Thanksgiving and Christmas

For many of us, Thanksgiving and Christmas are days where we spend time with loved ones, attend a special evening service at our place of worship, eat turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes until we can hardly move, and watch as our family members open nicely wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree.  We never worry that we are not going to be able to provide a meal for our family, or that we will not be able to afford to buy our children or grandchildren gifts for the Holiday season.

Though many of us don’t have to worry about those things, there are thousands of families living right here in Crow Wing County who do.

For those living in poverty, or those going through a prolonged illness, unexpected injury, or other rough spot, spending decisions are much more limited–generally based on the largest bills and basic needs.

Just consider your household’s monthly expenses for a moment: do they add up to $3,000? $4,000? More than that? The Jobs Now Coalition estimates that the basic monthly household expenses for a family of four in Crow Wing County (with two adults working full time) are around $3,900–or that their income would need to be just over 200% of the Federal Poverty Guideline. Last year, Bridges of Hope worked with over 1,500 households who were living below this 200% threshold. Families right here in our community struggle every month to make ends meet.

For many of these families, there simply isn’t enough left over at the end of the month, which, at this time of year, means no Thanksgiving dinner, no traveling to Grandma & Grandpa’s house, and not a single toy, book or new piece of clothing under the tree for their children.

That is why Bridges of Hope, with the help of our local human service agencies, churches, service clubs, individuals, and businesses, offers the Thanksgiving Basket and Christmas Gift programs. Through these programs, families in need are supplied with food for a Thanksgiving meal and Christmas gifts for their children. The programs exist entirely due to generosity of the sponsors, who volunteer to receive the name of a household (or several households) they are sponsoring, go shopping, and then deliver a basket or gifts to a family.

In 2010, Bridges of Hope coordinated the distribution of Thanksgiving meals for 198 households and Christmas gifts for 222 households. This year, as I write this post, we are just finishing up coordinating the distribution of Thanksgiving meals for a record number of 270 households: a 36% increase over last year…and if this trend continues, our Christmas program could serve up to 300 households.

As a student in the College of St. Scholastica Social Work program, part of my senior internship experience included coordinating these Bridges of Hope programs. During this experience I have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions: nervousness, since I have never been in charge of something this large; excitement as I saw families matched to sponsors; and extremely touched too, as I watched the generosity of our community pouring out through these programs.

Last Friday when I left Bridges of Hope, 210 families had been sponsored for Thanksgiving. That meant that yesterday morning I came into the office with 60 families still awaiting sponsorship. By 10:30 am, thanks to several local churches putting out the word over the weekend and a couple of businesses making one last announcement on Monday morning, every single family who had signed up had a sponsor for Thanksgiving. 

I am proud to say that I am a member of a community who reaches out their hands to a stranger, to ensure that they may have a memorable Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday too.

Thank you for your generosity this season.


Want to become involved too? We have approximately 100 households sponsored for Christmas so far. Learn more.


Giving to the Max

We here at Bridges of Hope were blown away last Wednesday, when our supporters hit the $40,000 mark on our Fall Campaign.

In case you didn’t hear all the buzz, last Wednesday (November 16) was Give to the Max Day all over Minnesota–a 24-hour online giving EVENT for donors and nonprofits. In just one day, donors gave over 13 Million to charities across the state…and OUR supporters gave over $13,600 to Bridges of Hope, meeting our $10,000 match (and then some)–and pushing our Campaign total raised to just over $40,000 at about 11:15 PM that night.

Reaching $40,000 also meant we had more of our bridge to build, and you can watch a clip from Lakeland News here:

We’ve also created a photo album on Facebook to help keep you updated on the bridge’s progress; just click to “like” Bridges of Hope on Facebook, and you’ll get the updates on your news feed just as soon as we post them!

The posts are on the bridge

While it has been so exciting to reach $40,000 of our $60,000 goal in just 16 days, the generosity certainly hasn’t stopped since then!

To date, we have $18,700 left to raise of our $60,000 goal, which will ensure we can change the lives of 125 more families before year-end.

Just $150 supports our work with one family in need, or a monthly gift of $25 supports our work with TWO families over the course of a year.

Thank you for your support.

Carl needed help doubling his gift

You’ve probably been hearing more and more about online giving over the last couple of years. So had Carl, but I’ll get to that in a minute. There are many benefits to you and to Bridges of Hope when you make your gift online. It’s less expensive, it’s quick, it’s easy, and you get a thank you message and a receipt on the day you make your gift, sometimes even within minutes.

At Bridges of Hope we use as our giving portal. GiveMN is a wonderful nonprofit organization based in the Twin Cities that works to make online giving simple and engaging for nonprofits and donors alike. Dana Nelson, GiveMN Executive Director and her team have made online giving easy and inexpensive for all Minnesota nonprofits.

