Passion in Bloom

Kate Kuepers’ first experience with Bridges of Hope came when she and her Katefamily sponsored a family in need for Thanksgiving.

“I really wanted to help those in need in our community and involve my family, as well,” she said.

Then, last year, Kuepers – owner of Bloom Designs, a wedding and event florist and event styling business – was asked to help coordinate and decorate for the Afternoon Tea for Hope, a fundraiser to benefit Bridges’ Side by Side mentoring program.

“It was an unbelievable experience; truly moving and wonderful,” Kuepers said of the event. “After listening to the stories of women in our community who have been part of the ‘Side by Side’ program and hearing how, truly, life changing it has been for them. I think about all the people who rely on these women and the residual effects of helping one person at a time. To me, this hope they get from their mentors and Bridges of Hope, is truly miraculous.”

Kuepers said it has been these chance encounters that have fueled her passion for Bridges of Hope – from the volunteers and staff to the individuals it serves.

“Everyone you encounter while working with Bridges of Hope is amazing,” shares Kuepers. “There is so much love and hope for those in our community that are going through a crisis, and those who just need a boost. The people that work at Bridges are professional, resourceful, and true angels.”


To learn more about the impact of Side by Side, read Charlotte’s MomentIreneI Hope button‘s Moment, and Samantha’s Moment.

YOU can create more Moments like these by contributing to the “I Hope” campaign.

Baptism by Fire

THolmesIHopeStarting a new job always comes with ‘first day jitters.’ However, Brainerd’s newest Fire Chief had a baptism by fire – no pun intended.

Tim Holmes’ first day on the job was July 13, 2015 – the morning after a devastating windstorm blew through the Lakes Area – changing the landscape, and countless lives, forever. There was no coffee and donut welcome social. Holmes’ immediately snapped into action, knowing the challenges and hardships being experienced by thousands of residents throughout his service area.

“My family had been out for dinner the night before,” Holmes recounted. “When the storm blew through, we started for home knowing I would be needed to assist with the devastation. But when we drove north along Highway 371, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Trees and power lines covered the roadway. Rooflines were shrouded by limbs. It’s certainly something I’ll never forget.”

After getting his family home safely, Holmes went to work as a volunteer with the Nisswa Fire Department. The crew spent hours making paths down impassable streets and assessed the situation to ensure there were no injuries. After only a quick night’s rest, Holmes switched hats and reported to work on Monday morning as the Brainerd Fire Chief.

tree down With much of a devastation lying within the Brainerd Fire Department’s service area, Holmes was one of several emergency management personnel who reported to the staging site at Timberwood Church in Nisswa. Together, with organizations and critical service providers throughout the area, the group strategized and quickly formulated a plan to help those in need. One of the partners at the table was Bridges of Hope – standing at the ready to help storm victims.

tree on car“Having lived in the area for some time, I had heard of Bridges of Hope; but I guess I never fully grasped the scope and reach of the organization. It didn’t take long that first day to understand how incredibly instrumental they are. Jana and her team were quick on their feet and eager to step in wherever needed. They remained right along side the first responders and emergency service workers to provide food, water and assistance to thousands of individuals who lost so much to the storm. They worked closely with emergency management to coordinate volunteer groups – providing assistance with everything from tree removal to mental health needs assessments.

Over a span of two weeks, Bridges of Hope worked with more that 140 households whose lives were impacted by the storm.

“I sincerely hope this area never again experiences devastation like we did in July; but I am proud to say I serve in a community that has amazing resources and caring individuals like those at Bridges of Hope who, regardless of the situation, stand ready to selflessly serve others.”


You can ensure that Bridges of Hope’s services are available when the “storms of life” hit. Please help us reach our goal to raise $60,000 by year-end and share hope with the 300 householdI Hope buttons who will reach out to Bridges of Hope still this year. 

As of 11/16/15, we are just over $9,500–thank you!

Click here to make an online gift or your can  mail a check to PO Box 742, Brainerd, MN 56401. Your donation is 100% tax-deductible and will provide HOPE this holiday season.

