Kidron Bethel Village moving forward with improvements

Chad Frey
The Kansan

The relationship between Bethel College and Kidron Bethel Villiage of North Newton is a unique one. Students in staff roles, volunteer arrangements and social events allow generations to connect.

Likewise, the college hosts Kidron residents for various events, including its annual Life Enrichment series that provides learning opportunities for those ages 60 and older.

“Anywhere from 150 to 200 of our students work at Kidron every year,” said Bethel College President Jon Gering. “That’s part of our goal to become a work college and have gainful employment for every student. We’re very glad that Kidron is a partner in that process.”

That relationship is about to get stronger, as Kidron works through its $3.5 million Live Forward campaign, part of a larger $10 million campus improvement.

Planning involved a collaborative process with Bethel College to define an education center, which will be used for college classes as well as for community and internal use.

“Bethel College President Jon Gering has worked with us in multiple ways to help develop this innovative plan of college classes on the campus of a life plan community that will enhance learning for college students and residents through intergenerational connection,” said Bluestem CEO and president James Krehbiel.

The new Education Center at Kidron — a 60-seat classroom that can be divided into two smaller 30-seat classrooms — will address educational needs and interests for both demographics and offer continued intergenerational connections. It will also serve as a storm shelter. 

“A really unique part of this project is our collaboration with Bethel College,” said Linda Peters, Kidron Bethel Village executive director. “The fact that we’re going to have college students on our campus every day is really exciting for the residents. They love to connect with college students and engage with younger people in general.”

The larger project will affect nearly 50,000 square feet to create spaces for community learning and connections, increase intergenerational interactions, provide serene and relaxing common areas and remodel current facilities. The project includes upgrades of existing spaces and new construction, and will be funded both internally and through the $3.5 million campaign efforts.

Other projects will include an expanded chapel and community space, a renovated entry with reception area, improved dining options, outdoor patio and courtyards, a therapeutic indoor/outdoor walking loop that connects three health care neighborhoods, remodeled health care rooms, enhanced dementia care services and environmental initiatives that include solar power, native landscaping and electric charging stations.

The chapel will host numerous gatherings for regular worship, group meetings, holiday services and other special events. When initially constructed in 1991, the current chapel was designed with a capacity of 80 individuals. The new chapel and community space will seat approximately 200 people and will serve in multiple ways on a daily basis.

“It’s exciting to think about a space for events that will easily accommodate a large group of people for our resident population and the broader community,” said chaplain Eric Massanari. “Even though it will be larger than what we currently have, we’re really intending to create a space that also will have flexibility and be able to accommodate a smaller-size group with warmth and a welcome spirit.” 

Fundraising is expected to continue through early fall 2021 with construction beginning later in the fall of 2021 and completion of the project in spring 2023.

The Live Forward enhancements will have beneficial impacts to the Kidron campus and local community for generations.

“This is not just a brick and mortar project to create necessary space,” said Peters. “It’s a project that supports programming and activities and events that can help to create a better life for the whole community.”

Kidron Bethel Village is a nonprofit life plan community of Bluestem Communities that provides residential independent living, assisted living and health care homes and services.