Fundraiser benefits New Bethany and honors the Franciscan Sisters in Los Banos

The New Bethany care facility for senior adults in Los Banos.
The New Bethany care facility for senior adults in Los Banos. Contributed

Caring for senior citizens who need assistance is a monumental challenge facing our aging country today. Fortunately, Los Banos has a wonderfully caring facility, New Bethany, responding to this challenge.

Next month anyone who appreciates this facility will have an opportunity to support it while having a good time. On June 12, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the New Bethany Guild is sponsoring a salad bar luncheon to support the facility and its residents. Tickets for this Wednesday event, which cost $35, are available at the New Bethany Residential Care and Skilled Nursing Facility (1441 Berkeley Drive) or by calling Diana Pfitzer at 209-675-0235.

John Spevak, columnist for The Enterprise Enterprise file

I’m old enough to remember when New Bethany was just an idea in the minds and hearts of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, who were then working primarily as teachers at Our Lady of Fatima School in Los Banos.

Now, 20 years after it opened, New Bethany is one of the most admired facilities in the region, not only because it has appealing buildings and grounds, but because of the kindness its staff shows to its residents.

The sisters at New Bethany, according to the facility’s website, believe they are called to provide “place of hospitality” within a “work of love and sacred duty” where they treat their residents as “parents” in their home and family. They also respond to the spiritual needs of residents, who so often need hope and joy as well as physical care.

This is quite a contrast to unethical nursing homes we often read or hear about in the news, places that treat their patients as numbers in facilities that are more like warehouses than homes or hospitals.

Fortunately, that is not the case in Los Banos. Our community’s other skilled nursing facility, the Los Banos Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Idaho Avenue, like New Bethany, works hard to provide a welcoming and caring place, especially for older adults.

I have been to nursing homes in other cities, however, and have seen uncaring approaches where the staff members often severely neglect the residents, in facilities run by a corporate management which cares more about dollars than people.

Today, the most admired residential care facilities have a staff and management determined to treat their residents with kindness. Another example of this approach near Los Banos was the Dos Palos Skilled Nursing Facility, where the staff was extraordinarily kind to all residents, including my brother who lived there for two years. Unfortunately, that facility had to close in 2017 because of inadequate funding.

Operating a professional skilled nursing facility in the black, just breaking even, is a big challenge these days. Maintaining clean, safe buildings and grounds while providing sufficient staff to attend to residents’ needs is costly. Meanwhile reimbursements from public and private insurance entities are often inordinately slow, with excessive amounts of regulation and paperwork.

That’s one reason why fundraisers like the June 12 Salad Bar Luncheon are important to New Bethany, which needs additional funds to provide the kinds of amenities we would like our relatives and friends to have if they were to live there, including monthly birthday parties and weekly ice cream socials.

Coming to the June 12 fundraiser would also be a show of support to the sisters and lay staff members who provide professional care and kindness, often to older adults who require a great deal of patience and understanding, especially those residents in the Alzheimer’s wing.

As it turns out, next month a related event will take place. One of the dedicated sisters who work at New Bethany is being deservedly honored on her 25th anniversary of taking her final vows as a nun, Sister Lillian Stacy.

I have known Sister Lillian for most of those 25 years. She is a bright, talented and personable individual, who, like her fellow sisters, sees her work as a calling. She has given her talents not only to New Bethany but also to St. Joseph’s Parish in Los Banos, serving as an instructor in the parish’s religious education program and as a lector for liturgies.

She is a wonderful example of the dedication of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters, including New Bethany leaders like Sister Julie and Sister Lucinda, who follow the example of the Lord to whom they have dedicated their lives, bringing compassion and joy to everyone they encounter, especially those most in need of their kindness.

Like many other Los Banos residents, I am deeply grateful to Sister Lillian and all of her fellow sisters who have done so much for our community in the spirit of service and love.

John Spevak wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. His email is john.spevak@gmail.com.