they can sign up to be matched with a family or individual to help on a one-to-one basis. We also need volunteers for our foster care and post-permanency programs and to facilitate our family groups and events. And we can always use help with our fundraisers.
NHM: Speaking of, you have one coming up in October.
Reeder: We do! Our Family Changes Everything fundraising gala will be held on Oct. 22 from 5-9 p.m. at St. Stephens Church in Sewickley. It is open to the public, and registration and ticket sales open in August. The event includes a really nice dinner, raffle baskets, auction items and entertainment. And it’s a great way for us to thank all of our donors and share with them the impact they’ve made over the past year.
To learn more about Bethany Christian Services, visit www.bethany.org/Pittsburgh.