Chuck and Kristi’s Moment

“To everyone who’s lost someone they loved, long before it was their time…. The days that you had with them were not enough, when you said goodbye….”

The words of this song by Third Day could not better describe the immense pain that Chuck and Kristi were feeling when they reached out to Bridges of Hope.

Maternal-Infant-Care-rfidChuck and Kristi have three children: Marcus (8), Lily (5), and Nora (2). A few months back, the couple was faced with an enormous loss; they lost their newest born son, Caleb. When Caleb was born, doctors told Chuck and Kristi that it would only be a matter of time until he would leave them. They stayed by Caleb’s bedside until, as the doctor’s feared, he passed away just weeks after being born. Chuck and Kristi were overwhelmed with grief and reached out to Bridges of Hope. Kristi called Bridges of Hope originally looking for help with gas, since they had made so many trips down to the Mayo Clinic. When I heard their story, I offered her some additional services and she voluntarily enrolled in the Parent Support Outreach Program, where a staff from Bridges meets in-home with families to work on goals set by the parents.

The first time I met with Kristi in person, she was noticeably depressed, having just lost her child, and she remained in bed for the entire meeting. At this time, the entire family was staying in the living room of a friend’s home–due to the financial stress they experienced after Caleb was born, they had been evicted from their apartment. I offered to set up Respite Services for Chuck and Kristi so they could get a much-needed break to care for their own mental health and process their grief. The look of relief on Kristi’s face gave me hope that they would all be okay.

And that was when things began to turn around. The couple set several goals: they wanted to work towards getting their own place to live again, and Kristi wanted to find employment. I met with Chuck & Kristi the following week and encouraged counseling as another goal. After a little hesitation, they said they were willing to give it a try.

Within a week of the family’s first time using Respite Services, the family’s change was amazing. Kristi had found employment, the family was able to move into their own home, AND the couple had made an appointment for one of the counselors I had recommended! This mom, who was initially thinking she would be unable to parent due to the trauma of losing a child is now planning a family game night and spending all of her free time with her children. Chuck & Kristi are looking forward to making the best of their future and see that there is hope for a happy family life once again.

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary and love for the broken heart….” –Third Day


If there is anyone in your life who might benefit from supportive services from Bridges of Hope, please encourage them to contact us at 218.825.7682. There is hope!

Common Goods for the Common Good

Did you ever think that you could give back by purchasing something for yourself? Well, you can! Shopping at Common Goods not only helps you by expanding & accessorizing your wardrobe, finding a unique piece of furniture that you think, “I know just where that will fit perfectly in my home,” or finding a board game you used to play as a kid (and can now play with your children). It also helps others in our community by partially funding the programs at Bridges of Hope, bridging the gap between area resources and people who need them.

As the new Retail Manager at Common Goods, I am thrilled to be part of helping this community, and I thank you for shopping often and helping to make the caring work of Bridges of Hope possible for nearly 3,000 Lakes Area households each year. That is what our tag line is all about:

“Common Goods for the Common Good”in our community. All of the proceeds from sales at Common Goods STAY LOCAL!!

For those of you who wish to have a more ‘hands-on’ 2005-08-16 07.18.22approach to helping out, you can donate your time and talent at the store. In 2013, our amazing volunteers graciously donated 850 hours of their time. Wow! That equates to 18 weeks worth of volunteered time! For some, it’s a onetime event and for others, it is a weekly and year long contribution. To learn more about the volunteer opportunities available please contact Common Goods at 218-824-0923.

It is YOUR ongoing support through shopping and volunteering, that make our motto “Common Goods, for the Common Good” possible. THANK YOU!!

Like us on Facebook to keep up to date on discounts, sales & events at Common Goods!


Kimberly’s Moment

It’s that dreaded feeling you get…when you realize you have just been in a car accident.

What happened before the accident is usually a blur, but what happens after an accident can leave you feeling just as foggy. At Bridges of Hope we try to help lift some of the fog for the clients that reach out us. Some have experienced a figurative “car accident” that has left them spinning emotionally, and others have experienced a literal car accident that has caused injury in other ways, like in the case of Kimberly:

Apartment Building PicKimberly called Bridges of Hope a few months after she had had a car accident that left her needing neck surgery. During her recovery, Kimberly was unable to work and was let go from her job. Without any income, Kimberly also found herself without a home shortly afterward. She moved in with her mother and younger brother.

During her three-month-long recovery, Kimberly’s family was helping her pay her other bills, and they all just managed to get by. At the end of the three months, Kimberly was going to be released from her work restrictions and had already found a new job that was just a few blocks away from an available apartment. When Kimberly  connected with Bridges, she was seeking resources for the first month’s rent and damage deposit to get into this apartment.

