History of Bridge Disability Ministries
Bridge Disability Ministries was founded in June 1987, by Rev. Henk Wapstra, a Presbyterian minister. In his role as pastor, Henk had become aware of the large percentage of our population who were living with disabilities. He discovered that it was the exclusion and isolation that people were experiencing as a result of their disability that was often far more painful to them than their disability itself. Through his attentive listening to their stories of marginalization, Henk felt called by God to found a ministry that would “respond to the needs encountered” by people with physical and/or developmental disabilities and their families.
His enthusiasm and style of ministry soon attracted others to Bridge including people like Sharon Black, with a background in social work and who herself lived with a disability. Henk tended to the spiritual care needs of individuals while Sharon worked at finding resources and the means to connect people with disabilities to the community to alleviate their isolation. Initially working out of Henk’s basement, others joined as volunteers to build the Mobility Ministry; and by 1991, with the vision of Jeannine King, a developmental disabilities specialist on staff, the Guardianship Ministry was born.
In 1998, to support the growing need for volunteers, essential to every aspect of the ministry, a Volunteer Ministry Coordinator was hired. Our community of volunteers grew to over 200 individuals supporting the mission to alleviate isolation. These individuals participate in the building of relationships and bridges to the community through small group programs, friendships, events, activities and other ministry program support.
Our volunteers include local area churches and their members who host monthly dinners, music and interaction with others to build friendships, inclusion and awareness of the gifts of people with disabilities. Participating churches, encouraged by our Spiritual Care Ministry team to welcome people with disabilities into their communities find that they receive far more than they give by serving others through the ministry.
By January of 2000, Bridge had become the model of a community-based ministry that has become so effective that many people have requested its duplication in other parts of the country.
- The Medina Foundation Management Excellence Award (received twice)
- The Seattle Foundation Chairman’s Award for Innovative Programs
- The TASH 2000 Collaboration Award (for participation in “The Circle Way” study)
- Featured as a community ministry model in the book "Spirituality and Intellectual Disability" edited by William C. Gaventa Jr., M. Div and David C. Coulter, MD