What Does it Mean to Hope?

What does it mean to hope?I Hope button

For some, it’s the thought of building a dream home, or perhaps it’s anticipating an acceptance letter to your son or daughter’s first-choice college. It might be hoping for sunshine on a special day.

For others, it means knowing you’ll have a warm meal tonight, the resources to afford a new coat or warm pair of boots for your child this winter, or having somewhere to call after the storm hits.

This summer, many found themselves in hope of assistance when an unprecedented windstorm damaged countless homes, uprooted trees, and changed the landscape of the Lakes Area forever.

Last week, we launched our fall campaign, simply titled “I Hope.” We want you to know that you can make a difference for your neighbors in the Lakes Area, like Patti.


Photo credit: Biff Ulm

Patti never imagined she would look to a nonprofit organization for assistance. But the evening of July 12th changed her life—and perspective—forever. With 90 mph straight-line winds and even stronger gusts, Patti lost between 60 and 70 percent of the trees at her home on the north side of North Long Lake. It was both a physical and emotional loss for Patti, as trees that dated back over 100 years were one of the favorite things about her property.

 “I used to lay outside and look up at those trees. They made such beautiful sounds. When I first saw the damage, I just started crying. I know I didn’t get the absolute worst of it and there were others who had much worse. But it was horrendous.”


Photo credit: Biff Ulm

 As a widow, Patti was at a loss as to how she would afford to safely clear the trees that once towered 80 feet above her home. That’s when a neighbor suggested she call Bridges of Hope for assistance. Within days, a crew of volunteers and equipment arrived at Patti’s house and worked tirelessly to get things back in order.

Patti had this to say about Bridges of Hope and the volunteers who helped, “They were a Godsend. It was just a miracle. You talk about what God can do in one day, and I felt that’s what they did for me. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine they could do what they did in one day.”

In the days and weeks following the storm, Bridges of Hope worked with over 140 Lakes Area households who had been directly impacted by the storm. We are so grateful for the incredible support during that time that enabled us to respond to these needs in addition to our typical services.

You are the reason we exist and are able to extend the love and grace of God to more than 2,500 households annually. Today, we ask you to support our work with more than 300 households who will reach out to Bridges still this year. When you make a gift to our “I Hope” campaign, you make it possible for us to serve your friends, family, and neighbors in the Lakes Area during their time of need.

During this time of year, synonymous with giving, you can help us reach our $60,000 goal from now until December 31st, and make a real difference in the lives of individuals just like you and me. Give to the Max Day is on Thursday November 12th. For your convenience, you can schedule your donation ahead of time!


Thank you for helping us build Bridges & bring HOPE to the Lakes Area! 

I Hope button

Storm Response: Proud of our Community!

Many of our neighbors were hit by the storm that produced up to 90 MPH straight line winds on July 12th. While some of us had just a few tree branches to rake up, others are currently living in homes with a tarp of the roof, and at least three homeowners have homes that were considered total losses.tree on cartree down

Bridges of Hope is proud to be participating in a still ongoing effort to care for those in our community who were impacted by this storm. In the days following the storm, we participated in twice daily briefings at the Relief Center at Timberwood Church along with the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department, Highway Department & Community Services teams, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Nisswa Chamber, Minnesota Power, Crow Wing Power, Lutheran Social Services, multiple disaster response teams, and many others.

Many of the folks at these briefings had experience significant damage to their own properties, yet they still showed up each day to coordinate the response for the entire community. It was incredibly moving to see the care for our community that was demonstrated by all involved.

Early on, the Initiative Foundation, Crow Wing Power, individuals, and multiple churches stepped up with donations to the Storm Response Fund – – THANK YOU!


People experienced power outages that lasted several days, and some up to a week. This, coupled with significant property damage, caused extreme stress for many of our neighbors. While our agency partners were attending to immediate needs such as serving meals and distributing water at the Relief Center, Bridges of Hope heard from more than 140 households impacted by the storm. 


