Is AmeriCorps VISTA Right for You?

AmericorpsVISTA50yrs2015Bridges of Hope is looking for a VISTA Member–a full-time volunteer who serves through AmeriCorps, to assist our organization with some very cool projects from August 2015-July 2016.

VISTA is often described as the “domestic version of the PeaceCorps,” and is a national service program that Bridges has successfully participated in over the course of several years of our organization’s history. The focus of VISTA is on reducing and eliminating poverty.

It can be a great opportunity for recent college grads looking to gain experience in the human services field, and it is also an opportunity for recent retirees looking for a way to give back to their community—as well as for many others in-between these two poles of life!

Here’s what Jacklin, a former AmeriCorps member–and current Bridges of Hope staff–had to say about her experience with VISTA:

After spending almost 2 years as an out-of-state AmeriCorps member, I was eventually placed in Deerwood, MN, where I finished up and entered the “real” world. Those years as a VISTA are what prepared me for where I am now, three years later. It not only gave me that on-the-job training that’s so vital, but it also taught me life skills that I needed. I learned how expensive and limited housing options can be, especially when choosing to do something as “crazy” as having a dog! I learned how to live on a very small budget and what things were absolutely needed and what I could live without. I learned what things were out there that I could ask for help with – and I learned how it felt to ask for help.

The experience allowed me to start realizing what priorities meant the most to me and that there were consequences to those choices. My AmeriCorps time put me in a position that I had never been in before. It’s because of those experiences that I feel I could better relate to the people I would eventually work with. It’s allowed me to pose the question, “what would I have done?” and I can draw on actual experience as I think about it.

Looking back, those were definitely some hard years that I’m still making up for (hello, credit card bill!), but I wouldn’t have changed or replaced them for anything. I got to travel to places that I would never have otherwise. I got to meet some of the greatest people, and I now spend my vacation time going back to see old co-workers. If you’re looking for a challenge with great rewards and a little life experience thrown in, then I would definitely recommend AmeriCorps VISTA!

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Do you know someone looking for this kind of life-changing experience, or might YOU be that person? Bridges of Hope is currently seeking an AmeriCorps VISTA Member to assist our organization with a threefold project over the course of one year (August 2015 – July 2016). This is a fantastic professional development opportunity to grow your resume, give back to your community, expand your network, and gain experience within the nonprofit/human services sector!

For more information and to apply, visit http://bit.ly/bohvista. We will be accepting applications through the end of May 2015.

**New: effective May 3, 2015, VISTA members are now permitted to hold part-time employment outside of their VISTA assignment. More information is available upon request.

It Shouldn’t Hurt to be a Child

radiothon logoEach December, BL Broadcasting collaborates with local Child Protection Teams in our area to bring awareness to and raise funds for Child Abuse Prevention. The public service announcements during the on-air event state, “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.” How true.

Child abuse is difficult to think about, but we need to think about it and we need to create a community where parents are supported and children are nurtured.

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, another time of year to bring awareness to the struggles parents and children in our community are facing. It’s a time to shine a light on the good work being done to strengthen families.

Here at Bridges of Hope, we are proud to partner with Crow Wing County in a state-wide program called Parent Support Outreach Program (PSOP). This is a voluntary program for families to engage in when the want to stabilize their struggles with basic needs and strengthen their parenting skills. Click here to read about how the PSOP program helped Cindy and her family.

biracial childrenAnother service in our community that aims to support parents and reduce child abuse & neglect is Crisis Nursery Services, which is free, short-term crisis childcare for children 0-12 in Crow Wing County and the surrounding areas. The goal of the Crisis Nursery is to provide a safe place for children during a family crisis like Kendra & her children experienced.

Crisis Nursery is made possible through the Crow Wing County Child Protection Team with funds that YOU donate during the Radiothon to End Child Abuse. THANK YOU!

