Bethanna had its beginnings in the summer of 1934 when Miss Esther Swigart, a teacher at Philadelphia’s Girard College, purchased property in Southampton, PA for the purpose of establishing a haven for those who appreciated weekends of relaxation, restoration and Christian fellowship in the countryside. Bethanna soon became a popular retreat center with challenging speakers and ideal surroundings. Our founder dedicated the center to her mother. Bethanna means “House of Grace.”Bethanna’s popularity as a conference center grew. Many people came for a day, others spent weekends and some stayed for longer periods. The barn on the property became a Tabernacle for meetings featured outstanding missionaries and Christian life speakers. Young people were challenged for service.
In 1950, Miss Marion Kinsler who had just returned from 19 years of missionary work in Korea met Miss Swigart at a Bible conference. The two women formed a lasting partnership and began their mission together by opening a six-week summer bible camp for boys and girls. Children from the area came to enjoy swimming, hiking, treasure hunts, and sports of all kinds. Just in time for this new outreach, Bethanna had acquired the historic McCook Farm with its 33 acres of ground. This was also the year that Bethanna was incorporated as a nonprofit organization.
By 1952, Miss Swigart and Miss Kinsler were deeply involved in another ministry. They were receiving children who needed a place to live, a real home with love and care. Starting with one boy who stayed following summer camp, the Bethanna family grew quickly. As children continued to come to Bethanna well into 1959, a third building was purchased. This provided another home for children and increased the property to the current 40 acres. The two women washed, ironed, cooked, cleaned and mothered all of the children until 1962 when they both deservedly retired. From 1962 to today, Bethanna has been operating with a Board of Directors and a full time Executive Director and Administrative staff.