She is Clothed with Strength and Dignity…

Defeated…worn out…confused. These are some of the words that Cindy used to describe herself and her situation when I first met her. Cindy is a young mom with three small children: Luke, Isabelle, and Nicholas. When she first started working with me, she and her children were homeless and living in a shelter. Cindy was a victim of domestic abuse and made the choice to leave her relationship to make a better life for her and her children, but it wasn’t easy, and she faced many challenges along the way. Not only did Cindy lack stable housing, but her children were displaying some concerning behaviors. One of her sons was becoming more defiant, the other was often sad and reclusive, and her daughter struggled with outbursts and tantrums. To make matters worse, Cindy had many financial concerns due to limited financial resources. Thankfully, she was referred to Bridges of Hope at just the right time.

three-siblings1I worked with Cindy through the Parent Support Outreach Program for three months and met with her weekly to provide resources, guidance, and support. Though Cindy felt scared and overwhelmed, she continued to work hard to do everything she could to improve her situation. While participating in this program, Cindy was connected with county assistance, where she accessed childcare services, food support, and some financial assistance. She also attended financial counseling through Lutheran Social Service, which helped her prioritize her expenses and get a handle on her debt. She was already enrolled in classes at Central Lakes College, and she was able to reduce her course load to something more manageable. I was able to help Cindy connect with in-home counseling services to help her children work through the trauma and life changes they had experienced in such a short time, and she was eager to make the first appointment. Cindy’s strength and perseverance paid off. She found housing, and Bridges of Hope was able to assist her with the deposit she needed to move in. Cindy was also connected with Salem WEST to provide her with furniture and household items for her new home, and Cindy was thrilled!

Cindy is an amazing woman who has faced many significant challenges, but with the right supports and resources and a whole lot of resilience and determination, Cindy made huge changes for herself and her children. Her entire face lights up when she talks about her home, and I’ve seen more smiles on the faces of her kids since they’ve had a place to call their own.

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Help Bridges of Hope continue to be able to be there for other families like Cindy’s this year: make a donation today!

What You Might Not Know About the Cold Weather Rule

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As we experience God’s blessings during this fall season, we think about colorful leaves,apple cider, a trip to the pumpkin patch, and other fun outdoor festivities. None of us really wants to think about what is right around the corner…winter (ugh!).

Some of us rake our leaves & make room in the garage for the car to be parked. Others put plastic on windows and winterize the air conditioning unit. Some people look forward to winter for the snowy fun it brings, but some of our neighbors feel anxious about the toll that higher heating bills will take on their family’s finances.

You may be thinking, “They’ll be okay, we have a Cold Weather Rulethey can’t be shut off; it’s the middle of winter.” And, you’re right, we do have a Cold Weather Rule. However, there are some common misconceptions about exactly how it works.

Actually, “THEY” (your utility company) CAN SHUT YOUR HEAT OFF.

Thankfully, Centerpoint Energy recently published a nice summary about the Cold Weather Rule. Click here to learn more.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to rely on the Cold Weather Rule, please read through the link above carefully and follow the steps outlined. Here is a brief summary to avoid being shut off this winter:

  1. The Cold Weather Rule applies from October 15 through April 15.
  2. You MUST contact your utility provider and ask to set up a payment plan under the Cold Weather Rule.
  3. Keep up with your payment plan. You can be shut off if you miss a payment or make a payment less than the agreed amount.
  4. Take it seriously if you receive a past due notice from your heating utility provider.

If you are experiencing financial hardship, here are some budgeting tips that can help:

  1. Keeping a roof over your head needs to be a priority for your budget.
  2. Check with your utility provider to see if you can get onto a budget plan all year round.
  3. Utilize resources like Ruby’s Pantry or your local food shelf to free up some of your food budget, which in turn can be used for heating expenses.
  4. Look into whether or not Energy Assistance through Lutheran Social Service or HeatShare through The Salvation Army is an option for your household.

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If you or someone you know needs assistance with accessing resources for heating costs, please call Bridges of Hope at 218-825-7682.

