CLC Network Names Building after Longtime Executive Director

Introducing the R.H. “Bear” Berends Center for Inclusive Education

R.H. "Bear" Berends Center for Inclusive Education
The newly installed display at the All Belong headquarters (located in Wyoming, MI) honors R.H. “Bear” Berends and the first generation of leadership, including Doug Bouman, Barbara J. Newman, Phil Stegink, Bev Van Noord, Judi Warner, and Greg Yoder.

We recently renamed our headquarters, located at 4340 Burlingame Avenue in Wyoming, Michigan, to honor recently retired executive director, R.H. “Bear” Berends. Berends retired from his position on August 31, 2015, after leading the inclusive education movement in West Michigan-area schools – and across the nation – for 34 years.

“Christian education has been forever changed through Bear’s leadership at All Belong,” said Bob VanWieren, former principal at Byron Center Christian and current All Belong board president. “Bear was instrumental in encouraging Christian schools in West Michigan to enroll students with disabilities. He wanted to ensure that all students – regardless of ability or disability – were seen as equal members of the school community.”

“It is quite an honor to be recognized by the All Belong board of directors and our community in this way,” said Berends. “There are many folks who have contributed to this movement for inclusion in our Christian schools; I am grateful to have worked with countless talented colleagues and partners in Christian education.”

35th dinner 02
Current executive director, Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski, and colleagues unveiled the building renaming at the All Belong 35th Anniversary Dinner.

Six of Berends colleagues are honored alongside him on a display within the building lobby. The display reads, “The R.H. ‘Bear’ Berends Center for Inclusive Education: Honoring the vision and discipleship of All Belong’s first generation of leadership, whose commitment to inclusive education for students with disabilities changed our communities and blessed the lives of many thousands.” Leaders included in the first-generation of leadership are: Doug Bouman, Barbara J. Newman, Phil Stegink, Bev Van Noord, Judi Warner, and Greg Yoder.

“Bear and his colleagues have built a strong foundation in West Michigan for All Belong to continue transforming Christian and Catholic schools in every state to include students with disabilities,” shared Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski, executive director. “I hope that this small memento communicates the gratitude from the West Michigan community for their lifetime of work.”

Thank you to Bear and the first generation of leadership for your commitment to creating inclusive communities for persons at all levels of ability and disability!

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