Help Celebrate Jim’s Life and a Dear Cause


Help Celebrate Jim’s Life and a Dear Cause

Celebrate Jim Swanlund’s life with two things the longtime Grand Rapids educator and lifelong member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church truly believed in:

  • Having fun with friends, and
  • Supporting a good cause!

One of Jim’s dear causes was the Hill Child Development Center, which he helped found in 1971. The center is now part of our church’s new ministry, the Bethlehem Intergenerational Center.

“Jim had a real sense of social justice,” according to his widow, Sue Swanlund. “He spent his whole career in inner-city schools,” including Hall Elementary as a teacher, and Dickinson and Campau elementary buildings as a principal.

Adds his daughter Julie Lucas: “He was fair.” And he felt everyone needed an opportunity.

Hence, the Jim Swanlund Memorial Fund was created by Jim’s family in 2012, as this 73-year-old husband, father and grandfather was dying. The fund helps children of financially struggling families attend our Child Development Center, the Bethlehem ministry that Jim dreamed would be a place where all children, regardless of income, could come to be loved and educated. Today, more than 70% of kids in our center receive some type of tuition aid.

jimswanlund“The Jim Swanlund Memorial Scholarship Fund is a true gift to our program and those we serve,” says Sue Davidson, director of the Bethlehem Intergenerational Center. “We are able to reach more families and enrich the lives of even more children in the early childhood wing of the Bethlehem Intergenerational Center through these scholarships.”

Jim’s dream continues to be realized. In 2016, 35 children from 32 families received tuition assistance totaling $33,000 at the Hill Child Development Center. But what would Jim think about that happening in his name?

“I think he’d smile,” Sue Swanlund said. Julie Lucas laughed. She wasn’t sure what her father would think because he often “deflected attention” away from himself, and let it go to others. But, when you think about it, helping others – especially those who struggle to get by – is what Jim Swanlund was about.

Besides, Jim was willing to try new things, including snowboarding, scuba diving, and sky diving. So why not a center for children, and funds to help them?

Jim Swanlund’s “swan song,” a memorial fund, resulted in a legacy that keeps on giving. You can help keep that legacy going and our early childhood wing growing.

“I can’t help but think that Jim would be so excited about the growth and progressive changes in this wonderful ministry that he helped to start,” Davidson said. “Caring for generations for generations to come.”

See you at the Pig Roast!