The Founding Story

It all started when...

It Started With …

It started with a workshop — no, it started with a house - no, it started with a school experience - no, it started with a crisis…

Some people think it started with Lynn’s story, but her life was really just a leaf caught in one of the rough currents that happens in life. And as with everyone’s story, there were so many eddies and influences along the way that in the end, it isn’t just Lynn’s story that got us here. To all those who played a significant role in her journey towards stability in her life, she is especially grateful.

Lynn spent 20 years of her adult life living in poverty. Her late husband, Henry, became ill with pancreatitis early in their marriage and as the years went by, the attacks increased until during the mid-90’s (while he was pursuing the education needed to become a professor) his health totally bottomed. His condition had developed into chronic pancreatitis. Within 10 years, he lost both legs due to the diabetes that came with the pancreatitis and his name was put on the list for long-term care.

For 17 years, while he was sick, the family lived on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Lynn homeschooled their five children and looked after her husband.

In 2010, the kids were grown and Lynn realized that once Henry was accepted into a long-term care residence, the ODSP would go with him. She would need to find work.

(Henry moved into long-term care and not long after his life-journey came to an end.)

As a church goer, Lynn went to her minister for advice. He suggested she gather some friends around her to help her figure out what she could do. Because of this particular church community, she now knew a retired teacher, a retired principal, and a small business owner. They were the first “team” who gathered (before we had named the process).

A large sheet of paper was put out on the table and they asked Lynn questions - what would she love to do, what was she passionate about, what could she imagine her future to be?

Through that conversation - that coaching and dreaming - a plan began to emerge and within a few years, instead of finding herself working at a part-time minimum wage job, Lynn had gone to school and graduated, with the assistance of grants and bursaries, (supplied because of her new “Social Capital”). Her training as an adult educator required she do “placement” - which could be (and was) paid work. Lynn graduated owing nothing and ready to move on into her future, doing what she loved doing - and getting paid for it!

The course of study she pursued, required her to have a support circle of folks that were part of her placement setting - folks that actually taught her, without anyone having the Bridges language to name it -  the Hidden Rules of the middle-class culture.

During those school years, a long-time friendship with Allan Reeve bloomed into a romance and the story continues with Lynn and Allan Smith-Reeve.

Lynn and Allan both had a passion for social action and small learning groups.

In the summer of 2014, they purchased the newly renovated house that had been the home of George and Myrtle Bedford for 57 years. It was especially the 14’ by 28’ living / dining room space that inspired the possibility of gathering folks to learn together.

Lynn’s support circle continued to offer support to the vision and easily morphed into the Steering Committee for Bedford House Community Ministry.

Soon the newly formed Bedford House Steering Committee was applying for grants and developing small group programs. A popular event was a monthly “Subversive Faith” interview where Lynn would interview a local activist about the intersection between social action and their faith journey.

That first fall Lynn and Allan were invited to a day-long workshop called “Bridges Out of Poverty”.  For Lynn, in particular, it was a day of revelation. She had been, without being able to name it, struggling with much of the new middle-class world life had drawn her into. The presenter at the workshop taught about the Hidden Rules of Class, which was particularly helpful, and named the 11 Essential Resources for a stable life. The Bridges framework for understanding poverty was helping Lynn understand socio-economic classes as, in a sense, different cultures, each with their own lens for seeing and understanding the world, and each with their own rules and tools. It was, simply put, life-changing.

That experience led the Bedford House team to imagine what might be possible … and the dream of, recreating the experience of support circles that had been part of Lynn’s journey, for others presently living in poverty and with a desire for a more stable life -  and the concept of Bridging Teams was birthed. With funding from various sources the pilot was launched in the fall of 2017.

The dream of Bedford House continues to emerge.