Since her mother lives out of town and Kimberly does not have a vehicle, an apartment close to her employment is ideal. Lutheran Social Service (LSS) is one of our community partners that we regularly collaborate with in instances when a client needs help with housing. Bridges of Hope and LSS both have guidelines to ensure that the rent is sustainable for the client based on their current situation, and typically that means the housing is close to 30% of their income and fits into their budget. Based on these factors, Bridges and Lutheran Social Service were able to assist Kimberly in getting into her new apartment.

When we followed up with her a few weeks later, Kimberly stated she is loving her new job and has made great strides in her recovery. She is extremely grateful for the help!

And we are grateful to be able to be there for people in our community like Kimberly. Thank you for helping us help others! For more information about how you can get involved, please visit our website.

Building Bridges…in more ways than one

“To build bridges of support, anchored in Christ’s love, between families in the Lakes Area and the community assets that can help them thrive and gain hope.”

In an effort to spread the word about our mission, Bridges of Hope partnered with the 5th grade at Forestview Middle School to host our Second Annual Building Bridges event on February 3rd.

Fifth graders worked together in teams to create a bridge out of 100 popsicle sticks to compete in either the strength or aesthetic category. They received education & coaching from their science teachers and from four local engineering & construction firms: Nor-Son, Northway Construction, SEH, and Widseth-Smith-Nolting.

Building Bridges 2014

The students also had a chance to hear from our staff about what it means to build a bridge of support for those in need in our community.

Over 400 students, parents, grandparents, teachers, and others from the community attended the event. You could hear sounds of bridges breaking and the crowd cheering as the winning bridge held a whopping 165 lbs (we even had to get more weights from the school weight room in order to break the bridge)! To learn more about the event, watch this clip from Lakeland News.

What makes a bridge strong? What makes a community strong? That’s what fifth graders were tasked with figuring out, TOGETHER. That’s the key: Doing things TOGETHER creates strength, whether you’re talking popsicle stick bridges or helping your neighbor.

All of the teams did an amazing job, and prizes were awarded to the top finishers. The first place winners in each category enjoyed a limo ride (courtesy of Reichert’s) and a pizza lunch (courtesy of Boomer Pizza).

PicMonkey Collage

Bridges of Hope is so thankful to our sponsors for this event, and to ISD 181 for the collaboration and opportunity to spread the word about our mission. THANK YOU!!  (To learn more about Bridges of Hope, please visit our website).


A Few Numbers, and Many of Your Words

Last year was another record-breaking year at Bridges of Hope. In 2013, we received referrals, calls & requests for help from 2,896 households! Part of my role at Bridges is to crunch the numbers, which I realize doesn’t necessarily sound all that fun or exciting, but I really do enjoy it because of what it can tell us about our services to the community. For example: of the 2,896 households we were in contact with last year…

  • The majority (78%) were for help with resources through our Resource Connection Services (help with housing, transportation, utlities, etc).
  • Childcare Services (Respite & Crisis Nursery) comprised another 14% of households.
  • Family Support Services (Intensive In-Home Services, the Parent Support Outreach Program, and the Teen Parent Outreach Program) made up 7% of the households.
  • Mentoring Services (Side by Side) was the final, very tiny less-than-1%.
  • Our mission is focused on serving families, and 68% of the households were part of our target service population (families, parents, “children” 0-21 and those who care for them). We continue to offer connections to resources for those who are not part of this population.
Bridge Photo

You help us build bridges!

Unfortunately, but understandably, most  households (~63%) who contacted Bridges for help were living at or below 100% of poverty, which was an annual income of $23,550 for a family of four in 2013. Another 30% were living between 101% and 200% of poverty (this is an annual income was $47,100 for a family of four).

Another rather astonishing set of numbers is those reporting physical and mental health concerns for at least one of the members of the household: 41% of households report a mental health concern, issue, or diagnosis;  14% report a physical health concern or disability; and 23% report both concerns! We know that these numbers aren’t based off of physical or clinician diagnoses, but they DO mean that people are clearly struggling in our community, when they’re willing to self-report concerns to these extents.

Despite these somewhat sobering statistics, thanks to the richness of resources in the Lakes Area, we were able to suggest viable solutions, resources, and/or practical ideas for 92% of the households. (Another 4% didn’t stay in contact with us, we screened out 2% as inappropriate, and we were unable to find resources for 2% of the households.) On the whole, that is great, great news!

And one final number: working with 2,896 households represents a somewhat incomprehensible 2,274% increase from our first year of operation, 2002, when we served just 122 households the entire year. (These days, we serve more than that in a single month–in fact, as of January 28, the day before I wrote this post, we had served exactly 122 households so far in 2014!)