As community members, there are many things we can do to support families around us. Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota makes the following suggestions about what to do if you see a parent who is “on edge” in public:

  • Divert the adult’s attention.
  • Start a conversation with the adult. Offer sympathy. For example, you could say, “Shopping with children can really try your patience, can’t it?” Talk to the child.
  • If the child is acting out or misbehaving, start a friendly conversation to distract him or her.
  • Praise the parent or child.
  • Find something positive to say about the child or the parent. For example, “That’s a pretty dress your daughter is wearing. Where did you get it?”
  • Offer to help.
  • For example, if a child has been left unattended in a grocery cart, stay near him or her until a caretaker returns.
  • Avoid negative looks or comments.This may only increase the adult’s anger, making things worse for the child.

There are many preventative efforts happening in our community, however it is important to state that if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected in our area, you should contact Crow Wing County Social Services at 218-824-1140. 

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, please take a moment to enrich the life of a child in your life and support the parents around you. It really does take a village to raise a child!

Pinwheel for Prevention

Join us for Tea Time!

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teatime clockHave you heard? It’s “Tea Time” at Bridges of Hope!

That’s right; we are excited to be hosting our first-ever Afternoon Tea for Hope on Sunday, May 3rd at 3:00 PM. This will be an afternoon filled with fine tea, delicious food, lovely music, an exciting silent auction, a fun photo booth, fabulous decor, and good company.

We have the details all taken care of. We just need YOU to invite your daughter, mother, sister, or friends and RSVP to join us!

Kate KuepersYou will not want to miss this event. From the moment you arrive, you will be pampered by your surroundings. Our wonderfully talented friend, Kate Kuepers from Bloom Designs, will turn the Celebration Room at Lutheran Church of the Cross into a scene right out of an English garden!

(You really should check out Kate’s website. She does amazing work!)

While you are enjoying the lovely scenery, butler service will be provided by the finest firemen in the Lakes Area who will serve your tea while you nosh on savory bites from Prairie Bay and dine on delectable dessert from Edible Art Bakery!

Our guests will be entertained by music from local musicians and will have the opportunity to learn about the Side by Side Mentoring program at Bridges of Hope. The goal of the mentoring program is to move participants from a place of survival to place of stability and thriving. Take a few minutes to read about the struggles and accomplishments of Charlotte, Irene, and Samantha who have all participated in the program. We are so proud of their successes and are humbled by the support from the community for this program.

And what would an afternoon out with girlfriends, your mom, or daughter be without a little shopping?! Many local businesses and supporters of Bridges of Hope have donated great items for our silent auction. Here’s a sneak peak:  Vintage+1950s+hatsOh, but the fun doesn’t stop there! Biff Ulm will have his photo booth set up at the event so you can take some photos to remember this beautiful spring day. Feel free to wear your own hat, gloves, and pearls to the event. If you don’t have those things, no worries–the booth will be complete with some fun accessories to “glam up” your pics!

And as if butler service, tea, treats, music, decor, shopping, a photo booth, and some “girl time” isn’t enough…everyone who attends Afternoon Tea for Hope will leave with a small gift, thanks to another group of amazing local businesses! We want to thank YOU for spending part of your afternoon with us and for helping us build Bridges.

If you don’t already have your spot at the Tea reserved, I hope you’ll click here to do so! Tickets are just $40 per person and that supports women like Charlotte, Irene, and Samantha. Space is limited. A ticket to this event would make a great gift for Mother’s Day! Contact Janelle at our office and she can create a gift certificate for you if you would like to give the Afternoon Tea experience to a special person in your life!

Gift CertificateOn behalf of everyone here at Bridges of Hope, I hope to see you for Tea Time!

P.S. If you can’t make it to the Tea event but would still like to contribute to the work of Bridges of Hope, click on any of the images below from our Side by Side program to make a donation now, or email  jana@bridgesofhopemn.org to learn more about sponsorship opportunities for your business.

JUly 8 SbS 015Having a Spa Night Foot Massage

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Unplugging

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Have you ever just “unplugged” for a day, or even for a few hours? You know…put your phone away, turned off the TV, walked away from the computer…and just…lived in the present moment for awhile? Are you curious to know what might happen?

I was.

I like being connected to others…remotely…from my couch…via my phone.

