Crossing Bridges by Jenny Holmes

I was first introduced to Jana Shogren, and subsequently the Bridges of Hope organization, four years ago. At the time, I was working for a local nonprofit and we both found ourselves at a networking event where we were introduced.

As most women do, we exchanged niceties and moved on. Little did I know how our paths would again cross in the future.

Jenny & JanaIn January 2015, Jana invited me to coffee to bounce a few ideas off another non-profit thinker. In a world of never-ending fundraisers, Jana was looking for something fresh and fun to help raise necessary dollars and awareness for a new mentoring program at Bridges called “Side-By-Side.” Her idea was a tea party where women and girls would make a special date and dress in pearls and fascinators and enjoy tea and finger foods, all the while contributing to a deserving cause. It sounded like a win-win to me and something I’d be interested in taking my young daughter to. But as she continued about the concept behind not only Bridges of Hope but also the Side-By-Side program, I knew I had to become a planner and not just a participant. I offered to sit on the planning committee and help kick off the first annual tea party.

The 2015 Afternoon Tea for Hope was a smashing success. The room was filled with excited women and young girls, dressed in their Sunday best. Thanks to the amazing and creative work of Kate Kuepers, the room was transformed into an English tea parlor with blooming bouquets and bright colors. It was quite magical. Goodies and tea were consumed, silent auction items were clamored over, laughs were shared, tears were shed, messages were conveyed. But I think one of the most appreciated pieces of the afternoon came by way of 10 strapping gentlemen from the Nisswa Fire Department who volunteered their time, and charm, to serve tea, clear plates, take pictures and more. I think it’s quite safe to say, fun was had by ALL!

**Photo credit: Aimee Jobe Photography

Needless to say, I was on-board to help plan the 2016 Afternoon Tea for Hope. We have opted to change venues in an effort to accommodate even more women and girls this year. We’ve begun soliciting and collecting fabulous items for the silent auction, planning décor and treats; and, yes, the firemen will be back. However, this year we’re adding in a few from the Brainerd Fire Department and we can guarantee, our guests will not be disappointed.

If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to buy your tickets for this event. It truly is one of a kind and a wonderful way to share a classy afternoon with your mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, daughter, girlfriend or any other special someone in your life. It’s all about making connections. And, ironically, that is where the proceeds from this event will once again go – to connect women with a mentor to help them navigate on the often-bumpy and busy road we call life. Many of our Side-By-Side mentors and participants will also be at the Tea to share their stories and testify to how this program has made an incredible impact in their lives.

Tickets make an excellent birthday or Mother’s Day gift. Get yours today and see for yourself how one simple bridge can connect an individual to a much better place.

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Danielle’s Moment

Nativity_tree2011If you’re like me, you are focusing some time & energy today on wrapping up loose ends at work so you can turn your focus to wrapping up gifts and the final details for your Christmas celebrations next week. Or maybe you’re that amazing person at your church who is leading the Christmas program performance this weekend (God bless you!).

No matter what our “loose ends” might be, I hope we all take more than a few moments to pause, breathe, and prepare our minds & hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

At Bridges of Hope, we are helping individuals and families with more than loose ends. We are proud to do this rewarding, tough, and sometimes heartbreaking work.

I want to tell you about one family in particular who is weighing heavily on my mind today. (I’ve changed the details about their family, in order to honor their privacy.)

Danielle called our office a couple of weeks ago. She was encouraged to do so by a hospital social worker. Danielle has been battling cancer for the last few years and just received the news that no one wants to hear: there is nothing more that can be done by her doctors. It is unclear how much time Danielle has left on this earth with her family. She was clear about this when she spoke with Jacklin in our office, though: she feels blessed. She plans to enjoy the time she has left with her husband and two young kids. And she wants to continue doing the things she loves as long as possible, including reading.

The cancer is affecting her vision, but she can still read with a magnifying glass–which is where Bridges comes in. When making some plans for her transition home, Danielle and her social worker were looking into large, hands-free magnifying glasses. They aren’t very expensive; however, the $50 – $80 cost is not in the family’s already stretched budget.