Part of our programming includes following up with those we worked with, to make sure we’re providing services that are truly helpful–and if not–what we can do to modify our programs for the future. While this feels a little bit like tooting our own horn, I really wanted to share some of the great things our staff hear from those we follow up with–because our clients are really the ones that matter in this equation. Bridges was founded to bridge the gap between those in need and those with the resources–all of YOU…so, in no particular order, here is a sampling of some of the feedback we received from our clients In 2013:

  • Everyone was really helpful.
  • You guys are awesome!
  • I know I can call you anytime. I’ve learned so much from you; thank you!
  • Everyone thinks very highly of you!
  • It was very helpful. I appreciate you and would call Bridges again in the future.
  • The service was excellent. Thank you very much!
  • I very much appreciate you being so kind and not making me feel like I wasn’t important!
  • I don’t know what I would have done without you.
  • You’re most helpful and very kind.
  • If I ever come into a bunch of money, I’m donating to you for all your help over the last 3 years.
  • Thank you for listening and helping in our time of need.
  • I asked for parenting tips and I got a lot of good ideas.
  • The things I got through Salem are really making this house a home.
  • You guys always do the best you can and I appreciate it!
  • This isn’t the first time Bridges has given me hope!
  • You made me feel confident even though I had no confidence.

In addition to making sure our client’s situation was resolved, we ask them to give us a rating on the quality of services from Bridges, on a scale from 1-5:

  • A 10! You guys are awesome! I don’t know what I’d do without you.
  • I would give you a 6!
  • Definitely a 5!
  • I’d give you a 6 for calling back to follow up.
  • I’d give you guys a 20!
  • 5 + + +
  • I’d give Bridges a 10 on a scale of 1-5!
  • [And my personal favorite:] Bridges of Hope is beyond a 5; you are Phi-nominal.

Thank you for the very positive feedback, as well as for all of the very the helpful and constructive feedback you give us, because it is what enables us to serve our community in ever-better, more transformative ways. Thank you to our many community partners that work alongside us every day to help our community become a better place to live. And finally, thank you to our many, many donors and funders who enable us to DO this very important work. It is ALL OF YOU who deserve the greatest praise. We are looking forward to another great year at Bridges of Hope–thanks to you!

Thanks to You…

We are having another record-breaking year here at Bridges of Hope. So far this year, we have been able to serve 2,662 households (and counting!), as well as a staggering 17,944 households since our founding in 2002!

And all of that is because of you: it’s the donors that truly make the difference at Bridges. This past week I asked our staff to articulate specifically what your support has enabled us to do. Here’s what they said:

Thanks to you, this year…

  • Alex was able to help someone who is going through a complete life change have at least one less stressor in their life.
  • Dar was able to provide parenting support such as Love & Logic and parent coaching for the high-risk families she works with in their homes.
  • Erica was able to stay up-to-date on the best practices that enable her to visit families in their homes and teach them the skills necessary for them to be able to live a healthier, more fulfilling life.
  • Jacklin was able to help a 21-year-old veteran resettle in Minnesota after a messy divorce: because Bridges of Hope could pay for new tabs on her car, she was able to continue driving legally while she works on getting her life resettled.
  • Janelle was able to support and educate teen parents–as well as work with over 2,800 households in the last five years–and is thankful for the impact they have had on her.
  • Michele was able to ensure that Bridges of Hope can focus its programs on family preservation and keeping families strong.
  • Meghann was able to help the victims of house fires with the resources and assistance to meet both their immediate needs (food, clothing, and temporary shelter) and their longer-term  needs (new housing and furnishings).
  • Bridges of Hope has been able to create amazing “Moments” like Dustyne’s story. You can even see a brief, personal thank-you from Dustyne herself here:

Clearly this is just a tiny snapshot of the HUGE impact we have been able to have in our community, thanks to you. We are so grateful for your support, because it enables us to impact multiple generations: by improving the lives of parents we know we’re improving the lives of children, too.

We are so thankful that all year long, YOU, our donors, have been entrusting your gifts with us; because you understand the importance of Bridges being able to be flexible, creative, and able to respond to every household’s situation uniquely.

Online fundraising for Bridges of Hope Fall Campaign - 60K in 60 DaysHere at Bridges of Hope, we are ALL thankful that we have such supportive donors who understand that the need is great, and because of that, you have again responded this fall with gifts to support this work. We thank YOU for helping US build Bridges!

From all of us at Bridges of Hope, thank you for your partnership, and Happy Thanksgiving.