Common Goods–5 Years and 5 Ways to Say Thanks!

It’s hard to believe Common Goods has been supporting the work of Bridges of Hope for five years! So much has happened, from the initial idea of opening a store to benefit Bridges, to celebrating Common Goods’ 5th Anniversary this month.

The idea for a opening a store that would provide a portion of the funding needed for our programs was around before I was. It was an idea that, like everything we do here at Bridges, was given a lot of patient thought, thorough research, prayer, and careful planning.

I was lucky enough to participate in choosing the name and logo for the store. There were a lot of unique names in the running, however, once Common Goods–for the Common Good was introduced, it was an easy decision. The name fit so well, and before we knew it, the store was opening its doors for the first time back in 2009.

All of us at Bridges of Hope and Common Goods would like to take a moment to thank the original funders that made opening Common Goods possible:

2014 CG IQ ad

Volunteers are also a key part of our success. Since the start of Common Goods, our volunteers have donated more than 6,054 hours of time –and that is just what’s been logged! We know that doesn’t include absolutely everyone who has given their time!

Your shopping over the past five years has made a difference in the lives of Lakes Area families. The profits from Common Goods has allowed more than 2,000 households to be served at Bridges of Hope! Wow!

So, it’s time to celebrate! Come on in, check out our new look, and take advantage of the great deals Common Goods is offering all month long to thank YOU for your loyal support.

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AND, don’t forget to join us for the customer appreciation lunch on Saturday, September 13th, TOMORROW from 11-2 (hot dogs & pop will be available for free).

A Fairy Tale Ending

Over the past two and a half years, I have had the privilege to work with 44 teen parents through our Teen Parent Outreach Program at Bridges of Hope. As the program comes to an end, I am saddened to not continue to work with such wonderful people; however, I am so grateful that our amazing community partner, Crow Wing County Community Services, will continue their great work with teen parents in our community. I’d like to share with you a story written by my counterpart and “good witch”–you’ll understand after reading the story (Kaylo Brooks, MFIP Outreach Worker at Crow Wing County). This story was shared at a graduation celebration for one of our teen dads, James, and is used with his permission:

James and Cat

James & His Girlfriend Catherine

Once upon a time a long, long time ago (well, okay, 8 months ago) in a village far far away (well, actually just in Brainerd) there lived a boy who had the magical superpowers of, um, playing video games. This boy was really skilled at “gaming” and could do it day in and day out, even in the nighttime! This boy was very bright, well-mannered, had a very kind heart, and was adored by all who knew him. This boy had a beautiful baby with fiery red hair and eyes like the ocean who was the center of his universe and he of hers. When you saw them together you knew that theirs was a bond that would forever remain. He also had a spectacular girlfriend who cheered him on and gave him courage and encouragement and knew all along in her heart that his potential was limitless.

But alas, as always in stories such as this, there comes along a witch–or in this case, three. They wrote a book of spells (also known as a Social Service Case Plan) which encouraged the boy to go to school and look for work and do good in the world. The boy, overcome by the persuasive witches, decided to follow the path the witches laid out in front of him. He took one step down the path, and then another, and another. The path was curvy, bumpy and often uphill, but before long the boy was sprinting down the path–fiery haired baby in one hand and holding his girlfriend’s hand in the other.

James and workers (4)

James & His Three “Witches”

Despite their broomsticks and cauldrons, even the witches couldn’t keep up with the boy! He graduated high school months earlier than the school said was possible, he earned awards at school for perfect attendance, and he was the Area Education Center Student of the Month in May. He missed one day–and one day only–when the blizzard wizard created a snow storm so deep that even the good witch, Kaylo, could not keep her broomstick on the road and therefore could not get the boy to school. He was loved by teachers and staff alike. One teacher told the witches that in all her years of teaching she has never seen a boy with such tenacity, perseverance, or work ethic. She said that above all that he is one of the nicest kids she has ever worked with, and with tears in her eyes, she said she was so very proud of him.

The path also brought the boy to a job at Target where he sometimes walks eight miles round trip to keep his job. (Yes, really!!) And most importantly, on this path, he has committed to his daughter by attending weekly classes at TCC for parenting skills: not because he isn’t good dad, but because he is willing to do whatever it takes to be a great dad.

And so here we are today, at the end of the boy’s path but certainly not the end of his journey. And without any hocus pocus, magic wands or fire breathing dragons, the boy and hero of our story, right before our eyes, has turned into a man.  

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What an amazing honor it has been to be a small part of Cat & James (and many others’) paths!


Get Involved:

  • Learn more about our programs and services.
  • Financially support our work with children & families in the Lakes Area.
  • Refer someone needing assistance to call Bridges of Hope (218.825.7682).

When can I leave my child home alone?