Give to the Max Day LogoA couple of years ago, in 2009, the first Give to the Max Day was launched in Minnesota. What happened that day astounded everyone. Generous donors in our state answered the call with gifts totaling more than 14 million dollars. Incredible.

That year, Bridges of Hope heard about Give to the Max Day at the last minute. We “claimed” the page provided for us by GiveMN and raised about $700. Hmmm, we thought, that was pretty easy. And that was the beginning.

In 2010, we had the good fortune of participating in two giving challenges; each had matching dollars from foundations in our area. During those two giving challenges, we raised more than $11,000, in just 18 days! Wow, we thought, there really is something to this online giving.

And that’s where Carl comes in. In 2010, Carl heard me speak at a local service club about one of the upcoming online giving challenges we were about to participate in. Carl is a retired educator in our area, probably about 85 years young. He approached me after the meeting and said, “I appreciate what your organization does for families in this area, and I want to do that ‘doubling’ thing, but I don’t have a computer. So how can I do it?” I spent some time visiting with Carl, and by the end of our conversation, I invited him to come in to my office and use my computer during the giving challenge so his gift could be doubled.

When I left that meeting, I wasn’t sure if I’d see Carl again or not–but sure enough, two days later, there was a knock on my office door. It was Carl, and he was ready to try this ‘online stuff’ and double his gift. He brought his credit card and we went to our secure GiveMN page to make Carl’s $200 gift which, thanks to a generous foundation’s matching dollars, turned into a $400 gift for families to be served by Bridges of Hope. As I printed him his receipt (Carl didn’t have email, either), Carl remarked, “that’s it? That was easy!”

That’s it. It is THAT easy to make double the difference for children and families in our area just like little Noah, Michael & Susan, and Kendra. You have the opportunity to double YOUR gift on Wednesday, November 16th. All online gifts made on November 16th will be doubled (up to $10,000) by the Otto Bremer Foundation.

A gift of just $150 enables Bridges to serve a family. That $150 will turn into $300 on Give to the Max Day–allowing to serve two families–or better yet, spread your gift out over the year. You can set up a monthly recurring donation of $25, which adds up to $300 over the course of a year. And guess what? That type of gift will be doubled on November 16th too! If you set up a monthly recurring donation of $25, your gift will be doubled and you will know that FOUR families will be served at Bridges, thanks to YOU!

Bridges of Hope has a $44,000 funding gap from now until the end of the year. Closing that gap will allow us to serve 293 more families before the end of the year. We have the opportunity to reduce this gap by at least $20,000 on November 16th. Can you help us? Carl was right. It’s easy!

First Bridge Section Complete

Thanks to the quick work of the good folks at Nor-Son, the first section of our bridge is already complete!

base of the bridge in progress

On Wednesday, November 9, Bridges of Hope’s Fall Campaign reached its first $10,000 mark. After a quick phone call to Nor-Son, the bridge base was built and delivered to Common Goods on Thursday!

base of the bridge in place at Common Goods

board members with the first bridge section in place

Be sure to stop in at Common Goods to check out the progess on the bridge for yourself, or read more about how we reached this first threshold in order to begin construction on the bridge.

On Wednesday November 16, we will have the opportunity to reach our second and third funding thresholds on the same day! Learn more about how to double your impact for Bridges of Hope during Give to the Max Day 2011.

Campaign Reaches First $10,000 Mark

Our sincere thanks go out to the 27 generous donors who have already helped us raise $12,200 in just a little over a week’s time! What that means is that we can already begin work on the first section of our bridge! Haven’t heard about the project? Read more here.

Earlier this morning, Amanda Cline from the Nisswa Area Women of Today dropped off a donation from the proceeds raised during their Fall Fashion Show held this past  October.

Nisswa Women of Today make donation to Bridges of Hope

Their group was the “lucky” 23rd donor who pushed the total raised over the $10,000 mark! Soon afterward we received our 24th through 27th donations; and to-date, our generous supporters have helped ensure that 81 more families, just like little Noah’s, can lead safer, happier and more secure lives.

We continue to feel so blessed to live in such a warm, supportive, and generous community that cares.

Thank you for your support.

Building a Bridge

Artist's rendering of the bridge

Artist's rendering of the completed bridge

Bridges of Hope is building a bridge.

Yes, a physical bridge.

This fall we established a new partnership with Northland Arboretum to build a walking bridge for one of its trails. We have a year-end $60,000 funding gap to help families in crisis, and the Arb has walking trail that needs a bridge to span a stream–both organizations had a gap in need of bridging.

A few weeks ago, some of our board and staff members were trying to come up with an idea about how to visually represent our Fall Campaign goal–and more importantly–the community’s progress toward closing the year-end gap. Then one of our board members spoke up, saying, “what if we built an actual bridge?”