I like always having something do turn to in case the slightest hint of boredom sets in.

I like looking like I have something REALLY important to read while I’m waiting for someone or something.

But I also know I’m not fooling anyone…myself included. I know that there is no substitute for being fully present–for removing all of the distractions and focusing on–and investing in–the people who are right in front of me.

So…I recently challenged myself and my coworkers from Bridges of Hope to spend some unplugged time with their families and friends over the course of an evening. Here’s what happened:

1. We did things we don’t usually do.
Some of us spent time doing needlecraft and sewing; some of us played board games; and some of us read or spent time in face-to-face conversations. We missed phone calls and text messages…but none so urgent they couldn’t be answered later.

2. We experienced time differently.
Some of us were really excited for the challenge…and others not so much. The evening seemed to fly by for some of us, and others of us marveled at how much more time they felt like they had. And a few of us honestly thought the time dragged a little. Some of our kids (or parents…or spouses…) complained at first…but most of them were eventually won over.

Vacation13. We played more.
Almost all of us played board games or card games. We colored–both with our kids and with other adults. We had spontaneous family jam sessions in the living room with improvised instruments.

4. We connected…IRL!
“I talked with my sister for an hour about her work and some of the challenges she’s been having. It was so nice to have a conversation without texts interrupting us!”
It was also our anniversary that evening, so we shared some of our memories with our kids.”
“If you do not make time to intentionally discuss the events and experiences in the daily lives of your family, you can miss out on so much.”

5. We thought about our priorities.
“It was eye opening to me to realize how many times I thought about using my phone.”
“I would like to do this more often–it’s a nice change.”
“I would like to have a monthly or weekly media-free time with our family that is longer and pre-planned, with family activities and outings.”
“We decided to have TV nights and non-TV nights in our family.”
“It made me think about what kind of example I’m setting for my kids, if I can’t put my phone down for a couple hours to play with them and really give them my full attention.”

And do you want to know what else? We discovered that it was really, really simple. There was no added expense, no hidden fees, no contract to sign…but it was likely the start of an important investment with the potential for big returns.keep-calm-and-go-offline-3

So what about you? Want to take the challenge too? Here are a few resources that might help (and yes, the irony is that all of these are online/media resources):

If you spend an evening (or more!) unplugged, let us know about your experience in the comments section!

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For more information about how our programming strengthens families, please visit our website.

Inspiring Hope

I have the awesome privilege to work for an agency that I love and in a role that is a perfect fit for me. I am an Outreach Worker at Bridges of Hope and I provide in-home support to families that are in complex and challenging situations.

inspire hopeRecently, I worked with a family that struggled with chemical dependency issues, domestic violence, mental health struggles, and financial barriers. Prior to Bridges of Hope’s involvement, Anna and Jacob (names changed for anonymity) were not actively working with any area providers. When I first met Anna, Jacob, and their children, it was apparent that they were all skeptical of me…and who wouldn’t be!? I am a stranger to them and they have demonstrated resilience and fortitude already for decades of their lives. I get it. It’s scary and overwhelming to put your trust into someone that you don’t know, and who am I to receive that trust? Yet, incredibly, that is just what they did. This family allowed me to walk alongside of them for several weeks as we worked together to build bridges of support; and not only were they part of building those bridges, but they courageously walked across them as well. 

One of Anna and Jacob’s biggest strengths was their desire for the betterment of their family and the well-being of their children. Though we all want what’s best, it takes a very strong couple to recognize that “wanting” something is not always enough. Loving someone is not always enough, either: often we don’t have the tools, resources, and skills to improve our situation. Anna and Jacob worked on their relationship, their communication with their children, setting appropriate boundaries, and collaborating with the school and other providers. I was honored to be a support for them as they did this. It was not always an easy process, as learned behaviors and unhealthy habits have a way of creeping back into our daily routines, but they stuck with it. My role was to teach the family new skills, hold them accountable, and be a cheerleader for their incredible successes…and what an awesome success they are! Anna & Jacob are now receiving therapy, chemical dependency support, school support for their children, and are successfully paying for their household expenses after obtaining employment. The families I work with are the true inspirations.

