It’s Not About the Bunny, the Candy, and the Ham. Or is it?

Silhouettes of Three CrossesAs I prepare for the upcoming Easter holiday with my own family, I am reminded about the tearful phone call we received at Bridges of Hope from Nicole a couple of years ago. It was a just three days before Easter and she had made the difficult decision not to go visit her grandmother for the Easter holiday.

She explained that, because her work hours had been reduced lately, she just couldn’t afford the gas money to travel, and, on top of that, one of her little ones was ill. She told one of our workers that she was feeling sad & lonely and was upset that she couldn’t afford the fixings for an Easter dinner or Easter baskets for her children. Even though she knew that’s not really what the holiday is about, she was feeling a loss at not being able to provide for her children.

Because of our special relationship with churches, we decided to see if a local church might be able to connect with Nicole and sponsor her family for Easter. A couple of our workers made a list of the items needed to make this family’s Easter a little brighter. We sent an email to our church mailing list and, within 20 minutes, The Journey North responded and committed to take care of the whole list!

Nicole sent a heartfelt note of thanks just a week later and shared that it was the best holiday she had ever experienced with her children. She also called a week or so later and asked if we had any resources for her to obtain a bible. A Bible was put into her hands right away! So, even though we all know Easter is NOT about the bunny, the candy or the ham, I think God was at work in Nicole’s life to get her connected with Bridges and re-connected with her faith. Even if it started out being just about the bunny, the candy, and the ham!

It actually happens that way quite often. People reach out to Bridges of Hope with one concern, and, through His wisdom, something else comes to light. We are so thankful for The Journey North’s help with Nicole’s situation and we are thankful to them again this year at Easter time. At their Good Friday service, they will collect a special offering to support our work at Bridges so we can continue connecting families like Nicole’s to the resources that can help.

I wish you all a blessed Easter. He is Risen!

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New Collaboration with Salem WEST Begins April 1

Salem WEST

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You may have heard that Bridges of Hope is teaming up with Salem WEST to serve our clients better. As many of you know, Salem WEST is a ministry of Salem Lutheran Church in Deerwood, MN. They have been serving the community for nearly 20 years and have worked closely with Bridges of Hope for the past 11 years. Conversations have been taking place between their director Greg and myself for a couple of years now, and recently, those conversations culminated in a plan for action that will better serve our clients.

Effective April 1, 2013, Salem WEST will begin using a new intake and referral process. Clients wishing to access services from Salem WEST will now contact Bridges of Hope to complete an intake form that enables us to help them resolve the challenges they face.  Salem WEST will no longer directly accept requests & referrals, as they had in the past. The new process to request support is still very simple and convenient: those in need should contact Bridges directly at 218.825.7682 or toll-free at 888.750.7682.

Salem WEST is still extremely committed to their mission of accepting and distributing quality material goods for those in need. The only change is that Bridges of Hope will deliver the intake & screening process for Salem WEST. This will help ensure that clients are served in a well-rounded manner, with Bridges of Hope’s well-established multi-faceted approach to each situation. Someone may contact us for furniture, and through our intake process we may be able to identify other needs and direct the household to additional helpful resources.

If you work with clients who could benefit from the services of Salem WEST or Bridges of Hope, simply encourage them to call us at 218.825.7682 or 888.750.7682. As always, part of our referral process usually includes requesting a release of information to other agencies they are working with so we can talk with other professionals directly about the household’s situation. The better we can all communicate with each other, the better off the whole community will be. Please help us by spreading the word to your co-workers and your professional network.

To make a gift to support this important work, visit Bridges of Hope’s website and click “Donate Now” or mail a check to Bridges of Hope, PO Box 742, Brainerd, MN 56401. Your donation is 100% tax deductible and will help us change lives in the Lakes Area. Thank you for your partnership.

New Program Making a Big Difference for Teen Parents

The Teen Parent Outreach Program is new to Bridges of Hope in the past year. This program is a collaborative effort with Crow Wing County Community Services who approached us last year to help them expand this successful program and work alongside more teen parents (receiving cash assistance) to increase successful outcomes for them and their little ones.Pregnant belly

There are a number of challenges teen parents face. For example, they are more likely to give birth to low birth weight or premature babies, be involved in the child protection system, drop out of high school, and live in poverty. They are also less likely to seek out proper prenatal care, and to follow through with well child checks & immunizations for their children. Through this program, I am working with more than 20 teen parents and their children to minimize these challenges.

The primary goals we are working on with the mothers are:

  • Ensuring prenatal care is received.
  • Increasing birth weight.
  • Carrying to full term.
  • Preventing subsequent pregnancies.

Other goals include:

  • Keeping children safe by reducing child protection issues.
  • Empowering the teens to graduate high school and/or obtain their GED.
  • Making sure the children are up to date in immunizations and well child checks.
  • Increasing the strengths in parents and lowering risk factors.

Good news! Teens involved in this program graduated from high school a rate of 51% (the state average for teen moms is 30%), AND 84% of the teens who participated in the program were not on cash assistance one year later.

I have been honored to help expand such a wonderful program to reach more teens and offer more in-depth services. Emily and Megan’s stories are great examples of how this program is changing lives:

Emily’s Story:

Emily struggles with her mental health and originally came onto my caseload while she was pregnant and applying for disability. During our time working together, she was denied disability benefits. While I was concerned this would  discourage her, it did not. Instead, she made the choice to begin looking for work and obtained a part-time job at a local restaurant. During this time, she also attended her prenatal care appointments.

On November 19th, her son, Matthew was born full-term and weighing a healthy 7+ pounds. She stayed in great contact with her employer and went back to her job six weeks later. I assisted her in applying for daycare assistance and getting all the necessary paperwork filled out for Matthew.  Unfortunately, her daycare provider was not approved by the county. She is still in the process of trying to obtain childcare, but I have been impressed in the meantime by how resourceful she has been in finding a trustworthy person to care for her son while she is at work.

I have seen Emily change so much since the birth of Matthew. As I mentioned earlier she has some significant mental health struggles, and I had concerns about how she would adapt to less sleep and the demands of caring for a newborn. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised, and being a mom has helped give Emily a purpose and reason to get up in the morning. She seems happier and more determined to keep her job and provide for Matthew.

Megan’s Story:

Megan hasn’t been to the dentist for many years, if ever. Through our work together in the Teen Parent Outreach Program, it was a part of her case plan to go to the dentist. (She likes to say that I am forcing her to go, however, I’ve really only strongly encouraged it!) About five months ago, I sat with her at Starbucks, her favorite coffee shop, and we made dentist appointments for her and her two-year-old daughter, Eva. She was able to get Eva in without a problem, however, an adult on MA (Medical Assistance) is much harder to get in to the dentist. She ended up being able to make an appointment at the Central Lakes Community Dental Clinic and I committed to bringing her there for moral support (and because transportation is a huge barrier for this family).

The good news is that Megan finally went to the dentist! The bad news is she had 11 cavities and one tooth that needed to be pulled.

A couple of months later, Megan has gotten eight of those cavities filled and continues to go to her appointments. The neatest part of this story is that little Eva has already been to the dentist at age 2 and Megan is so proud that she is passing on better habits to her daughter. Eva brushes her teeth every night, and, of course in true 2-year-old fashion, wants to do it herself! I truly believe that Megan does not want Eva to go through what she is experiencing right now. It is exciting to see the impact this program is having across multiple generations.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges for families like Emily’s & Megan’s!

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