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Bethany Home

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Before you decide that there's not much you can do about the world's problems, that your vote does not count, listen to the story of Gottleib Germann and his wife.

Gottleib was a harness maker in the cavalry department at the Rock Island Arsenal, making two dollars a day. In February of 1898 he discovered a baby boy abandoned in a barn. He and his wife began a personal campaign to open a home for similarly abandoned children. He submitted a proposal to the Associated Charities of Rock Island. No response. In May, he made an appeal to the Tri-City Ministerial Association to establish a rescue mission, but without results.

In desperation, Gottlieb and his wife rented a house at 14th Street and Fourth Avenue and opened a kindergarten, trusting that the Lord would supplement their own meager resources. A young schoolteacher from Davenport showed up to teach the kindergarten. She agreed to furnish the equipment for the school and work without any definite pay.

The Germanns barely made a dent in the poverty and homelessness all around them, but they persisted. Finally, in 1899, with help from a local lawyer and his wife, the Germanns incorporated the Union Mission in a larger home several blocks away.

The Union Mission had officers and a board of directors, but no money for a superintendent. The Germanns agreed to leave their own home, move into the mission, and serve as superintendents without pay for three years. And, in addition, donate to the mission's general fund $30 a month from his earnings at the Arsenal.

The Union Mission opened on December 12th, 1899. Within a month, it had taken in ten children. Another 48 arrived within the next year.

Eventually, the mission idea caught the fancy of others. Community and church support increased. Private clubs and community groups contributed money and volunteers. Leading citizens agreed to serve on the board. The county came up with funds.

Without a harness maker's willingness to see a problem through to its solution, there would today be no Union Mission in Rock Island—or rather, no Bethany Home, the new name it adopted in 1902.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.