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If you or someone you know could benefit from support from Bridges of Hope, call 218.825.7682 or visit our website for more information.

 

The Role of Volunteers at Common Goods

Bridges of Hope owns and operates a thrift store called Common Goods, which is located at 16227 Hwy 371 North in Baxter, Minnesota. If you have ever been to Common Goods, you have seen the end result of a very labor intensive process. Behind all of the shimmer, shine, and freshly steamed clothes there is an extreme amount of work that has gone into the final product. Every item that comes through the door at the store is checked, sorted, cleaned, painted, hung or steamed by group of amazing individuals. Some of the individuals are our employees; however, there are also a number of extremely hardworking individuals that volunteer their time to the cause of making Common Goods such a great success!

We have all different kinds of volunteers throughout the year. Some come in for special projects, and others volunteer every week. Volunteers at Common Goods include church youth groups, families, students, retired individuals, couples, and others. We have many opportunities for volunteering; including a new “host/hostess” volunteer position that includes greeting our customers and ensuring they have a great shopping experience. You can call Nate for more information at 218.824.0923.

Jeff & Penny CarlsonI would also like to introduce you to two of our long-time volunteers: Jeff and his mom Penny, who volunteer regularly at the store. Not only do they help us with some of daily tasks of keeping Common Goods in great shape, but they also bring with them a great deal of energy and smiles every week. Jeff and Penny are so “famous” at Common Goods that some of our regular shoppers often ask us if Jeff and Penny are in that day! Penny is our expert at keeping our $2.00 clearance section full and organized, and Jeff can usually be found at either our garment steamer or in the back room, creating great pieces of art.

Since Common Goods is part of a non-profit organization, volunteers play a vital role in cost-saving for the organization. Would you believe that volunteers donate over 60 hours of time, talent, and service every single month? There is no way that we could afford to pay for all of the amazing work that our volunteers do, and we are so grateful for their service, since profits from the store help pay for the programs offered at Bridges of Hope for individuals and families in need…so you could say that every hour of volunteering at Common Goods has a double impact in our community!

We are very grateful for all of the help that volunteers provide to the cause of Bridges of Hope and Common Goods–whether it be a one-time project, few hours every month, or every week! If you are interested in learning more about becoming one of our amazing volunteers, please contact us at (218) 824-0923 or stop by the store and we will be happy to explain the process and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make our operation a success. You can also check out our website for more information.

To everyone who has, currently does, or will volunteer in the future, thank you! And remember:

volunteersnot paid

 

Building Bridges, Building Community

Do you know what happened when local 5th graders were given:

  • 100 popsicle sticks,
  • some white glue,
  • strong science classroom instruction, and
  • a boost of expertise from local design & engineering firms?

Building Bridges 2015 happened, that’s what! The event took place at Forestview Middle School this past Monday evening with over 600 people in attendance. Check out this crowd!               Bridges 101Students, parents, & community members carefully examined bridges in the Aesthetic Category before casting their vote:

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Then everyone was able to watch the testing for the Strength Category which is always a good time…

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…filled with excitement…

Bridges 049 Bridges 121

….anticipation…

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and, this inevitable sound: “CRUNCH!”

Bridges 119  Bridges 104  Bridges 096  Bridges 135

Check out what is left at the end of the testing phase:

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The night wraps up with the announcement of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams in each category. A big congratulations to this year’s winners!

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This event is one of our favorites each year & such a fun way for our community to come together to raise awareness of the “bridges” we are building for families every day at Bridges of Hope to fulfill our mission:

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 & gain hope.

That is good stuff. And, we couldn’t do it without the cooperation & support of ISD 181, Mr. Danielson, Ms. Knutson, Mr. Trout, Mrs. Harrison, and these incredible sponsors:

Building Bridges poster2015_Sponsors

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

  • Want to see all the pictures from the event? Check out our Facebook Page!
  • To learn more about the services we offer and how we build bridges for families in the Lakes area, please visit our website.