Danielle, who is only in her late 30’s, participated in our simple intake process with Jacklin and our team quickly agreed that getting Danielle a magnifying glass, utilizing our Spirit of Kindness Fund, was absolutely the right thing to do! Just a couple of hours after we made this decision, Jacklin approached me and was excited to report that she ended up connecting Danielle with a local office who wanted to help an individual or family out at Christmas. This amazing group of office folks now plans to purchase the magnifying glass and shower Danielle with a few other goodies for the holidays (another community group has already committed to adopt Danielle’s kiddos for Christmas).

This is a little thing that means a lot for Danielle and her family and they prepare for the uncertainty ahead during this Christmas season.

YOU make it possible for us to extend Christ’s love to Danielle and the hundreds of other individuals and families who are reaching out to Bridges of Hope during this holiday season. As you know, we are nearing the deadline for our year-end “I Hope” campaign and we’ve raised $34,039 so far. Thank you!

IThermo_04n order to continue making a difference in big and small ways, we must reach our goal of raising $60,000 by December 31st. Can you help provide hope still this year to others like Danielle? A gift of just $175 will allow us the honor of serving one household.

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Will you help us build Bridges today? On behalf of the Bridges staff & board, I ask that you consider pausing from whatever you might be doing right now and make a gift, big or small, to support our work with families in the Lakes Area. Your gift will truly make a difference!

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Hopelessly Devoted

Business owner. Bicycle enthusiast. Photographer. Father. Husband.Biff

And, just one year ago, Biff Ulm added ‘board member’ to the list.

“I first became involved with Bridges of Hope after being contacted by a friend to serve on an advisory team for their retail store, Common Goods,” Biff noted. “I quickly discovered the true impact that shopping and donating to Common Goods has on our community as a whole.  I truly believe when one learns about all the good Bridges does for the Lakes Area, it’s hard not to want to donate time and personal resources to such worthy causes.”

Biff, who – himself – knows the retail world well as manager of Zaiser’s in downtown Nisswa, has since increased his involvement with Bridges of Hope, including serving on planning committees for the annual Glow Run and the Afternoon Tea.

“The focus of every Bridges event is about those attending and the cause they are serving.  One quickly learns, Bridges is one hundred percent about investing in people of all walks of life.  To see so many people come out and support each other, makes for an extremely enjoyable time.”

As both a Bridges board member and supporter, Biff rolled up his sleeves and worked alongside hundreds of volunteers following the July 12th storm that hit the area – cutting trees and providing for the needs of those hardest hit.

“Hands down, the biggest event in the Lakes Area this year was the storm that devastated the communities north of Brainerd,” he said. “One doesn’t have to travel far to see the scars and work that continues to be done in so many neighborhoods. To see how quickly Bridges of Hope took the lead in coordinating a multi-organizational effort to help those in most need was amazing.

“In the areas hardest hit, one witnessed so much selfless giving by neighborsI Hope button helping neighbors. I spent two days on Bridges of Hope volunteer clean up crews and two additional days with other volunteer efforts.  What I heard over and over from property owners was the true heroes of the storm were those individuals who were there to
answer the phone for those in most need the days after the storms. Bridges of Hope staff listened and acted with care and compassion to help coordinate a massive effort across many organizations and hundreds of volunteers to get those in most need the help they needed.”

“While Bridges had never coordinated such a mass effort, they did so with such
ease,” he continued. “Never did the Bridges of Hope board or paid staff waiver on whether they should play such an integral role. Instead, they immediately focused on how they could do the most good. This illustrates the strength of this amazing organization.”

Biff said he most appreciates the effectiveness and scope of the Bridges organization and its staff, never ceasing to help build a stronger community.