Summer is in full swing and many parents may be wondering: When can I leave my child home alone?  As a parent, I remember wondering when it is okay to leave my children home by themselves and for how long. I found it was helpful to ask these questions.home

  • Is my child old enough and mature enough to be home alone?
  • Does my child know what to do if there is any emergency?
  • What are the legal guidelines in Crow Wing County?

Here are two resources that will be very helpful as you make this important decision for your child(ren).

  1. The Minnesota Child Maltreatment Screening Guidelines, Minnesota statute 626.556
  2. A Parent’s Guide to Leaving Children Home Alone, Childcare Aware of Minnesota

It is important to remember to think about each child’s maturity and their ability to handle themselves in all situations. Here are a few questions to consider from A Parent’s Guide to Leaving Children Home Alone as you think about whether your child is ready to stay home alone:

  • Does your child know when and how to call 9-1-1?
  • Can your child say and dial your home phone number and does she or he know your home address?
  • Does your child know how to reach you or other responsible adults by phone? Do you have a list of important and emergency phone numbers near the phone and within your child’s reach?
  • Has your child shown an interest in staying home alone? Would your child feel safe if home alone? Test this out by “practicing” with the children while you are still at home. Act out or talk through a few challenging situations that may arise while children are on their own.
  • Have you created a plan for your child’s day or time at home?

(For a full list of questions, check out: A Parent’s Guide to Leaving Children Home Alone) If you are unsure how to answer a question or the answer is ‘no’ be sure to use this as an area for discussion or planning within your family. Always include your child in the decision making process.

Minnesota Child Maltreatment Screening Guidelines are used by child protection agencies in determining if a report regarding lack of supervision needs to be assessed by a social worker. Minnesota statute 626.556 addresses the issue of failure to provide necessary supervision or child care arrangements. Reports alleging inadequate child care arrangements may be screened in for a child protection response according to the following guidelines:

  • Children age 7 and under who are left alone for any period of time.
  • Children ages 8 to 10 who are left alone for more than three hours.
  • Children ages 11 to 13 who are left alone for more than 12 hours.
  • Children ages 14 to 15 who are left alone for more than 24 hours.
  • Children ages 16 to 17 may be left home alone for more than 24 hours with a plan in place concerning how to handle an emergency.
  • Children under the age of 11 should not provide child care.
  • Children ages 11 to 13 who are placed in a child care role may not do so for more than 12 hours.
  • Children ages 14 to 15 who are placed in a child care role may not do for more than 24 hours.

School-aged (K-6th gr.) child care programs available in our area:

  • Brainerd: Fun “n” Friends ISD 181 (218-454-6920)
  • Cosby–Ironton: Summer Kidz Kamp, Hallett Center (218-546-2616)
  • Pillager: Fun Stop (218-746-2192)
  • Staples-Motley: Staples Summer Time Adventures (218-894-2497)
  • Pequot Lakes: Kids Konnection (218-562-6109)

 If you or someone you know could benefit from additional support, click here to learn more about our programs, or call us at 218-825-7682.

Heidi & Allison’s Moment

Heidi and Allison had been at the shelter for three weeks. Heidi was homeless, unemployed, and a had a fourteen-year-old daughter who hated her. Allison, the fourteen-year-old, was embarrassed to be at a homeless shelter with her mom. Heidi felt at her whit’s end. She considered going back to her abusive husband Tom because then they would at least have a roof over their head, food on the table, and Allison would be happy to be back home with her dad. That was when Heidi was referred to our Intensive In-Home Program at Bridges of Hope.

When I met with Heidi she told me Allison was hanging around a new group of friends, some old enough tgirl sitting by a wallo drive. Allison would leave school to go “cruising” with her friends and didn’t get back to the shelter until curfew. When Heidi tried to talk with her about it, Allison would say, “What are you going to do, try to stop me? If you do, I will make a scene, we will get kicked out of here, and then where will we go?”

After learning about Heidi and Allison’s current situation, we made a plan for the family. Housing was at the top of Heidi’s priority list. She knew having a stable home was important for Allison (and her). Luck was on their side, and within one month, they moved into a nice two-bedroom home.

Second on Heidi’s list of goals was improving her parenting skills (parenting a teenager is NOT easy!). Over several weeks, we went over a parenting technique called “Love and Logic.” Heidi started to hold Allison accountable for her actions, and Allison had to live with the consequences of those actions.

Heidi had never stood up to Allison before; she was afraid Allison would hate her and go live with Tom. She was surprised to find out (after a few rough encounters) that Allison started to respect her for setting boundaries. Heidi also attended the parent support group that Bridges of Hope offers once a week. She was able to see that she was not the only one who struggles with parenting a teenager. The other parents understood her concerns and they were able to offer advice and support to each other without judgment.

