Bipeds of Brookland: Bethlehem House
Left to right- Dominique, Dolores, Tom, Helen, Colleen
Bethlehem House was opened by Dolores Wilson in Brookland in 1986, after she had been a Catholic Sister for 37 years, and had worked at the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Institute, near Providence Hospital, teaching children with disabilities. She first taught in a regular Catholic school but, “I had in my heart a desire to work with children with special needs and lo and behold the Kennedy Family came to build the Kennedy Institute. In 1959 the Kennedy Institute was blessed and opened. I was there for 25 years.” She recalls “Eunice (Kennedy) Shriver was our best friend, at the time we couldn’t afford to pay a physical fitness teacher so she came for two years, once a week. She got our students trained for the very first Special Olympics.” Dolores dreamed of opening a community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live in. “I got a lot of tears from parents, asking ‘who will take care of my child when I die?’” She got to know Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche International. “I moved into the L’Arche house (DC) the year it opened.” Afterwards, Dolores moved to Brookland and rented a room before the owner offered her the chance to rent the whole house and form the Bethlehem House community. “We opened the house with two men, students from Kennedy.”
They now have a second home in Riverdale MD, but Dolores still lives in the Brookland house with three residents. Tom has lived at Bethlehem House for 25 years. He is an usher at St Anthony's and is a Knight of Columbus. He has worked as a volunteer at the Capital Area Food Bank for many years. Helen worked for the Catholic Archdiocese doing clerical work and later volunteered at the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD). She now attends the Art Enables Program and discovered her artistic talent. She loves to bake and has delighted many people with her delicious brownies. Colleen, a graduate of the Kennedy Institute, worked full time for the US Government Printing Office for 33 years. She retired and now attends an IONA day arts program. One of her paintings has been exhibited at the Phillips Collection in DC. Dominique has worked as a full time caregiver at Bethlehem House for almost one year, and has already endeared herself to each resident. You can visit the website for Bethlehem House if you are interested in getting involved.
Biped of Brookland is a weekly series introducing the people who make Brookland their home, one step at a time. Article by Tom Sabella.