Volunteers from AmeriCorps

We had the privilege of working with  relief groups such as Nechama Jewish Response to Disaster, a Southern Baptist relief group, Catholic United, Menonite Disaster Response, Home Depot, AmeriCorps, and many others and connected them with 46 households who were elderly, disabled, or facing some other barrier to assess & address emergent tree removal and yard clean-up need. At least 38 of those had their needs met by these relief groups while some resolved their own situations or were referred to professional services.

After a week without power and the stress of storm clean up, a number of households also sought assistance from Bridges for mental health concerns, food, and other issues. We worked as quickly as possible to provide referrals and assistance in these situations. We will continue to work with those affected by the storm in the coming weeks. We know that with the huge impact this storm had on our local resorts and other businesses, some of you may have experienced lost wages or other issues.

If you or someone you know were impacted by the storm and need assistance, please call Bridges of Hope at 218-825-7682 and a staff will speak with you about your situation.

We want to take this time to say a special thank you to the following businesses and churches who partnered with us to feed volunteers for the past three weeks! 

  • Salvation Army
  • Church members at Trinity, Lord of Life, and Timberwood.
  • Nisswa Chamber who coordinated donated meals from: Raffterty’s in Nisswa, Wendy’s in Nisswa, Prairie Bay, Nisswa Legion, and Zorbaz.
  • Mid-MN Federal Credit Union
  • Donors to the Bridges of Hope Storm Relief Fund

MMFCU image4 image2 image1

We’ve seen many messages of thanks over the past three weeks (here is one example from Tom & Marlene who were affected by the storm).

On behalf of the staff & board at Bridges of Hope, I want to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in the storm relief effort. We are truly grateful to be a part of this community!

Beat the Heat!

Whether you have air conditioning or not, it can be hard to keep cool during the hot summer months that we all LOVE here in Minnesota! RKK_SAHotWeatherLogo

I try VERY hard not to complain, since we get so few months to enjoy warmth outdoors, but some days (and nights!) the heat and humidity can be almost unbearable.

Maybe you have central air throughout your house, or maybe you don’t have any at all. Maybe you have an air conditioner but want to try use it as little as possible to save on energy costs (I fall into this category), or maybe you have a window unit that only cools certain parts of your home (I also fall into this category).

No matter what your situation, did you know there are ways to beat the heat without even having to turn on the air conditioner?

It’s true! You can simply google “how to stay cool without an air conditioner,” and you’ll find many different lists and tips–some that I had heard of, and others not. Below I’ve compiled a list for you based on the tips that I found the most helpful (and ones that I am most likely to, or already use):

For right now:

1. Close windows & blinds during the day (keeps the sun from causing the temp to creep up inside your home).

2. Open windows at night (if you have a temperature gauge in your house & outside, monitor the temps and as soon as it gets cooler outside than it is inside your house–open up those windows! (but don’t forget about #1!)

3. Get air moving. By putting fans in windows, you can create much needed air movement as well as push some of the warm air back outside. You can even create a homemade “air-conditioner” by putting a pan filled with ice in front of a box fan.

4. Dress down. Wear light weight, light colored, loose fitting clothing.

5. Take a cold/cool shower. This is especially helpful to cool you down before going to bed at night.

6. Start grilling.  Using your oven or stove in the summer will make your house hotter.

7. Stay hydrated. Also avoid caffeine & alcoholic beverages that promote dehydration.

8. Go to a public place. When you really get desperate and need a break from the heat and/or humidity (and have transportation), go to a local business, coffee shop, or library that has air conditioning.

For later:

1. Plant trees in strategic locations to provide shade for your home. Specifically in areas where the sun shines in during the hottest part of the day (while this takes away from some natural light, it also makes a significant impact on the temperature of your home).

2. Install awnings.

3. Install attic insulation. This helps keep cool air from escaping your home.

ice1For the complete lists I found for how to stay cool without AC, visit the following articles:

Make sure to also be aware of signs of heat exhaustion & heat stroke in yourself, children, & pets. Click here for signs to look for in your pets. Let’s enjoy the summer heat by staying cool!

We want to hear your ideas! Comment below or on our Facebook post and include tips you have to beat the heat!

