The Foundation was created in 1992 to manage the assets of, and contribute financial support for, the program of services offered through Bethel Community Services (BCS). BCS was founded in 1969 and introduced many human service programs to the Bethel community and the region including:
- day care
- children’s receiving home
- City of Bethel community youth recreation program
- residential mental health
- substance abuse treatment
- adult basic education
- developmental disabilities
- summer camp at a remote mining community
- early intervention services to infants and toddlers
Over the years as Bethel grew and developed many programs were transferred to state, university and other community organizations that were later established with these programs as part of their specific mission. In 2004, BCS elected to transfer its remaining early intervention and developmental disability programs to the regional Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC). BCS and YKHC agreed to this strategy to assist the state in maximizing federal reimbursement from Medicaid for services to Native people. Just about all of BCS’s 72 employees also transferred to YKHC. As a result, BCS elected to dissolve as a corporation. With the dissolution of BCS, the Foundation elected to amend its articles of incorporation and bylaws to form a broader based community development and philanthropic organization.
The following is a history of the organization according to Vicki Malone, past BSC Director,
The Bethel Receiving Home, Inc.
In the early 1960s, the need for transient housing for children throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim area was difficult to come by. Children arrived in Bethel for medical treatment before the village Health Clinics were established, to escape poor socio-economic conditions in the villages, or simply passing through on their way to boarding schools prior to the Molly Hooch Legislation. It was nearly impossible to get enough foster homes for these children especially at the $15.90 daily rate paid by the government, and housing was often cramped.
It took a city-wide collaborative effort to meet this housing need. The B.I.A. contributed facility and utilities. The State Troopers (1) contracted with the Bethel Receiving Home to provide meals for the jail which had no kitchen. The District Court (2) supported the efforts because it provided a space for kids who survived domestic violence or sexual abuse.
The success of the Receiving home spurred the group to take on other unmet needs. This became the philosophical lynch pin of the organization—a free wheeling, community-based, non-profit which could mobilize resources to respond to needs that no other organization wanted to take on.
By the end of 1970, the Bethel Receiving Home had launched an early childhood education center, a recreation program for children and teens, and an Adult Basic Education program (3) with a building donated by Chief Eddie Hoffman on behalf of the Kuskokwim Native Association. Through a State of Alaska Manpower & Training Grant, the corporation also set up an adult vocational center primarily for business and admin training.
Bethel Social Services, Inc.
With so many programs barely a year and half into its existence, the Bethel Receiving Home, Inc. changed its name to Bethel Social Services, Inc. In the summer of 1971, Bethel Social Services ran a youth leadership training program known as “Camp NYAC” in the old gold mine in the Kilbuck mountains 70 miles east of Bethel (4). This first effort was focused on building strengths rather than remediation and was an example of B.S.S.’s ability to start something with very little funding. Camp NYAC was continued for many years by various organizations.
In 1972, BSS opened Bethel’s first sobering center in a three-bedroom trailer.(5) This project was immediately recognized for its value to the community in educating and treating people with alcohol addiction. As soon as the project was established, a cadre of agencies around town began working on funding for a more permanent home. In the late 1970s the City of Bethel took over the project and built the Phillips Alcohol Treatment Center. Today the Ayagnirvik Healing Center operates in a $13 million facility run by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.
Bethel Social Services played a key role in convincing the State and University of Alaska to establish a community college in Bethel. As soon as the Kuskowim Community College was formed in the 1973, the adult education and adult vocational programs were turned over to the newly established college as a more appropriate organization to manage these programs.
Bethel Community Service, Inc.
In 1976 the recently rebranded “Bethel Community Services,” completed its first building- a new 16-bed facility for the Bethel Receiving home. This facility was in operation until the 1990s when Association of Village Council Presidents adopted the service.
In collaboration with the state, BCS worked to provide the first Infant Learning Program in the region for children ages 1-3 years with developmental disabilities. Partnering with the new Kuskokwim Community College, the I.L.P. facility, Norma Jean Center, provided a lab school for Early Childhood Development training and many of the staff earned an associate degree. Once degreed, many people went on to work for the Lower Kuskokwim School District as classroom teacher aides.
BCS and the Bautista House
Helen Bautista was a Bethel legend. The restaurateur had deep compassion for disabled adults and opened up her pink Quonset hut to several folks who were mentally challenged. She used some of her own funds to supplement the social security of the residents and also raised money by selling barbeque. When Helen’s health began to decline, B.C.S. adopted her non-profit and secured funding from the State of Alaska for a residential building on an acre downtown for a modest $300,000. Everyone felt the adults would be better integrated into the community if they had proximity to activities, jobs and stores. By 1982 the newly finished Bautista House was licensed for 16 residents. Dedicated to Helen Bautista for the work she had done for many years, the facility was constructed with a grant from the state of Alaska. Bethel Community Services would continue to run this project until its dissolution in 2005 when it was transferred to YKHC.
In 1983, BCSF launched the Bethel Alternative School with the help of parents and educators who who sought programmatic alternatives within the LKSD school district due to high drop out rates, low exit scores, and limitations on accelerated students. A lack of financial resources led the alternative school to close after two years. However, the LKSD implemented an alternative program within the Bethel Regional High School as a result of losing students.
Crisis Respite Center
The YK region had the highest rate of hospitalization at the state psychiatric institution of any area of the State . Out-of-region hospitalizations were traumatic and often resulted in the person being discharged to a less than adequate board and care facility in Anchorage. B.C.S. was already committed to housing and life skills training for persons with mental illness so this seemed a natural leap. Using two three bedroom modular homes secured from the FAA BCS opened a six bed crisis center located in the Bethel Trailer Court. Within a year, the hospitalization at A.P.I. dropped to half. In the late 1990’s the program was taken over by YKHC, who successfully continues the mission to this day.
Bethel Community Services Foundation, Inc.
As Bethel grew and developed over the years, many programs were transferred to state, university, and other community organizations that were established with these programs as part of their specific mission. In 1992 Nadine Griffin, who served as office manger for BCS for a decade, made the push to create a Foundation to manage the assets of, and contribute financial support for, the program of services offered through Bethel Community Services.
In 2004, the BCS’s board elected to transfer its remaining early intervention and developmental disability programs to the regional Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. Just about all of BCS’s 72 employees also transferred to YKHC. As a result, BCS elected to dissolve as a corporation. With the dissolution of BCS the Foundation elected to amend its articles of incorporation and bylaws to form a broader based community development and philanthropic organization.