Bethesda Mission

The information on this page was last updated 4/14/2022. If you see errors or omissions, please email: [email protected]


Bethesda Mission (BM), located in Pennsylvania's capitol city of Harrisburg, is a non-profit Christian Rescue Mission. The organization has been meeting the needs of hungry and homeless people in the Greater Harrisburg area since 1914, when the mission was founded by fifteen laymen representing nine different denominations across the city.

The goal in 1914 was the same goal by which Bethesda is operated today:

To provide food, shelter, clothing, and life-changing counseling based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all who seek their help.

Contact information

Mailing address:
Bethesda Mission
PO Box 3041
Harrisburg, PA 17105


Phone: (717) 257-4442

Email: [email protected]

Organization details

EIN: 231389397

CEO/President: Scott Dunwoody

Chairman: Andrew Groop

Board size: 13

Founder: Mr. James W. Barker

Ruling year: 1914

Tax deductible: Yes

Fiscal year end: 06/30

Member of ECFA: Yes

Member of ECFA since: 1991


Our Vision: Rescue. Redeem. Restore.

Rescue - A soft pillow, a warm meal, and peace from life's storms are what Bethesda offers the men, women, and children who walk through our doors. Our walls offer safety from chaos-filled homes and noisy streets, and our hospitality returns a small portion of the grace we've been given to the people we serve.

Redeem - A brightly lit green cross is the trade-mark symbol of our flagship facility at 611 Reily Street in downtown Harrisburg. This city icon defines our driving passion - to introduce others to the power and love of Jesus Christ.

Restore - Equipping each person with tools for life is the aim of Bethesda's community re-entry blueprint. From learning to balance a checkbook to finding a Christ centered, nurturing church, these foundational skills help existing guests lead lives of character and great purpose.

Mission statement

Since 1914, Bethesda Mission has been a missionary arm of the local church, reaching out to men, women and children of all races, nationalities and creeds, providing the poor and homeless with shelter, food, clothing, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and discipliing them in the Christian life.

Statement of faith

We believe there is one God, eternally existing as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is God the Son, that He was born of a virgin, that believers are redeemed by His substitutionary death through His shed blood, that He bodily resurrected, and ascended into Heaven, and that He will come again in power and great glory. Furthermore, because of Christ's full but sinless humanity, we believe He has experienced and overcome all temptations that we face. Because of this, God is approachable through Jesus Christ and is concerned with our condition and human struggles.

We believe the Bible, as originally given, to be the revealed, authoritative Word of God without error.

We believe God originally created man in His own image, and free from sin; but through the temptation of Satan, man disobeyed God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness. Because of this all mankind inherits a corrupt nature and is under God's condemnation.

We believe that people can be removed from the eternal condemnation of sin only through a personal decision to trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross as their substitutionary payment for their sins. We hold this event to be a personal experience rather than a religious or doctrinal supposition.

We believe that the Holy Spirit indwells all believers empowering them to live a godly life of obedience as they grow toward Christian maturity in the process called sanctification.

We believe that the Holy Spirit unites all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and that together they form one body - The Church. Furthermore we believe that The Church is under the leadership of Jesus Christ and that His leadership will be evident through the harmony and love within The Church.

We believe it is the duty of all believers to glorify God in thought, word and deed.

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Transparency grade


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Financial efficiency ratings

Sector: Rescue Missions/Homeless Shelters

CategoryRatingOverall rankSector rank
Overall efficiency rating217 of 102241 of 155
Fund acquisition rating352 of 102551 of 155
Resource allocation rating233 of 102536 of 155
Asset utilization rating469 of 102280 of 155

