BETHEL UNION was organized on 31 Jan. 1867 as an auxiliary of the WESTERN SEAMEN'S FRIEND SOCIETY, to evangelize in the neighborhoods near the CUYAHOGA RIVER and to maintain a home for the friendless, the poor, and sailors between jobs. Loren Prentiss, Edward C. Pope, H. C. Tuttle, and Edwin R. Perkins were among the 20 founders. Bethel Union initially operated out of the Bethel Church on W. 9th St., transferred to it by the Western Seaman's Friend Society. In 1867 the union moved into the "McCurdy Block," at the corner of Superior and Spring (W. 10th) streets. The next year the union purchased and renovated the structure, dedicating it on 27 Jan. 1869 as Bethel Hall (also called the Bethel Bldg.). It had a 600-seat chapel and 30 sleeping rooms (later called the Wayfarers' Lodge). The Temporary Home for the Friendless, women's lodging facilities, opened in 1870. The union provided a Sunday school (with some classes in German), adult Bible classes, and missionaries to vessels in port. The Ladies Bethel & Mission Aid Society distributed clothing and religious tracts.

Trustees broadened the union's scope in 1873 to all of Cleveland and initiated the Cleveland Bethel Relief Assn. (Bethel Union continued to exist, managing the Bethel Bldg.). Ward committees investigated prospective recipients and carried out the enlarged program, including soup kitchens and an employment agency. In 1883, responding to concerns about mixing charity and religion, Bethel delegated all religious work to the Western Seaman's Friend Society. On 17 Dec. 1884 the Bethel Relief Assn. merged with the CHARITY ORGANIZATION SOCIETY on a trial basis, to create Bethel Associated Charities. The merger was made permanent 2 Dec. 1886. Henry Raymond (formerly superintendent of the Charity Organizing Society) was superintendent of the new organization. At first located in the Bethel Bldg., in 1890 Bethel Associated Charities occupied a new structure at 309 Spring (1440 W. 10th) St., which it purchased from Bethel Union in 1900. Bethel Union continued to hold the Wayfarers' Lodge for a few more years. On 1 June 1900 Bethel Associated Charities incorporated as the Cleveland Associated Charities (see ASSOCIATED CHARITIES), officially severing ties to Bethel. Cleveland Associated Charities later became the FAMILY SERVICE ASSN. of Cleveland; its merger with other agencies finally created the CENTER FOR HUMAN SERVICES.

Waite, Florence T. A Warm Friend for the Spirit (1960).


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