‘A bold future for people with disabilities’ – Bethesda to become AbleLight

A new name and renewed purpose will lead to a transformation of the field

Milwaukee – A historic day has arrived for Bethesda and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the country.

When Bethesda first came to be in 1904, it was a small Wisconsin organization serving just five people. Since then, it has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people and their families, and soon, the organization will write the next chapter in its story as it unveils a new brand name and a renewed focus on serving the whole person.

Bethesda has announced that as of Jan. 10, 2022, it will become AbleLight, a name chosen to reflect the many skills and talents of people with disabilities while also demonstrating how the organization will be a guiding light for people and the field as a whole.   

“Our purpose is clear – we believe the world shines brighter when people with developmental disabilities achieve their full potential,” said Cesar Villalpando, Chairperson of the Bethesda Board of Directors. “With more than 7 million Americans who have an intellectual or developmental disability, our services are more essential than ever before. And our unique approach to supporting the whole person and our drive to continuously improve the world for people with disabilities are what set AbleLight apart in the disability field.”

Creating a bold future today

In addition to the corporate name change, Bethesda is announcing:

  • College expansion to Michigan: For young people leaving high school, Bethesda College at Concordia University Wisconsin (soon to be AbleLight College) builds life and work skills in young adults, getting them ready to dream big and accomplish more. Today, Bethesda announces the expansion to Concordia University Ann Arbor in Michigan, planned for next fall. Additional campuses are anticipated.
  • Aggressive expansion of core services: With the goal of serving the whole person, AbleLight will increase services including behavioral supports, host homes and supported living services, as well as financial services.

“Through programs like AbleLight College and thanks to the creativity and dedication of our team, we are fulfilling our promise – to pioneer life-changing services that empower the people we serve to thrive,” said Dave Sneddon, Interim President and CEO of Bethesda. “We will create a bold future for people with disabilities.”

The name “AbleLight” was chosen after much discussion and engagement with stakeholders, including people served and their families, as well as employees and donors.

“Over the course of the last year, we connected with hundreds of individuals and asked what was important to them,” said Cindy Moon-Mogush, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer. “We took these valuable perspectives as our starting point, and we considered our history and our plans for the future. From there, we identified and vetted a new name – AbleLight – from more than 1,000 choices. AbleLight will further differentiate us as a leader in our field and help us expand our reach nationally.”

Five impact areas

Going forward, AbleLight will be focused on five impact areas to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities:

Safe and Loving Homes: A great life starts with a great home, and AbleLight will continue to provide a variety of housing options to meet every need, including group homes, supported living and host home arrangements.

Just ask Chris, who has a mild intellectual disability and lives in a host home in Colorado. With the love and support of his host home family, Chris stays on track with his personal care, money management and taking his medications. Because of his safe home, Chris can hold down a job and live more independently, pursuing his love of video games and sports. Most importantly, he is loved.

AbleLight will expand the innovative AbleLight Village concept, a first-of-its-kind residential community uniting individuals with disabilities with people of all abilities in a loving, welcoming environment. “Creative housing options such as these help people live as independently as possible while maintaining a meaningful connection to their community,” said Sneddon.

Financial Security: Managing money can be stressful for anyone, but for a person with a disability and their family, it can be daunting. To help, AbleLight’s Financial Services team will provide one-on-one consultation and support to help people navigate the complex world of benefits and achieve their financial goals. This includes rep payee services, Medicaid redeterminations, Social Security reporting and ABLE account support and training.

Independence and Wellbeing: AbleLight will make it possible to achieve joy in daily living. As just one example, through its emerging Behavior Supports area, the organization provides individualized treatment plans for people with disabilities and their families to promote positive behavior change. This has made a world of difference in helping people achieve their life goals.

One-on-one support guides the transition from school-based services to independent living, and from adult living skills to on-the-job support. Take Emma, who lives at AbleLight Village in Minnesota. She receives individualized support with her job, and is adding on supported living services to help her complete day to day tasks. She is thriving as a result.

Innovation and Technology: AbleLight will innovate for good, researching and developing new technology to improve all aspects of life for people with disabilities, and will provide customized solutions to meet individual needs. Assistive smart home technology is deployed in a growing number of homes, including AbleLight Village, promoting safety, security and independence. Technology is developed and distributed from the AbleLight Innovation Center.

Community and Faith: A strong connection to the community is vital to a life well lived. AbleLight will make that connection through day programs, virtual programming, faith connections, and volunteering options that bring people together. For example, Paul, a Bethesda volunteer in Oregon, leads Bible studies for people in group homes, including prayer and singing worship songs in English and Spanish. Paul has contributed his time and talent to many conferences over the years and is a real blessing to the organization and the people who call him a friend.

AbleLight will continue to offer thrift shops as a connection point with the community and a meaningful source of revenue for needed programs.

Announcing the new name

Bethesda employees received a sneak peek of the new name during a special event held at Hales Corners Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wis. It featured Christian artist Building 429 and was emceed by Megan Alexander, correspondent for “Inside Edition” and a popular speaker on faith and work. Additional events are planned as the January official “go live” date approaches.

Information about AbleLight and the transition will be shared on social media and a dedicated page on the Bethesda website, BethesdaLC.org/AbleLight.


About AbleLight

AbleLight is a national leader in pioneering life-changing services that empower people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to thrive. Founded in 1904 in Wisconsin as a Christian mission, AbleLight promotes independence and inclusion across the U.S. through comprehensive and individualized supports that include housing, employment, spiritual life and much more. For details, go to AbleLight.org, like our Facebook page and follow us on LinkedIn.