The Story of Our Space

Since 2008, Bethesda Workshops was blessed to be housed in a wing of the Woodmont Hills church building, where in 1995, ministry founder Marnie Ferree began her clinical career as a marriage and family therapist in the church-based counseling center. As the ministry grew, we realized we were limited by the availability of the church space, and we began to dream of having our own. It was only a dream, though, for several years. It seemed impossible to get from here to there: from free space to a venue designed specifically to suit our needs. The financial obstacle seemed insurmountable.

Our Vision

In January 2015, the board of directors and other invited participants held a Visioning Retreat to identify key areas of initiative over the next 10 years. It became abundantly clear the primary need for meeting the ministry’s future goals was our own dedicated space. The group honed that vision and identified key parameters for our permanent home. We got specific and measurable. The pipe dream grew feet.

When our vision was clear, that very day an alumni couple stepped forward with an enormous challenge gift of $250,000 that was earmarked for funding our own space! That gift exponentially propelled us forward, and we started preparing for a matching campaign. A seasoned commercial Realtor volunteered his services, and we began searching for property early in 2016. With every virtual or in-person tour, we measured the space against our vision.

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The Property

Our Realtor had to push us to visit 1035 Acorn Drive, because the exterior wasn’t what we had in mind and the building looked like it needed a lot of work inside. During the first tour, though, Marnie could envision this space as our forever home. The building was exactly configured for the ministry’s needs! On the left side, a separate entrance and huge area was perfectly designed for our workshop structure. It had a large teaching space surrounded by multiple smaller rooms where therapy groups could meet. On the ride side was another large area, again with its own entrance, that was just right for different activities we did with workshop participants. Along the perimeter were several offices in various sizes, which could house our administrative staff. Stretching across the back of the building was a large warehouse that seemed tailor made for our eating and relaxing area for participants.

The building needed extensive cosmetic work and some major renovations like new HVAC units and a plumbing overhaul that included the installation of multi-stall commercial bathrooms. The footprint, though, was perfect, and our Realtor assured us the property and its location were a sure investment.

Our Provision

Surprisingly, the hardest part of the process was after we identified the property we wanted. Quickly, the ministry became engulfed in frantic fundraising and incessant details about financing and renovation. How do you measure the value of property that seemed perfect, but was a huge leap from donated space? It’s hard to beat free, and we were looking at spending a lot of money: dollars that we didn’t yet have in hand or a proven track record to solicit.

After meeting with several banks that were very impressed with Bethesda Workshops’ mission and nearly 20-year history, we found we didn’t qualify for any type of commercial loan. Unfortunately, financial institutions weren’t impressed with a business plan called faith and fund-raising. (Imagine that.) As we neared the end of the due diligence period when we would be required to secure financing or walk away, all signs indicated we wouldn’t be able to afford the building. Although Marnie was deeply disappointed, she was blessed with the grace of acceptance. She also hoped for a miracle.

After a few days the phone rang, and a ministry supporter who had followed our journey about getting the building was on the line. He invited Marnie to come to his office to talk about the funding dilemma. After confirming we were certain the property was right for Bethesda Workshops, he got out a piece of paper and scrawled some numbers.

Without boast or fanfare, this successful investor offered to buy the property and personally finance it for Bethesda Workshops! Yay, God!! That miracle would get us into the building.

The remaining challenge was being sure we could service the debt, which would require a much bigger foundation of yearly support that we had not yet developed. The fear of financial instability was strong, and the board of directors was torn. Late one night, Marnie looked at the notes from the Visioning Retreat and read the parameters about our desired property and how we intended to use it to better serve hurting people. After weeks of angst, the path forward crystallized immediately: Vision and integrity are the best currency.

Our Leap of Faith

We were clear on the vision for Bethesda Workshops, we had found a place that enabled that vision, and we practiced fiscal and organizational integrity. It was time to take a leap of faith to trust God for provision. To Marnie’s surprise, the next day she learned others had independently reviewed the vision statement and description of our desired space and come to the same conclusion.

The board voted unanimously to accept the purchase agreement. In June 2016, we signed the papers and started renovation. Two days before Christmas, we moved into our building. After nearly 20 years as a homeless ministry, we joyfully exclaim, “Hallelujah! We have our own home!”

BEFORE
Exterior when we first saw the property

AFTER
Renovated building exterior

BEFORE
Participant entrance was divided into three small rooms.

AFTER
Now participants (clients) enter a welcoming space.

AFTER
Welcome area includes our bookstore.

BEFORE
Small Group rooms before, just need a little TLC.

AFTER
Small Group areas have fresh paint, new ceiling tiles & doors.

BEFORE
We reconfigured the entrance of this larger meeting room (not shown), closed the door on the right and cut a door into the main teaching area.

PARTNER SPACE
Our partners of sex addicts and addict partner couples meet in this space.

BEFORE
This larger breakout room also needed a lot of work. We closed two doors and added the storefront windows.

AFTER
Our female sex addicts and addict/partner couples meet in this space.

BEFORE
The building was already divided into two spaces, which is perfect for our needs. This was the original connector.

AFTER
Looking from the administrative side, our new hallway provides access to the women's restroom on the right and a lounge on the left for nursing moms or others who need private space.

BEFORE
The staff entry was also divided into a couple of oddly shaped, catawampus spaces.

AFTER
Our new staff entrance opens into a large space on the administrative side that we use for different experiential activities with workshop participants.

AFTER
This large space is used for a maze, surrender ceremony, and other activities used to get past client's cognitive defenses.

AFTER
We can't believe all the space for the administrative coordinators office and copy area.

BEFORE
Originally there was a smaller opening between the admin area and the kitchen/lounge space. We enlarged the opening and added our fabulous barn doors.

BEFORE
The original opening looking from the warehouse side into the administrative area.

AFTER
Clients love drawing and writing on the barn doors.

BEFORE
The original warehouse area, which runs across the back of the building.

AFTER
Participants are with us from 8a - 8p and enjoy a catered lunch and dinner.

AFTER
This corner is perfect for the completely new kitchen.

BEFORE
The original warehouse space had a garage door above a lift loading dock outside.

AFTER
Our longterm plan is to build a large walkout deck accessible through the glass rolling garage door.

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Our Goal

Our goal is to pay off our building debt within five years. Will you help us? You can make a convenient tax-deductible one-time or recurring donation here.

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