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The Mary Free Bed Guild Legacy

“Do men understand as well as women that the only way to look at another human being is as a miracle? Who else but a guild of women would empathize so closely with the pain our patients and their families feel every day?”

– Kent Riddle, Mary Free Bed CEO

Mary Free Bed Guild History

The Mary Free Bed Guild began with just six cents.

In 1891, Grand Rapids attorney Moses Taggart found a purse lying on the sidewalk. He opened it hoping to find a way to identify its owner, but instead he discovered half a dozen pennies. Timing is everything. Taggart’s sister-in-law and her friends had been discussing medical care for the city’s poor. Taggart’s newly found six pennies became the impetus for something none of them could imagine.

Buoyed by their good fortune, these civic-minded women devised a novel campaign based on a popular name at the time. If your name was Mary, or if you knew someone named Mary, you were asked to donate ten cents. Soon the group raised enough money to endow a free bed, which became known as the “Mary free bed.” As the community need grew, so did the group of female fundraisers.

Mary Free Bed Guild Today

For more than a century, the Mary Free Bed Guild has stayed true to its roots, maintaining a community focus and ensuring a family-oriented, loving, nurturing environment for our patients. Throughout Mary Free Bed’s history, the Guild has been a steady and constant force. Now more than 120 women strong, Guild and Junior Guild members not only govern Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, but they are also active in numerous hospital projects. Additionally, the Mary Free Bed Fund contributes to several hospital programs including the Motion Analysis Center (one of only nine accredited centers in the world), Recreational Therapy, the inn at Mary Free Bed, and Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports.

The Mary Free Bed Fund

Owned by the Mary Free Bed Guild, the Mary Free Bed Fund is a non-profit organization governed by a 14 member board. It was established in 1986 with a $4 million contribution from the Mary Free Bed Guild. The Fund supports itself from a variety of investment earnings and an annual distribution for pediatric services from the Sackner Foundation. During Fiscal Year 2013, the Mary Free Bed Fund provided more than $440,000 to support organizations that advocate for the disabled.

Filed under: History


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