Iris’ Moment

IrisIris was a widow living on her own, with her beloved dog Rosie as her constant companion. She was continually struggling to make ends meet on a fixed income, but she reached a breaking point when she received a disconnect notice on her electric last spring.

Iris’ adult son was able to help with her mortgage once in awhile; and Iris also had good friend, also a widow, with whom she would frequently car pool–but this bill was something that neither could help with.

By the time she called Bridges of Hope, Iris was 5 months behind and had accumulated a bill that had nearly reached $1,000. She had been receiving Energy Assistance through Lutheran Social Service over the winter and had been under the impression that it was taking care of her monthly bills, but in fact the assistance had run out in February, and it had only been covering a portion of her full bill amount each month. Iris had already sought out the Salvation Army for Heat Share assistance, and they were able to help with a small portion toward the total past-due bill. She was also working with her mortgage company to get her monthly mortgage payment lowered, so her entire expenses each month would be slightly more affordable.

After working with Iris over the phone, I was able to meet with Iris and look at her budget even more in-depth. Based on the information, I suggested she connect with Financial Counseling from LSS, who specializes in that kind of assistance. At that point, Iris pulled out two sheets of paper from her purse–she had already completed financial counseling with them and had her new budget right there for me to look at! Iris had still not heard back from her mortgage company about a lower payment, but she was expecting that once it was processed, her living situation would be sustainable in the future. We knew if that happened, and if we could help Iris get caught up on the electric bill, she should be able to afford her life going forward.

About a week later, Iris stopped into the Bridges of Hope office to let me know her mortgage payment had been cut in half–great news! I helped her start the process of finding resources to get her house weatherized before next winter, and I was able to let her know that Bridges would be helping her with her electric bill as well. She expressed her thanks, saying she couldn’t thank Bridges of Hope enough. Two weeks after that, we made a follow-up call with Iris to see how things were going. It happened to fall right on her 80th birthday, and she let us know that she was now caught up on all of her monthly bills and was even putting away a portion of money into savings every month. What a great turnaround for Iris and Rosie both!

If you or someone you know has fallen into hard times and could use some support bridging the gap back to stability, please call Bridges of Hope at 218.825.7682, or learn more about our services here.


Run for Hope – Moved to Paul Bunyan Trail

Hello friends! I want to give you a quick update about the Run for Hope – we are moving it to the PaPB trailTrailul Bunyan Trail.  This first ever Run for Hope is taking place on June 15th. Please register to join us!

This 5k is for people of all ability levels. A few of our staff are brand new to the “running scene” and are using Couch to 5k type apps to get ready for June 15th. If we can do it, YOU can too!

We plan to run a little, walk a little and even crawl if we have to. Join us!

For only $20 (for those 10 & up), you get a great looking t-shirt, the book Every Body Matters, and a water bottle. Children under 10 are welcome to walk or run with a registered adult and there is no registration fee.

Click here to register. We hope to see you on June 15th at the Paul Bunyan Trail!

Tom & Kelly’s Moment

Tom and Kelly were at their wits end. The couple had three children: an eleven-year-old (Kim) and 8-year-old twins (Simon & Cyril). Kim was a handful for both parents, and the twins were quickly following in their older sister’s footsteps. They sought help at the local county Mental Health services division one afternoon, and that’s when they were referred to one of our Family Support Services programs at Bridges of Hope. Both parents were very excited–and just a little apprehensive–about the program, which works one-on-one with families in their home over a brief, but very intensive, period of time. During the first couple of meetings with me, they shared how they felt embarrassed that their children were so out of control and expressed doubts about whether it might already be too too late for them to take back the control.

In particular, mornings were awful for the family, because Tom left for work early, leaving Kelly to get everyone up, fed, and out the door on time. There was a lot of fighting and crying, and a lot of stress and frustration for Kelly as she also attempted to get herself ready. Kelly was spending the ten-minute ride to school lecturing the kids amid tantrums and more squabbling. By the time she got to work (about 5 minutes late) every day, Kelly’s nerves were fried. In addition, she was doing all of the housework for the family; and in the evenings, homework time and bedtime were a continuation of the “nightmare.” Tom and Kelly had even stopped going out together as a family, because of their embarrassment over their kids’ behaviors.

