The story of My Brother’s Keeper of Bethesda (MBKoB) is quite unique. Its creation is the amalgamation of a series of unfortunate events. First, the great recession of 2008 left me (and many others) scrambling to find a job for what became an employer’s market. My wife used to comment that in her job for each open slot, her boss would receive almost one hundred applications. Second, the number of folks begging on the roadside with signs – unemployed, with children to support – seemed to have increased significantly. Before it used to be that some unfortunate soul owing to his disability would find himself begging on the street intersection. However, with the fall of the economy, we noticed an increased in able-bodied persons taking to begging. And third, for the first time we noticed that an eviction included the sight of toys and a tricycle among the belongings left on the street curb on a rainy day. Since toys were not noticeable before, their inclusion among the belongings of the evicted indicates a rise in the eviction of families with young children. These events, in part, inspired the founding of MBKoB, a charity with kids in mind. This charity is designed not only to help parents find a job to protect their children from eviction and exploitation, but also to reunite the family and afford those parents the opportunity to raise their own children.
The name of the charity, My Brother’s Keeper of Bethesda, stems from the need to reach out to others with the idea that we are all brothers and sisters. In the Bible story, Caine denied any responsibility towards his brother, Abel, saying: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We turn that around and freely embrace the role of caretaker, guardian, and/or overseer: in short, my brother’s keeper. We tried that name with the IRS, but it was already in use by another charity. So we added ‘of Bethesda’ not only to distinguish our charity from theirs, but more importantly because the name ‘Bethesda’ best describes what we do. ‘Bethesda’ is a word of Hebrew origin with several related meanings: house of shelter (safekeeping), house of mercy, house of grace, house of kindness, and house of charity. Thus Bethesda fits our process to accept the homeless into our homes so that from there we might be able to help to place them into a job and into their own apartments near their place of work.