Humble Beginnings…Where the “Path”way Began

  • January 18th, 2023
  • By Pathway Caring for Children

Jim and Velma Bridges were full of hope and anticipation at an ambitious 29 and 28 years old when the first 5 boys came to the Pathway group home on Spring Ave in Canton, OH. It was the beginning of a lifelong journey to help children and families.

Jim and Velma started dating in 1969 and Jim had a degree in English but he felt called to a career in social work. Jim worked for a county agency while in college and managed a very large caseload. Sometimes he felt like he was trying to put out a forest fire with a squirt gun.

Jim was complaining to a friend about all the hardships he was seeing and how could there not be a better way. That friend challenged Jim and said, “Well what are you going to do about it?”

Jim began to envision a community based program that would provide support and training to foster families, so that these families could live through problems, and staff, parents, and children could work together as a team. 

It was 1973, and just the beginning of a dream come true.

“We had challenges from the very beginning, but we were grateful.” ~Velma Bridges

The attorney said to be incorporated as a non-profit the organization needed a name. Well, there was no time to think and Stark County Group Home it was just to be a placeholder on all the paperwork.

After a few months, a board member got together some teens and asked, “what should this organization’s name be?” These teens came up with the name Pathway! And then ‘Caring for Children’ was added later to be a more descriptive representation of what Pathway Caring for Children is all about.

Pathway Caring for Children had begun, but the vision was not over. Jim pursued a masters of non-profit management tirelessly learning every Saturday. He drove from Canton, OH to Case Western in Cleveland, OH each week and juggled his own family and the daily challenges of operating Pathway. The agency really grew and took off after Jim applied his studies to meet the ever-changing needs of children and families.

In the words of founder Jim Bridges, “I count myself as one of the most fortunate people in the world, because I have been able to see my dreams come true. That’s something that does not happen to most people. That long ago vision—to provide places where foster children can live through their problems with people committed to them—is happening every day now at Pathway.” -Jim Bridges

Jim Bridges was Pathway’s Executive Director up until his passing in 2009. Staff affectionately remember Jim treating them like family and meetings were not simply reporting out, but about being in the trenches together and working through problems.

Velma remains on staff and today, Pathway continues to live out Jim’s vision of empowering the children and families we serve.