Love and Logic LogoI was able to assure them they were not alone and that many parents struggle with these kinds of parenting challenges. I was already hosting Love and Logic classes for several families with children around the same ages, so I invited them to join the class. They had been to “Love and Logic “a few years back, but they admitted to never really using it much and were willing to give it a fresh try this time around. Over the next five weeks, they attended the weekly evening class, where the group watched a Love and Logic DVD and then each shared one technique that they planned to try at home with their children that week.

Kelly admitted the class felt like date night–the kids were with a babysitter and they could just enjoy some (peaceful!) time together. Tom really took the “one technique” implementation to heart right away, and the couple reported that the kids were really responding well to him. Kelly, a self-described “control freak,” admitted she had a harder time letting go of things and allowing the children to be responsible for their own mistakes (and the consequences). My role during some of the home visits would be to help both parents figure out how to “tweek” the Love and Logic techniques to meet their needs. We also set weekly goals for the family. Over time, life REALLY changed for Kelly–and for the family as a whole. The children each had their own alarm clocks and were responsible to get up and ready for school on their own: Kelly provided breakfast, and they did the rest. Bedtime routine was adjusted to ensure everyone was ready for the next morning: backpacks & shoes were by the door, clothes were picked out and ready to put on. Kelly too began to get up 10 minutes earlier than she used to to ensure that she was ready too, and 15 minutes before it is time to walk out the door, Kelly now sets a timer: when it goes off, everyone leaves–no matter his or her state of dress or readiness.

Since implementing Love and Logic in their home, the entire family has been transformed. Tom and Kelly are  excited to continue parenting their children, and when they go out as a family, the expectations are set before they leave. If anyone doesn’t follow the expectations, one of the parents takes the offender to the car while the others enjoy their time together. This family is truly enjoying each other now, and it is a great success-in-progress!


To learn more about Love and Logic parenting, click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with parenting, call Bridges of Hope at 218.825.7682.

Golf Tournament Goal to Raise $20,000

The Fred-Mark Namesakes

Fred Boos & Mark Ronnei – Tournament Founders

Spring is here; let’s talk GOLF!

Our thanks goes out to Grand View Lodge for choosing Bridges of Hope, for the 8th year in a row, to benefit from the Fred-Mark Charity Invitational on May 27th and 28th! Over the past 7 years, the tournament has raised more than $65,000 for our important work with families.

THANK YOU to all who have sponsored the event, golfed in it or been a part of planning this fun event!

This year, our goal is to raise $20,000 which will go a long way toward helping those in need like Steven & Laura, Lily & Mae, and Rachel. Stories like these are made possible every day at Bridges of Hope thanks to YOU and our generous tournament sponsors:sponsors

On May 27th, more than 200 golfers will have the opportunity to help us raise funds by:

  • participating in a Closest to the Pin competition,
  • making a donation in exchange for lunch, and
  • bidding on the Silent Auction at dinner (click here to check out a preview).

If YOU would like to contribute to the success of the event, click here to make a tax deductible gift.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges! Happy spring!

Churches Play a Key Role

cross2Last Tuesday we hosted our Annual Faith Leader Lunch and were so blessed to have more than 30 of our local faith leaders in attendance. Area Churches have played a critical role in the ongoing success of Bridges of Hope since our inception.

In 2012, local churches provided:

  • Our largest non-grant source of support ($46,963 in 2012).
  • Over $23,000 to be used as direct assistance to households through the Spirit of Kindness fund.
  • Referrals to Bridges: churches were the fourth-most-frequent referral source, after Crow Wing County, Lutheran Social Service and the Salvation Army.
  • Partnership support: including sponsorship, promotion, and organization for projects like the Thanksgiving Meal program.
  • Volunteer support: from Confirmation students, youth groups, and adults at Common Goods and more.
  • Prayer support– priceless!

Our Faith Leader Lunch is one of my favorite events of the year as it gives us the opportunity to thank our faith leaders for their support, share stories of the work we do together & remind all of us about how we can accomplish more together than any one organization on its own.