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Balance sheet
Receivables, inventories, prepaids$668,310$518,710$580,207$584,864$439,127
Short-term investments$0$0$0$0$0
Other current assets$0$0$0$0$0
Total current assets$2,632,552$2,415,075$2,287,981$1,030,403$574,972
Long-term investments$5,149,546$4,451,775$4,613,896$5,000,431$5,445,924
Fixed assets$5,969,894$5,104,924$6,691,454$6,927,139$7,241,296
Other long-term assets$447,839$374,216$366,239$348,822$370,550
Total long-term assets$11,567,279$9,930,915$11,671,589$12,276,392$13,057,770
Total assets$14,199,831$12,345,990$13,959,570$13,306,795$13,632,742
Payables and accrued expenses$359,183$280,553$281,381$299,582$262,903
Other current liabilities$196,021$184,733$230,403$224,557$226,943
Total current liabilities$555,204$465,286$511,784$524,139$489,846
Due to (from) affiliates$0$0$0$0$0
Other long-term liabilities$106,604$122,757$104,603$96,120$98,419
Total long-term liabilities$1,454,391$1,627,196$1,730,211$1,915,872$2,120,933
Total liabilities$2,009,595$2,092,482$2,241,995$2,440,011$2,610,779
Net assets20192018201720162015
Without donor restrictions$3,720,668$3,522,696$4,970,839$4,844,366$5,341,311
With donor restrictions$8,469,568$6,730,812$6,746,736$6,022,418$5,680,652
Net assets$12,190,236$10,253,508$11,717,575$10,866,784$11,021,963
Revenues and expenses
Total contributions$9,384,893$8,072,234$7,882,700$7,658,423$6,471,096
Program service revenue$0$0$0$0$0
Membership dues$0$0$0$0$0
Investment income$282,916$240,724$389,413($34,401)$96,964
Other revenue$35,234$56,126$63,899$15,026$32,229
Total other revenue$318,150$296,850$453,312($19,375)$129,193
Total revenue$9,703,043$8,369,084$8,336,012$7,639,048$6,600,289
Program services$6,585,508$7,295,518$6,468,972$6,656,979$5,997,071
Management and general$400,614$405,130$429,513$500,170$418,708
Total expenses$7,668,926$8,352,571$7,548,467$7,794,227$7,060,986
Change in net assets20192018201720162015
Surplus (deficit)$2,034,117$16,513$787,545($155,179)($460,697)
Other changes in net assets($97,389)($1,480,580)($66,754)$0$0
Total change in net assets$1,936,728($1,464,067)$720,791($155,179)($460,697)


Scott DunwoodyExecutive Director$66,308

Compensation data as of: 6/30/2020

Response from ministry

No response has been provided by this ministry.

The information below was provided to MinistryWatch by the ministry itself. It was last updated 4/14/2022. To update the information below, please email: [email protected]


"Heritage" is a good term to describe over 80 years of ministry to the hopeless, the helpless, and the homeless people of the street. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines Heritage as "Something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor." Today, the Mission is still faithfully transmitting that which it has received from its founders.

Harrisburg's Mission tradition goes back to a Scranton Welshman named Griffith Jones, who started the predecessor of Bethesda at the turn of the century. This early mission was known as the Lafayette Mission, and was located where the State Education Building is in Harrisburg today.

On December 22, 1914, James W. Barker founded Bethesda Mission, taking the Biblical word for "mercy" as a name for his mission. He called it a "Christian workshop and workingman's hotel." "Uncle Jim" Barker (1853-1944) was the mission's first president. He was a thin, stately man with a moustache and goatee. It was often said that he looked like a cross between Monty Wooley and Sigmund Freud. Earning his livelihood in the feed and grain business, he lived on Evergreen St. near a political boss of the time, Ed Beidleman, and was Sunday school superintendent at the Stevens Memorial Methodist Church.

Barker attracted some of the real "class" of Harrisburg at the time to be directors of Bethesda - men like Eli Hershey, J. Boyd Trostle, John W. Appleby, H. B. Alexander, E.S. Chronister, C. M. Thumma, Gus Steinmitz, O. B. Lank and Gus F. Larson. The only time that they ran into flak was when they considered purchasing the old Biley mansion at Front and Chestnut Streets, because a big controversy arose over the so-called "Front Street for the Front Streeters" movement. That was in the early 1930's when, as they used to say, there weren't any proletarians on Front Street, though John O'Hara knew otherwise.