Storm 2015 Relief Efforts & Resource Updates

[Last updated: 7/28/15]

Bridges of Hope is helping to coordinate some of the relief efforts following the major storm that hit the Lakes Area on 7/12/15. We will be doing our best to keep this post updated regularly during the clean-up process.

Please call our office if you need help at 218.825.7682. We are a ‘small but mighty’ staff and will do our best to connect you with resources. Office hours are 8:00 am-4:30 pm, Monday-Thursday, and 8:00 am-2:00pm on Friday. Volunteer groups (for tree removal) are here through Friday, July 31 and currently have full assignments for the week. We can put your name on a waiting list but unfortunately cannot guarantee that we will find volunteers to assist you.

If you are able to help financially, you can make a donation to Bridges of Hope to help us serve our neighbors affected by the storm. The Initiative Foundation is matching all donations, dollar-for-dollar, up to $5,000! This fund will help us in our efforts to coordinate the immediate needs, and will also enable us to assist with longer-term needs (rent & utilities assistance for those who missed work following the storm, for example). Click here to give now. Your gift is 100% tax-deductible. As of 2:25 PM on 7/28/15, donations have reached $5,739!

News About the Storm:

Someone to Talk To:

  • Volunteers (pastors, social workers, and others) are available if you need someone to talk to as you process through all that has happened (for your emotional/mental health). Call Bridges of Hope at 218.825.7682 to get that set up.

Volunteer Groups Offering/Seeking Help:

  • Volunteers are needed for debris haul-away (own hauling equipment needed). Call our office if you are able to assist with this (218.825.7682).

Burning Storm Debris & Burning Permits:

  • From the MN DNR Website: You need an open burning permit:
    • when the fire is more than 3 feet high and 3 feet in diameter.
    • when the ground is not completely covered by a minimum of 3 inches of snow.
    • when the fire is not contained in either an approved burner or in a cooking or heating device such as charcoal grill or camp stove.
    • Check their website for details on where to obtain a burning permit.

Storm Debris Drop-Off Locations:

  • Crow Wing County Landfill: debris & branches are free; fee for stumps. Open 8:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Saturday, on 15732 Hwy 210. Extended hours for just tree & debris drop-off, 5:00-8:00 pm.
  • Baxter City Hall: for Baxter residents ONLY. Call 218.454.5100 for more information.
  • Cass County: approximately 1/4 mile south of County Roads 18 & 77; turn on the road for the Pine Beach Waste Water center. There is a sign posted that says “Residential Brush.” Approximate address: 11800 County Road 45, Brainerd, MN 56401. (Trees & brush only.)
  • Cass County: Knife River Gravel Pit, on the north side of County Road 15. (Address unknown.)

Other Information:

Common Goods Now Open in Crosslake!

It’s been quite exciting and busy around here at Bridges of Hope!  In case you haven’t heard, we are officially open for business at our new Common Goods location in Crosslake! We have amazing staff who are working hard to get the space fully up & running (we were able to get into the space just yesterday). We took our first donation (also yesterday), and I literally JUST received a call from our Retail Manager, Nate, stating we’ve made our first sale TODAY!FrontofStorewithtempbanner


As you can see in the picture, there’s still a lot of work to be done (painting among other things), so bear with us as we continue to transform the space into a unique, trendy thrift store. We are thrilled to be able to offer good quality items to the Crosslake area AND we are proud to say– all proceeds stay local and help fund the unique programming at Bridges of Hope!
CommonGoodsSupportsBoHHere are the details:

  • Store Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm & Sunday 12pm-5pm
  • Physical Address: 35562 Co Rd 66, Crosslake, MN
  • Phone #: 218-692-7682 (phones should be up & running by tomorrow)

So come on in, excuse the organized chaos, shop, and chat with one of our staff. We would love to share more with you about how donating, shopping & volunteering at Common Goods makes a difference in this community.



For more information on our donation guidelines & other general information; check out our recent blog post: Summer Donations at Common Goods and visit our website.

(And stay tuned–we’ll be sure to share more about our progress on our Facebook page!)