If you were not able to attend the meeting or would like to know more about how your church can join this partnership, here is some info:

  • Give what you can. Whether you are able to support the work of Bridges (so that we can continue to help families navigate area resources), the Spirit of Kindness fund, or both, your support is helpful. Thank you for giving.
  • Continue to refer households to Bridges of Hope. Bridges was created specifically to partner with and cross-connect all of our community resources and supports. Bridges of Hope can help reduce the frustration that many experience, being sent to one agency after another, just to be turned down at each stop. Our staff specialize in knowing about all of the area resources and how to access them.
  • Be clear that Bridges is a resource to help people navigate the “system,” but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily receive financial assistance.While we work really hard to help a household resolve their current situation or crisis (and often try to help them think creatively about how to do that), we have found that when there truly are no other resources to assist them, families most appreciate it when we are upfront and honest with them about that.
  • If you have referred a family to Bridges,and they tell you that “Bridges told me they can’t/won’t help,” feel free to call our office to learn more about the situation. Even if we don’t have a Release of Information from the family to give you all of the details, we can tell you more about our program processes and the kinds of things we typically suggest. Though it does occasionally happen that we “won’t help” (because the request is not appropriate or legitimate) or “can’t help” (because there are simply no resources in the community), annually this is a small number of households (in 2012 it was approximately 160 households out of 2,500).
  • Remember that Bridges of Hope offers many services to help families and individuals, so even when we may not have a financial solution for a family, we may be able to support them in other ways!
  • Invite us to come & speak to you or your group about how we can work together! Call Jana at 218-825-7682 or send an email to

I am so thankful to live in a community that works together to meet the needs of those who are struggling. God bless!

A Place at the Table

Hunger is a very real issue in our community. In fact, at Bridges of Hope, we hear from around 8 households per week who are worried about where their next meal will come from. Summer is just around the corner and many low-income families will struggle with providing food for their childreAPATTn while they are home for summer vacation. Please consider contacting one of our local food shelves to find out how you can help keep them stocked up during the busy summer months:

Brainerd Salvation Army Food Shelf: 218-824-1120

Cuyuna Food Shelf (Crosby): 218-534-9264

Lakes Area Food Shelf (Nisswa): 218-568-8474

Also, please consider attending an important event at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter tonight, May 13, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.:

The documentary, A Place at the Table, just released on March 1, will provide an opportunity for people to explore the economic, social and cultural implications of hunger for our nation, and move people to take steps toward making healthy and affordable food accessible to all.

Fifty million people in the U.S.—one in four children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America through the lens of three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.

Ultimately, A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides — as they have in the past — that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all.

You are invited to come, learn, discuss, pray and act! This event is open to people of all ages and to all members of the community.

For Jesus said, “I was hungry…and you gave me food.”

To help Bridges of Hope assist the 8 household who call every week about food-related needs, click here to donate now.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

Maggie’s Moment

Maggie is a 34-year-old single mother with a 9-year-old daughter named Yasmin. Maggie had been referred to one of Bridges of Hope’s Family Support Services programs, and I first met her at a local domestic violence shelter. Maggie wanted support during her transition from an abusive relationship to an independent, safe life for her and Yasmin.

Over three months of working together, Maggie and I met each week, and together we set several goals. The first was to find permanent housing so I connected Maggie to LSS HOPE Housing, and after three months of living at the shelter, she enrolled in a transitional housing program. This gave her the opportunity to live in temporary, affordable housing owned by LSS until she was able to locate permanent affordable, housing. It was a good in-between step for Maggie.

homeworkAnother goal set by Maggie was to address her daughter’s school performance; especially in the area of homework. With the challenges Yasmin and Maggie had been facing, Maggie was at a loss for how to help her daughter with school work. Maggie and I talked through several techniques and I encouraged her to try one at a time until they found something that worked. After about a month of trying new things, Maggie was happy to to tell me that Yasmin was keeping up with her homework and doing much better in school!

cookbook-color1Maggie also wanted to learn to be a better cook, as her ex-husband had done most of the cooking. That was a simple enough goal to work on together! We gave Maggie a couple of family-friendly cookbooks that had been donated to the organization and helped her enroll in a cooking classes through University of Minnesota Extension and she learned to prepare healthy meals on a modest budget.

Maggie started out this process clearly suffering from severe depression and anxiety, and often put herself down. As Maggie worked on each of these steps in the process, it was clear that her self-esteem, confidence and overall mental health was improving!

Maggie exited services a stronger person and recently shared, “when I first started working with Bridges of Hope, I thought things were a lot worse than they were. Working with you helped me see things in a different perspective.”

Please contact Bridges of Hope if you or someone you know is facing a challenging situation. We can be reached at (218)825-7682.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!