Blog Post: Velma Bridges and memories of Bob Swisher

Bob’s Words

  • April 12th, 2023
  • By Pathway Caring for Children

Bob Swisher was a beloved Pathway Caring for Children Board Member offering an important perspective and this excerpt is shared in his memory. Bob Swisher wrote the following:

I was the fifth boy who came to live at Pathway’s original group home, in November 1973.

I remember when Jim Bridges came and talked to me at Cuyahoga Hills Boys School a few weeks before I came to Pathway. He told me about the group home that he wanted to start in Canton and about what my life there would be like.

By then, I knew that my parents wouldn’t let me come home, so the group home was my only way out of the institution.

You see, I was adopted as a baby. My adoptive parents thought that they could not have children, so they chose to adopt me.

When I was five, however, my adoptive mother became pregnant, and then her attitude toward me changed. I felt that she didn’t really care about me anymore. I didn’t really belong to her. When she had her own child, she didn’t have the need for me anymore.

As the years went by, I began spending more and more time away from home, hanging out with a group of friends. Sometimes we skipped school together and other times we stole candy and gum from stores.

I don’t think my mom really cared what I did. When somebody cares about you, they care about what you are doing. She never sat me down and said, “What are you doing? Where have you been? I don’t want you to do that.”

I became more and more involved with my delinquent friends. Eventually, I stole a car and was arrested and sent to a detention home.

I was locked up for more than a year before I came to the Pathway group home. I learned in lock-up that I had to be tough and stick up for myself because nobody else was going to stick up for me.

When I got to Pathway, Jim’s wife Velma was the one that seemed to care the most about me. I soon learned that I could trust her. I didn’t have the desire to play games and try to get over on the system, because I knew that if Velma found out, she would be upset with me, and I didn’t want that.

Velma and I had many conversations. She was a problem-solver. When I was stopped from getting something I wanted, she would say, “If we can’t do it this way, maybe we can try it another way.”

When Velma took me to visit my girlfriend, I remember Velma got out of the car and talked to my girlfriend’s parents. She wanted to make sure that they were good people. She was watching over me. I had never had that before.

Other times, Velma would ask me, “How did you do in school today?”

Another person who cared about me was Jane Fawcett, a member of the Board of Trustees for Pathway. When she came to the home for meetings, she sought me out and asked about my progress. I thought to myself, “If someone as important as she is takes time to talk to me, I must be worth something.”

Eventually, I left the Pathway group home. I started my own business, a sewer drain cleaning company and that led to other business success. Now I am a homebuilder in Carroll County. I’m married and my wife Renee and I have two grown children, Aby and Abe. Abby lives in Cleveland where she works in interior design and Abe is in the Air Force.

My story doesn’t end there, however, because one day Jim asked me if I would become a board member for Pathway Caring for Children. I was proud to join the board and contribute some of my knowledge about home construction to improving Pathway’s facilities. I guess I’m giving back some of what was given to me.

Many boys and girls have come and gone from Pathway since I began my stay in that old group home. I am thankful that Pathway was there for me and is there for many other children.