A Century of Care Wheat Ridge on Mission to Foster Ministries

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Earnest Daily Herald Correspondent

If Christian outreach were a theatrical show, Wheat Ridge Ministries in Itasca would be the producer.

The organization works behind the scenes, securing funding for fledgling ministries that are working on gaining footing such as parish nursing, Stephen Ministry and the Search Institute.

On the first and third Sundays of the month and a Wednesday afternoon, nurses are available at Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle checking blood pressure and offering health counseling.

The scene is repeated at churches throughout DuPage County. Yet when Wheat Ridge initiatives finally start receiving attention, it's the frontline leaders who are best-known among Christian circles. Wheat Ridge stays hidden behind the curtain. And that's just fine with President Richard Bimler.

"People have heard a lot about ministries we started, and they really don't even know we started them," said Bimler, who has run the organization since 1991. "But that's OK, because our goal is to be a servant ministry. We know the Lord has blessed other people through Wheat Ridge, and that's really a neat thing."

The organization, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, began as a sanitarium in Denver serving those afflicted with tuberculosis.

Eventually, Wheat Ridge expanded to include other health programs, and by the 1970s, it was providing seed money for ministries. To date, more than 100 ministries are receiving or have received funding from Wheat Ridge.

As part of its 100th anniversary, the Wheat Ridge Ministries is offering its book of insights, prayers and inspiration, "Living Well! 100 Seeds to Grow Your Spirit." The book includes contributions by Bimler and other staff. Copies are available for $15 and can be ordered online at www. Wheatridge.org or by calling (800) 762-6784.

The key to Wheat Ridge's success, Bimler said, is not only providing funding, but also connecting organizations with the right resources to grow. Wheat Ridge has contacts all over the world, and it has made a name for itself introducing these contacts to each other.

"Instead of just giving money away, we put people in ministry range of each other," Bimler said. "We're the ones who connect a good idea with some financial resources."

Though Wheat Ridge usually tries to stay behind the scenes, others do notice. Bimler was one of three people whom the national Luther Institute honored with a prestigious Wittenberg Award. The award is for outstanding service to church and society.

"I'm really honored and humbled by the award," Bimler said. "It helps to make Wheat Ridge more visible."

At the end of December, Bimler will retire from his role as president, and Richard Herman, currently the vice president and chief operating officer, will take over.

Herman says he will continue to look for ways in which Wheat Ridge can help seed new ministries.

Here's a look at a few of the more visible ministries the organization already has helped build over the past 100 years.

Parish nursing

In 1970, the Wheat Ridge Foundation gave a grant to the Rev. Granger Westberg to begin opening holistic health centers, places where people could be seen by a doctor, a nurse and a minister at the same time. …