In 1934 the Mission purchased the old Pennsylvania Railroad YMCA at 611 Reilly Street for $10,000. It had been built in 1902, and had housed Harrisburg's first indoor swimming pool. The swimming pool is now filled in and capped over, and the room is currently serving as a dormitory.

Henry Reinhart, a self-acknowledged former "booze-soaked, despondent salesman from Cleveland," came aboard when the mission was at 107 S. Second Street and moved on to Reily Street for 31 years as mission director. The depression days were the glory days (in that period of time), when the mission lodged as many as 36,000 men a year, including seamen from the Morro Castle and ex-bootleggers who wanted to go straight. Today the Mission sleeps more than that on a routine basis, and that does not include the women and children's shelter, which opened in 1983.

In 1975, an over-optimistic investment in what was to be a state-aided and funded alcoholism pilot program put Bethesda Mission in a financial hole of over $30,000, because the State pulled its promised funding after the mission had expended its funds to create the facility. While that isn't much money for most organizations, it was a critical loss for Bethesda, which operated on a $70,000 annual budget.

In the process of recovery, the mission reorganized much of its volunteer board, parted ways with an executive director, and adopted a retrenching, survival policy. "The easiest route for most of us would be to resign from the board and get ourselves out of this embarrassing predicament," wrote the Rev. Donald R. Javert, then of the Market Square Presbyterian Church. "Even more embarrassing would be to leave forgotten persons in the streets of Harrisburg unattended and without shelter. The Mission is a friend to those who are genuinely without friends."

Agreeing with Rev. Javert were the remaining board members, plus four new members who replaced the six who had left and by 1979 the mission had paid off its debt.

The mission at that time had 30 permanent residents and about five transients daily. Today it has no permanent guests but sleeps over 100 men on most nights, provides over 100, 000 meals per year, separately houses 40 women and children, and operates a full-time after-school youth program for neighborhood children that involves 50 or more boys and girls each afternoon. From a staff of one executive director in 1979 the mission has grown to an organization employing 43 dedicated workers. Increasing from the annual $70,000 budget of those years, the mission now requires $1,800,000 to provide for the expanding needs of its many services.

There is an historical paradox to the mission tradition in America. Bethesda and others in the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions began well before the American public welfare movement. The public might think that with the ubiquitous welfare check, the "down-and-out," as "Uncle Jim" Barker called them, do have security and don't need lodging, food, or counseling. The truth is the direct opposite, in fact. The boys don't ride boxcars into Harrisburg anymore, and the increased urbanization and impersonalization of society, coupled with alcohol and drugs, bad economics, and declining education, have all replaced the self-reliant, self-esteemed happy "bums" of yesteryear with faceless, alienated lost souls of mass man. Missions have a more vital role to play today than ever before, and it isn't that of middle-class hypocrisy or guilt-cleansing, either.

Above all, the Mission's quality board and staff have re-established the Mission's statement of purpose to conform to the original charter, thus assuring a continuation of the Heritage passed to it by its founders and supporters. "Uncle Jim" Barker would be pleased to see his Mission in the hands of those who are guiding it today.

(The material for this page was taken from Bethesda's Spring 1994 newsletter, which was in turn taken, verbatim in many places, from the column, "Reporter at Large" by Paul B. Beers. The original article appeared in the Patriot News on 12/11/75, and has been reprinted with the permission of Mr. Beers. It was adapted to reflect the current purpose of that newsletter and this page and also to bring it up-to-date. Our sincere thanks to Mr. Beers.)

Program accomplishments

60 men sheltered per night

6 women sheltered per night

5,036 meals served last month