If you are interested in making a donation to help Bridges of Hope to assist families in need, please click here or mail your gift to PO Box 742, Brainerd, MN 56401.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

 

 

The Fall Season at Common Goods

DSC02106Last week was the official start of fall. To most of us that means purging closets, rotating seasonal attire and trying to prepare for what Mother Nature is about to bring us in the upcoming months (don’t worry, I won’t talk about that white fluffy stuff just yet). For those of us at Common Goods, it brings other changes–such as the types of donations we are looking for.

Just like you, we are in the process of rotating our seasonal attire, and stocking the floor with fall/winter clothing and accessories. However, in order to do that, we need seasonally appropriate clothing & accessories donated from YOU, our amazing supporters! I know when my wife goes through her clothes this time of year, it is usually the time when she gets rid of the summer things she didn’t wear. I challenge you to also go through your fall/winter clothes right now and ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Did I wear this last year?
  • If yes, ask yourself, will I wear it this year? (if your answer is yes, keep it)
  • If no to either the first or second question, ask yourself, is it still in great shape?
  • If your answer is yes, then donate it to Common Goods!

A few of our specific needs this year are fall and winter attire, including sweaters, jackets and boots.bed

One type of item that we always welcome, no matter the time of year, is good quality furniture. High-end furniture pieces are the most sought-after items at Common Goods. Who doesn’t love finding a unique piece of quality furniture at a fraction of the cost that ALSO allows Bridges of Hope to serve even more families in the Lakes Area! By donating or purchasing these amazing pieces of furniture at Common Goods, YOU play a vital role in the success of Bridges of Hope and the programs that it offers. The items that our customers ask about the most are large, solid wood pieces such as hutches, armoires, complete dining sets, and beds/bed frames like the one pictured here.

Our staff will be more than happy to work to accommodate a local furniture pickup for your items. If you have items that you are willing to donate, please call Common Goods at 218-824-0923 or email nate@commongoodsmn.org to start the process.

Don’t forget to check out our donation guidelines–thank you for your support!

Callie’s Moment

Callie is a mom of three kids: Damion, Alayna, and Alexa, and is in the process of divorcing from her husband of many years. Even though it was emotionally and financially difficult, sad womanshe was learning to manage living on one income and providing for her kids on her own. In the midst of this transition, she was let go from her job. Callie was devastated. She had done her best to fulfill her job requirements throughout this transition, but between changing schedules, caring for her kids who were struggling, and her own mental health struggles, it was just too much. Her employer, after offering as much grace as they could, had to make the difficult decision to let her go.

Callie’s job had provided her with a wage that had been enough to provide a fairly comfortable living. Callie knew immediately that she needed to find other employment (and began the search) but in the meantime, she had no idea what to do. Rent was due for the month and any savings she and her husband had was gone with the divorce. Callie had never been in this position before and was not aware of the resources that were available to her, and she quickly found out that she did not qualify for most resources because she was over their income guidelines (even though she didn’t currently have any income, many agencies have guidelines that look back a few months and include any income you have received in those prior months).

Fortunately, Callie connected with an area church that referred her to Bridges of Hope. Callie began working closely with a Resource Specialist regarding her situation. Callie explained the steps she had already taken to find a new job and expressed her concerns for the immediate future, as well as sharing her discouragement of being told ‘no.’ While working with Bridges, Callie was able to get an interview as well as a few good leads on some part-time work.

steppingoutinfaithAs Callie progressed towards getting closer to a new job, our staff prayerfully considered her request for help and came to the conclusion that this was a time that God was leading us to step out in faith, knowing that a job was just around the corner for Callie. Bridges of Hope was able to partner with an area church to come up with a majority of the rent, and Callie was able to pay the rest. Through her tears, Callie thanked staff for helping her when no one else could.

When a Bridges staff called Callie a couple weeks later to see how she was doing, she had already started working a part time job on the weekends and would start a full time job in the coming week.This story is a great example of how Bridges of Hope is able to be flexible because we do not have specific income guidelines, and because we have such amazing partnerships with our local churches. God is good!

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  • Do you know someone facing a difficult situation? Bridges of Hope can talk with them about what community resources they may be able to tap into. Call our office at 218.825.7682 to speak with one of our staff today.
  • We are able to do this kind of work because of our invaluable donors and supporters.Your gift is tax-deductible and will go to work right away helping those in need in our community. Make a gift today.

 

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.

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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!

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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.