Next up was mental health services for both Allison and Heidi, despite the fact that Allison refused to go to counseling. Heidi again stood her ground and made the appointment anyway; her mouth almost dropped to the floor when Allison actually went. The first few appointments were rough but eventually Allison started to open up to the therapist and began working through some difficult issues.

About that same time Allison was able to visit her dad at his home without supervision. Heidi began to notice that  Allison’s behavior was very taxing for two or three days when she got home from her dad’s house. Heidi was starting to think that it would be easier to let Allison live with her father.

Easy isn’t always best so, again, we came up with a plan. When Allison came home from her dad’s house, Heidi would have a board game ready to play. Then, they would make dinner together, bake something, and watch a movie. This became their “coming home tradition” which eased the stress of the transition and made both of their lives smoother.


Last on the list was employment. Heidi got a job at a fast food restaurant (after filling out what felt like hundreds of applications). It worked out well because her employer was flexible with her schedule and she worked while Allison was in school or at her dad’s house.

As every family does, they still have bumps in the road, but things are looking up. Allison is staying home more and making better choices when it comes to friends. Heidi is proud of the tremendous amount of progress she has made and is no longer afraid to be on her own. And I am proud of her too!

Help make more stories like Heidi and Allison’s possible–Visit to learn more (and even register for our upcoming Run for Hope 5K: Ready, Set, Glow!), AND check us out on Facebook!

Meet Nate – Our Manager at Common Goods!

I would like to take this opportunity to say hello and introduce myself as the Retail Manager at Common Goods. I started in this new role last December and am loving every minute of it!

Before taking this new position, I knew there had to be a more meaningful use of my talents and years of retail experience than than just increasing the bottom line for a business. During my years in corporate retail, I was continually searching and praying for a career where I could feel like my efforts and decisions really mattered.

Last December, my years of searching and praying led me to Common Goods as the new Retail Manager.  For those of you who may not be aware, the proceeds from Common Goods help fund the programs at Bridges of Hope which serves households in the Lakes Area facing challenges of many kinds.

All of the items available for purchase at Common Goods are donated and the proceeds stay in the Brainerd Lakes area. It is truly a rewarding experience to know that the choices and decisions I make for Common Goods have a direct impact on Bridges of Hope’s ability to improve a household’s life and well being in our community. 

If you are one of our loyal Nateshoppers or donors already, thank you for your support! If you are new to the world of thrift shopping or just haven’t been by the store recently, please stop by, say hello, and allow me to introduce myself. I’d love to help you find what you are looking for!

We are located on Highway 371 N, next to Dondelinger Chevrolet and Lake Region Storage.  I hope to see see you soon!


Looking Ahead

Our staff and board members spent the day together yesterday enjoying good food & fellowship and we also did some planning for the future of Bridges. It was a relaxing & energizing day!

We started out by naming our burdens & distractions and giving them to God so we could be fully present in our conversations.What a relief!

photo 4After sharing a morning meal together, we spent some time “getting to know each other better.”

Now, I don’t mean the “where did you go to school and what is your favorite ice cream flavor” kind of getting to know each other. I mean the fun, quirky, silly, and interesting kind of getting to know each other!

For example, we learned about each others diverse interests such as sewing, horseback riding, “mudding,” playing the djembe, and singing. There was even one person among us who plans to water ski this weekend. BRRRR!

All of us shared how important family is, with one staff member sharing she has 14 siblings and another that her husband is extremely lucky to have been married to her for 32 years!

A few of us  are pet lovers our pets & have given them unique names (some based in Greek mythology and others named after dearly departed grandmothers).

Strategic Priorities

Bridges of Hope’s Strategic Priorities, adopted in 2011

picstitchAfter setting aside our burdens and getting to know each other better, we reaffirmed our strategic priorities.

Bridges of Hope's Strategic Priorities, adopted in 2011

Bridges of Hope’s Strategic Priorities, adopted in 2011

Then, we moved on to the important business of answering some key questions:

  • What value do we offer our community?
  • How do we know this?
  • What are some important goals for us to focus on in the coming years?
  • Is there anything we need to stop doing in order to start doing something new?
  • What are the resources we will need?

We have some gifted thinkers, listeners, & visionaries among us!

These are some of the exciting (and just plain necessary) areas Bridges will focus on in the coming years.

  • Expand our Side by Side mentoring program.
  • Encourage learning – for ourselves, our clients, our partners, and the community.
  • Mobilize volunteers.
  • Go paperless!
  • Increase use of technology to serve better.
  • Secure resources to continue the great work.
  • Share information regarding gaps in services and act as a catalyst to fill those gaps when possible.

In order to do our work and accomplish these new goals, WE NEED YOU! If you are interested in being a mentor or volunteering for other opportunities, please contact or click here to make a gift that can change lives in the Lakes Area!

To stay up to date on all the latest happenings at Bridges, follow us on Facebook.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!















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!