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History of Guiding Light: Our Own Second Chance

Just like the countless souls we have served since our founding in 1929, Guiding Light itself has faced struggles over the years. And like many of our current participants we found new life after a second chance. This was during the 1960s, which started out as a boom period for donations and church support for what was then called Guiding Light Mission. During this time, Guiding Light began emphasizing what would become the core of our work today: treatment for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

But then, in 1966, Andrew Vander Veer, who had led the organization since taking over in 1944 for founder John Vande Water, died while delivering an evening chapel service. The following years were difficult. Andrew’s wife, Cornelia, who had been deeply involved with the mission, passed away a couple of years after her husband. A new director resigned after a short stay. In 1968, Guiding Light Mission closed its doors.

This could have been the end, if not for Jacob Vredevoog, a faithful lay worker who had served as an assistant to the VanderVeers. A year after the closing, Jacob reopened Guiding Light Mission in 1969 as an independent faith project. It’s worth noting he did this with his own money. From that act of faith came a new era of service. Guiding Light had been granted a second chance, much like what we provide to those we serve. Jacob gathered support of local donors. He recruited volunteers from churches and seminaries. And he served the mission until his death in 1972.

In the years since, we have continued to expand our expertise of recovery for people struggling with addiction. We have changed locations and added sober living communities. This year we are launching our first recovery program for women. As we reflect on our history and our future, we remain faithful stewards of the commitment shown by Jacob Vredevoog and all the donors who for 95 years now have provided a Guiding Light to those in need of a second chance.


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