History of The Bethesda Center

During the 80’s, a group of citizens requested the Mayor of Winston-Salem and the Chairman of the County Commissioners to jointly appoint a Task Force to investigate the needs of the homeless population and to recommend solutions to the problems of the homeless in the city and the county. The Task Force was appointed in 1985 and submitted the “Report of the Winston-Salem/ Forsyth County Task Force on the Homeless” in March of 1986.

The Task Force estimated conservatively the number of homeless in this area to be 150-300 and recommended an outreach program to find the homeless and provide an array of services, such as case management, linking with community’s resources etc. The Homeless Outreach Program began on October 1, 1986, with the support of Forsyth/ Stokes Area Mental Health Program. Around that time, area churches had completed a network of shelters where homeless people could stay at night, however, there was a need for a center where homeless people could come in during the day and work with people helping them.

A search began for a place to house a “drop-in center.” The building on North Patterson, built by First Baptist Church as its outreach mission, had been largely unused for years. Crisis Control, which had initially used the building to store food, offered to give it for this new mission, while First Presbyterian provided money.

Thus, Bethesda Center for the Homeless opened in September 1987, under the leadership of Mr. John Canupp and Rev. Stimp Hawkins. Mrs. Phoebe Satterwhite and Mrs. Helen Kennedy were instrumental right from the beginning.


  • 1987-1988: The first day shelter opened, and operated out of a church building donated by Crisis Control Ministry. Missions Committee of the First Presbyterian Church governed this shelter operations.
  • 1989: In January, Bethesda Center was incorporated as a 501(c) 3 corporation. Funding for operations was provided by numerous area churches, private and government grants. The initial purpose was to offer safe refuge to the homeless during the daytime hours but then the night shelter was also established. Basic services were also provided, including the outreach program by the Mental Health Center.
  • 1992: Jerry Davis became Bethesda Center’s first Executive Director and was followed by William Adkerson, who served as the Executive Director for 17 years. Under his leadership, the center’s programs grew to include full supportive services for its homeless clients to assist them in working towards self-sufficiency.
  • 1998: Men’s shelter that was added and it was used for both men and women until the 2006 building construction.
  • 1999: In July, Bethesda became a Forsyth County United Way partner agency.
  • 2000: Bethesda assumed program and financial responsibility for the “winter” emergency night shelter program and expanded it to include a year-round women’s emergency night shelter. The shelter was operated in a new building constructed by the City of Winston-Salem. The original building continued to be used for shelter and office purposes.
  • 2002: The Lighthouse Ministries closed causing the remaining shelters to house very quickly an additional 100 men. The Salvation Army assumed responsibility for housing single women, as
  • Bethesda significantly increased the number of men it served.
  • 2005: In December, Bethesda launched a $2.4 million dollar capital campaign to build a night shelter for women and a new day shelter building. The campaign successfully concluded in April 2006.
  • 2006: The new women’s shelter was completed in November 2006, and the original shelter was demolished to make way for the construction of the new day shelter, completed in December 2008.
  • 2008: Early that year, Michael Ryan became Bethesda Center’s Executive Director.
  • 2010: In August, Peggy Galloway became Bethesda Center’s Executive Director.
  • 2014: Derwin L. Montgomery became Bethesda Center’s Executive Director.

Bethesda’s leadership in providing services to the homeless throughout Forsyth County continues. Our mission to “create opportunities daily, through emergency and supportive services empowering individuals to lead stable lives,” gives hope to countless men and women annually as moving from homelessness to housing become a reality.