Co-Founder of Largest Adoption Agency Dies Before Turning 100

Bethany Christian Services Co-founder Marguerite Bonnema recently passed away a few days shy of her 100th birthday.

"While I am saddened by Marguerite's passing, I rejoice that she is with the Lord," said Bill Blacquiere, Bethany's president and CEO. "As a result of her vision and courage, Bethany has touched the lives of many thousands of children and families since its founding. In her memory, we will continue our commitment to find loving families for children in crisis."

In 1944, Bonnema and friend Mary DeBoer began to take in abandoned babies who needed shelter in their apartment in Grand Rapids, Mich. Within a few years, the friends were able to purchase land with help from a local church and obtain a license to start Bethany Christian Home. This was the start of a 70 year initiative to combat the global orphan crisis.

Bonnema's vision and mission was to serve children around the world. Bethany Christian Services has become a dominant leader in social services worldwide and the largest adoption agency in the U.S.

The agency was named "Bethany" because, in the words of the founders, "Bethany was a place where Jesus was welcomed into the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary.

What started as a two-person operation has now ballooned to one where the organization has offices in more than 30 states with over 1,000 professionals. The agency not only has assisted in developing countries such as China, Ethiopia and Hati, but has also serviced children on five continents and 19 countries.

Bonnema's personal sacrifice to build Bethany Christian Services has led to more than 153 million children around the world to receive aid. The agency has expanded to include unplanned pregnancy, temporary care and family services.