There are many families right now facing very difficult times. So many, in fact, that to be frank, I realize many of you have probably grown a little tired of hearing about the tough stuff going on in the lives of men, women and children in our community. I understand. It can wear on us, too. But it got me thinking…
What does it really mean to live in poverty in the Brainerd Lakes Area?
Well, technically speaking, for a family of four, you are considered “living in poverty” if your household income is $22,350 or less. That is approximately equal to two employed caregivers working 30 hours per week at minimum wage. If a family with this income followed “the rules,” they would need to find housing for only about $550 per month (or about 30% of their income). That would leave them approximately $1,100 for food, transportation, childcare, insurance, utilities, and all of the other things in life that add up–never mind the emergencies in life.
But is poverty only about financial capital? What about social capital?
What we see over and over is that so many families who reach out to Bridges of Hope are not just struggling financially: they are lacking the kind of support network that many of us have. We know that money alone isn’t the answer AND a support network alone isn’t the answer: but having some of both can make life a whole lot easier.
Bridges of Hope was established just over nine years ago to act as a bridge between families in crisis and the support & resources that can help them alleviate that crisis. We served around 150 households that first year and over 2,000 households last year alone.
It may be difficult to imagine, but every single day we come into contact with families and children who have been through hunger, abuse, homelessness, abandonment, and more. The good news? Bridges of Hope is here to help.
When you have car trouble, an ill family member, a furnace that breaks down or your children simply have a day off of school, what do you do?
I call my husband or father for car trouble, my best friend when I need support to help me deal with the fact that my mom is battling leukemia, a trusted neighbor to consult about the most reliable furnace repair person; and luckily, I have another trusted neighbor who will watch over my kids for a couple of days so I don’t have to disrupt my work schedule.
For the families who are going through these and many other kinds of crises, we do offer financial support in some cases (when all existing resources have been tapped), but long before it even gets to that point, what we really have to offer families is a partner: a partner they might not otherwise have.
At Bridges of Hope, we are also proud to partner with local churches and other area nonprofits to deliver needed services to families in Crow Wing County. It can be overwhelming and confusing to seek help, and we aim to act as a bridge between families and what they need to be successful. We aim to see that our area resources are utilized wisely and without duplication. We never want to offer a service that is already available–and when a gap IS identified, we try to fill it or work with our partners to find a creative, collaborative solution.
We do have some specific programs (you can read more about them here), but to keep it simple, what I can tell you is that on average, we can act as a partner to a family for just $150, and we have been working hard this year to make sure over 6,000 men, women and children in the Lakes Area don’t fall through the cracks when they are experiencing a crisis in their life.
Our life-changing and life-saving work helps women like 39 year-old Connie: a working single mom who needed to leave her home with her two school-aged children because she was being beaten by her husband.
We also help people like Francine and George: Francine reached out to Bridges after George had a stroke and became paralyzed. They needed help paying for a van that could transport George to his many, many medical appointments and to family gatherings that were so important to them. Francine and George were able to pay for most of the van, Bridges chipped in for the difference, and George hasn’t missed a medical appointment or any of his grandchildren’s school programs since.
As I mentioned before, it costs on average about $150 per household for Bridges of Hope to be there when Connie, Francine, George, you, your sister or your elderly neighbor needs us.
Recently, Poverty Bound was held in Crow Wing County. It gave many of us service providers a way to tell the stories of these amazing clients we work with on a daily basis. Not all of the stories have a happy ending, but here at Bridges of Hope, we continue our work to help more and more families create happier endings to the stories they call us with.
Between now and December 31, we are working to eliminate our $60,000 year-end funding gap. This will allow us to change the lives of 400 more families we are expecting to serve between now and the end of the year.
I hope you’ll help us as a partner in this mission. You can get involved here.