For 125 years, the women of the Mary Free Bed Guild have maintained the hospital’s nurturing culture of restoring hope and freedom through rehabilitation.
To mark the significant anniversary of its unique history and vision, the Guild is sharing its story and celebrating its accomplishments with events throughout the year.
Visitors touring the new West Building addition or the new Mary Free Bed YMCA are greeted by an image of the Guild’s first members, a small group of women who wanted to help people who couldn’t afford health care. They passed a purse and asked anyone named Mary, or anyone who knew someone named Mary, to donate a dime. It was the most common women’s name in 1891, and the donations supported the first “Mary free bed” at a local hospital. As funds grew, the women began helping people with physical disabilities.
Today, the 100-member Guild governs the most comprehensive rehabilitation hospital in the region and can take pride in knowing it’s helped improve millions of lives.
“We have grown from a single bed to 167 beds on our Grand Rapids campus plus 100 inpatient beds in five network locations,” said Guild president Kim Ridings. “We are so proud to be celebrating the innovation, determination and heart-felt vision of the Guild’s work during the past 125 years.”
To commemorate its anniversary, the Mary Free Bed Guild invested generously in the Mary Free Bed YMCA, a global model for inclusion and accessibility for people of all abilities, which opened in December.
Local historian Gordon Olson, who penned “In the Name of All Marys …,” a history of the Mary Free Bed Guild published in 1991, is working on a second volume that picks up where the first book left off. It is expected to be published in the fall.