10 Years Ago…

The year was 2002. Lilo & Stitch won Best Animated Picture at the Oscars; the United States won 34 medals at the Winter Games in Salt Lakes City, Utah; Simon and Garfunkel won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys; and, most exciting of all…Bridges of Hope was born!

That’s right, Bridges of Hope is ten years old. Where has the time gone? Does this mean we are a “tween?” Well, maybe not exactly, but those folks involved with Bridges since our “birth” can hardly believe how fast we’re growing up. And growing we are! The first year Bridges was in existence, we served about 150 households; last year, we served over 2,400 households.

We started out with one amazing staff member, and along the way we’ve grown into an organization with 15 incredible staff members, including the addition of Common Goods in 2009. What an exciting time we are in: we are serving more clients than ever, we have the best staff around (if we do say so ourselves), and we are operating a successful mission-driven thrift store on top of it all!

Over the course of several months in 2011, we invited key community members from a variety of agencies, businesses and other groups to help us take a look back at where we’ve been and help us look forward to where we need to go in the next five years. Thanks to this dedicated group of folks, we have a renewed energy for our work as we enter our tenth year of service with a clear vision that includes the following four strategic priorities:

  • Strengthening families by providing both a breadth and depth of programming;
  • Engaging the community in two-way relationships;
  • Centering our organization in Christ by nurturing our staff and Board of Directors in their individual faith journeys; and
  • Developing and being good stewards of the resources we are entrusted with.

Bridges of Hope continues to be committed to the original principles the organization was founded on: connecting families to the community resources that can help them thrive; filling gaps in existing resources; and streamlining access to and reducing duplication of services. We are so proud to have partnered with an array of churches, businesses, service clubs, and human service & other organizations over the past 10 years and look forward to these continued relationships.

We have a few exciting things planned for our 10th year, starting with:

  • A celebration of 10 years at our second-annual Community Concert on March 24 at 2 p.m. Click here to learn more.
  • An announcement of our Business Partner of the Year: Grand View Lodge.  Bridges of Hope and Grand View have a rich history of working together and we look forward to partnering on a few projects this year. Stay tuned!

Lastly, we have some fun 10th Anniversary Trivia for you. Grab a sheet of scratch paper and take your best guess before heading to our website for the answers. See how well you know Bridges.

What is…

  • $2,800,000 (Hint: you are awesome.)
  • 700,000 (Hint: you wouldn’t want to be the one assigned to remove them all!)
  • 36,000 (Hint: we started somewhere around 300 our first year)
  • 1,800 (Hint: it was a MOVING experience)
  • 650 (Hint: it’s all about the Rockstars)
  • 47 (Hint: they founded us and still ground us…in a good way)
  • 1 (Hint: it was a brief brush with stardom in 2003, and his name is Mike)
Wow–an anniversary, new strategic priorities, and our own trivia game…it doesn’t get much better! On a serious note, I am really humbled and amazed with how our community has embraced Bridges of Hope over the last ten years. We still have a lot to accomplish together and there is a place for you as we look ahead to serving the 2,200+ households who will reach out this year. I know I speak for our entire staff and board when I say we are honored to serve this community every day.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges.

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A Good Solution for Julie & Hanna

This year, Bridges of Hope added a new program to its continuum of services for families. Respite Services provides a regular break to parents or guardians of children with mental health or behavioral challenges. This is typically a scheduled break at the home of a respite care provider who has been selected by the parents.

But you might be thinking, wait a second–I thought Bridges of Hope already did this! It is true that we also administer Crisis Nursery Services, but there are some key differences between the two. Parents utilizing Respite have an ongoing plan to use the service–often utilizing it once a month, and/or at regular intervals throughout the year (to help provide a break for caregivers of a child with mental health or behavioral challenges). Crisis Nursery, on the other hand, is short-term childcare during an immediate family crisis situation, when there are no other safe alternatives for children.

An example of just such a Crisis Nursery situation is Kendra’s story, which you can read here.

In contrast to the more immediate nature of Crisis Nursery, Respite works this way:

11-Year Old Girl

Julie is a single mom, fairly new to the Brainerd Lakes Area. She contacted Bridges of Hope requesting assistance in establishing Respite Services for her 12-year-old daughter, Hanna. New to the area, Julie had no friends or family available to provide her–or Hanna–with a break. Julie explained that when Hanna was 2 years old, Julie became her Foster Care Provider, later adopting her when Hanna’s birth parents’ rights were terminated. Over the course of the next year, Hanna’s behavioral challenges became more pronounced, and she was eventually diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

At Bridges of Hope, the staff was able to provide Julie with a list of Respite providers who had availability work with new families. Julie connected with one of the providers and was able to meet them in their home to make sure it was a good fit for Hanna. After working with the Bridges staff on establishing how much Respite would be appropriate to meet Hanna’s needs, Julie and the provider were able to set up a regular schedule for Respite, and Hanna is currently receiving the service one day per month. Julie reports Respite has been a good solution for both herself and for Hanna.

As a single parent myself, I know through my own experience the importance of having someone reliable to call on in times of parenting stress, and I feel so blessed to have an extensive informal support system for the times when I need a break or have a childcare emergency. The reality for many families, however, is that this informal support system does not always exist. Kendra’s and Julie’s stories are both examples of the way Bridges of Hope helps bridge the gap for those parents who may not have many (or any) healthy, supportive adults in their lives to help care for their children in times of need or stress. Crisis Nursery and Respite Services help provide this critical relief for parents who are working hard to raise their children and who need just a little additional support to be successful.

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Take Action:
>>Learn more about becoming a Foster Parent (or contact your local county
for more information).
>>Learn more about adoption in Minnesota through MN Waiting Children.
>>Learn more about the importance of healthy, early-childhood attachment.

Common Goods Treasures Go Global

Contributions by Claire Erholtz, Common Goods Summer Retail Staff; and Jim Nagy, Common Goods Volunteer

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Last summer, several items with origins in the Brainerd Lakes Area made their way across the Atlantic. A group from Timberwood Church took a mission trip to Skoczow, Poland. Claire Erholtz, a summer staff at Common Goods, and Jim Nagy, a Common Goods volunteer, were both part of the team that went to teach English at a summer camp for Polish youth.

One part of the team’s prep work was to plan several different Theme Nights–including costumes and games to encourage the Polish youth to use their English skills outside of a classroom setting. The themes ranged from Cowboy to Hawaiian, and they required some creativity and quite a few supplies.

Claire, however, knew the perfect place to shop–and at Common Goods, she found plenty of gear for the whole team, including cowboy hats and even grass skirts–which helped their entire team really get into the spirit of the themes. Claire was glad the team didn’t have to “break the bank” to get outfitted for the trip.

Cowboy Theme Night in Poland

Jim also headed to Common Goods in search of costumes and props for the Theme Nights but found something extra while shopping: a Duluth Trading Co. duffel bag! Jim was thrilled to find such a sturdy bag for under $20. He and his wife Carol also found several like-new Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts for about the same prices as the duffel–quite a steal, in Jim’s mind.

Now fully outfitted, Jim and Claire–and the rest of the team–finished preparations for the trip, packing up their new treasures for the trip to eastern Europe. After coming home, Jim and Claire reported to the staff at Common Goods that the Theme Nights were regarded as a success by all; and moreover, that the entire mission trip was a success, touching the hearts and lives of many Polish youth. Bridges of Hope is pleased to have a small role in adding to the fun and creativity of their trip–and to hear about the sometimes unusual ways that the merchandise of Common Goods is going out into the world for the common good.

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Learn more about how shopping at Common Goods helps local families.