“The level of synergy and teamwork should be the standard for any nonprofit,” he noted. “Bridges serves the entire Lakes Area by helping so many overcome life’s obstacles. I think one of the most humbling stories I have heard over and over again is how Bridges has helped families who never thought they would need help in the first place get back on their feet. One never knows when bad luck, or an action of no cause to one’s own, will put a family in a difficult situation. Knowing there is an organization that treats people with dignity and love to overcome unexpected hardship, gives so much inspiration. It is why I am proud to call Nisswa and all the surrounding areas home.”

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YOU can provide hope to those in need! From now through year-end, Bridges needs to raise $60,000 to meet the needs of our friends, family, and neighbors in the Lakes Area. Click here to make a 100% tax-deductible donation or your can mail a gift to PO Box 742; Brainerd, MN 56401.

Week 7 update of our campaign: we are halfway to our goal, at $31,600!

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Thank you for giving.

Beauty in the Storm

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In the midst of a storm, the last thing many of us witness is beauty. However, one Brainerd area couple saw just that in the hours, days and weeks following the July 12th storm that hit the Lakes Area this past summer.

Tom and Marlene Larson have called this area home for over 50 years. But never has the Brainerd couple witnessed a disaster matching the magnitude of the storm on Sunday, July 12, 2015.

During the storm, the Larsons had three layers of trees fall on the west side of two garages, leaving gaping holes in the roof and a daunting job of clearing.

Despite the irreplaceable damage to property and the emotional toll it took on so many, Tom and Marlene noted that it was an opportunity for community to come together and witness the generosity and giving spirit of so many willing to step forward in times of need.

“We were so thankful to have little damage to our home, but we hardly had a tree left on our property,” Marlene noted. “It took six of us to open our driveway.”

“Yes, it was severe. Yes, there was much damage. But this has brought neighborhoods together. We think of this as ‘people helping people.’”AmeriCorps

Within days following the storm, crews arrived to help cover the holes in the roof with tarps. Bottled water and snacks were delivered, and the Larsons reached out to Bridges of Hope for additional assistance.

Fulfilling the call, Bridges of Hope partnered with local emergency services personnel to provide volunteers and necessary resources to those impacted by the storm; as well as providing spiritual, mental and emotional support to individuals and families just like Tom and Marlene’s.

Marlene shared, “It’s an appropriate name, as they were ready to assist our needs – emotional and physical.”

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You can help ensure Bridges of Hope’s services are available for all who call; help us reach our $60,000 goal by year-end! As of 12/4/15, you have given ~$23,000 to help those in need. Thank you!DonateButtonOrangeLogo

Just Over Four Weeks To Go!

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We’re already 4 weeks into our 2015 Bridges of Hope “I Hope” fall fundraising campaign, and we have been blown away by the generosity of so many individuals who believe in the power of this organization–and in the power of how, together, we can make a difference in the lives of countless people throughout our community.

As of today, we have raised approximately $18,300! You have dug deep and responded with your heart; and, for that, we say ‘thank you!’ Because of your giving spirit, we will continue to serve the needs – both mental, physical and spiritual – of those we are called upon to serve.

Thermo_02Your support makes a big difference. Did you know that in 2014 alone, thanks to you, we provided hope and assistance to over 2,500 households? And this year, during our storm relief efforts in July, we heard from more than 140 households impacted by the storm, which nearly doubled our services during that time! Many households were looking for information about how to access clean water, a shower, a hot meal, or simply where to bring their branches and other debris. In addition, 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 the emergent tree removal and yard clean-up needed.

If you haven’t had a chance to make your gift yet, there is still time to make a tax-deductible gift to support others in need in our community. Between now and December 31, we still need to raise about $41,700. A gift of just $175 can support one household in need–and EVERY gift makes a difference.

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Giving is easy – visit our website by clicking here. If you’d rather make a contribution in person or by mail, our address is PO Box 742 Brainerd, MN 56401. Checks can be made to Bridges of Hope.

Again, you are the reason Bridges of Hope has been in faithful service since 2002. We thank you for your support and look forward to what 2016 brings!

 

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.”

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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.”

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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.