He was almost laughed out of the room. We were only two weeks away from November: to even think of such a project we would need donated materials, a design, someone to build the bridge, a place for the bridge to go…the list went on, and it just seemed too big. But then, we decided to turn it into a challenge: we gave ourselves until the end of the week to come up with all of the necessary parts of the plan. After that, it would just be too late to make this idea a reality.

What happened was almost magical–well, a little magic and a lot of local cooperation and  generosity.

It turned out the Arb needed a bridge. A place for the bridge to go: check.

Next up, a design and someone to build the bridge: we called Kevin Littman–one of our board members and Operations Manager at Nor-Son. Design: check. Builders: check.

Then we were connected with Larry Geschwill from Simonson Lumber, who agreed to donate all of the lumber and materials for the bridge. Materials: check.

We needed some way to promote and showcase this bridge project, so we worked with Ron Morris at Insty Prints (and, as it turned out, Board chair of the Northland Arboretum), and within a few days, we had banners and a poster. The Northland Arboretum had a trailer that we could build the bridge on, and our landlord, CMA Management, agreed to let us park it outside Common Goods.  All the loose ends: check.

Oh yeah, our deadline of pulling this all together by the end of the week: check!

The Arboretum trailer with the banner

The plan is to build the bridge in sections, right outside Common Goods. As we make progress toward our goal, in $10,000 increments, a new section of the bridge will be built. It will act as a visual representation of the progress you help us make toward our $60,000 goal (similar to a fundraising thermometer, but cooler!).

We are so grateful for the generosity of all of our local partners who came together to make this idea actually happen, in such a short time!

On November 1, just two weeks after the idea for the bridge first materialized, we held a kick-off event. You can watch a clip from Lakeland News below:

We are so glad to be working together with an organization like Northland Arboretum. Dale and the folks at the Arb are such a vital part of this community, and it’s great to forage a new partnership that will improve the experience of the people who use the trails at the Arb.

The local partnerships

The bridge will be donated to The Arb at the end of the campaign. Thanks to the generosity of Nor-Son and Simonson Lumber, the bridge WILL NOT cost Bridges of Hope or the Arb a dime!

Want to get involved? You can help bridge the gap by…

  • Making your gift today or on Give to the Max Day (Wed, November 16), when your online gift will be doubled, up to $10,000!
  • Set up a recurring donation. $25/mo supports two families over the course of a year.
  • Visit Common Goods to see our progress on the bridge.
  • Pray for us. Pray for our board, staff, and the families we serve; and pray we are able to eliminate our year-end funding gap.
  • “Like” us on Facebook and visit our website often to monitor the Campaign’s progress.

Noah’s Moment

Noah and his mom

Photo by Neree Jackson | Studio You

A contribution of $150 supports our work with one family in need. Since 2002, the support from our community has enabled us to change the lives of thousands of families in the Lakes Area–and for that, we thank you.

Tim and Sara are young parents. Last spring their son Noah was born prematurely. Tim was employed and Sara had been staying home to care for Noah. The couple was managing okay, even though the medical bills had been adding up since their son’s birth.

Then in October, their furnace went out. It had been in need of maintenance for some time, but with Noah’s extra medical needs in addition to the added expenses of a new baby, the couple simply didn’t have anything left in their budget at the end of a month.

On the coldest days, Sara had been using the oven to warm the house while keeping herself and Noah wrapped in blankets. Noah was starting to crawl and Sara knew she couldn’t continue to open the oven door—but she felt like she just didn’t have any other options.

Thankfully, that’s when Sara was connected with Bridges of Hope by a friend from her weekly Bible study. We were able to talk through some options with Sara and, in the end, pay less than $200 for the repair. Within about two weeks, the couple had a working furnace—and a warm home. Now, almost one year later, Noah is beginning to talk, has met nearly all of his developmental milestones, and is able to move around safely in his home.

You make great stories like this one happen. Every day, situations like Tim and Sara’s become a reality for families across the Lakes Area. There are small crisis for some families, and larger ones for others. At Bridges of Hope we are able to act quickly, and in many cases, put a family back on track with a very small amount of financial support. A family just like little Noah’s.

We invite you to join us in our Annual Fall Fundraising Campaign. We must raise $60,000 to eliminate our year-end funding gap and allow us to change the lives of 400 more families we are expecting to serve between now and the end of the year. Would you consider a gift of $150 to support a family like Tim, Sara and Noah? 

Here’s how to get involved:

  • Make your gift today or on Give to the Max Day (Wed, November 16), when your online gift will be doubled, up to $10,000!
  • Set up a recurring donation. $25/mo supports two families over the course of a year.
  • Visit Common Goods to see our progress: thanks to the generosity of Nor-Son and Simonson Lumber, we are building a real bridge to symbolize our progress toward closing our funding gap. Learn more.
  • Pray for us. Pray for our board, staff, and the families we serve; and pray we are able to eliminate our year-end funding gap.
  • “Like” us on Facebook and visit our website often to monitor the Campaign’s progress.