Thanks to You…

We are having another record-breaking year here at Bridges of Hope. So far this year, we have been able to serve 2,662 households (and counting!), as well as a staggering 17,944 households since our founding in 2002!

And all of that is because of you: it’s the donors that truly make the difference at Bridges. This past week I asked our staff to articulate specifically what your support has enabled us to do. Here’s what they said:

Thanks to you, this year…

  • Alex was able to help someone who is going through a complete life change have at least one less stressor in their life.
  • Dar was able to provide parenting support such as Love & Logic and parent coaching for the high-risk families she works with in their homes.
  • Erica was able to stay up-to-date on the best practices that enable her to visit families in their homes and teach them the skills necessary for them to be able to live a healthier, more fulfilling life.
  • Jacklin was able to help a 21-year-old veteran resettle in Minnesota after a messy divorce: because Bridges of Hope could pay for new tabs on her car, she was able to continue driving legally while she works on getting her life resettled.
  • Janelle was able to support and educate teen parents–as well as work with over 2,800 households in the last five years–and is thankful for the impact they have had on her.
  • Michele was able to ensure that Bridges of Hope can focus its programs on family preservation and keeping families strong.
  • Meghann was able to help the victims of house fires with the resources and assistance to meet both their immediate needs (food, clothing, and temporary shelter) and their longer-term  needs (new housing and furnishings).
  • Bridges of Hope has been able to create amazing “Moments” like Dustyne’s story. You can even see a brief, personal thank-you from Dustyne herself here:

Clearly this is just a tiny snapshot of the HUGE impact we have been able to have in our community, thanks to you. We are so grateful for your support, because it enables us to impact multiple generations: by improving the lives of parents we know we’re improving the lives of children, too.

We are so thankful that all year long, YOU, our donors, have been entrusting your gifts with us; because you understand the importance of Bridges being able to be flexible, creative, and able to respond to every household’s situation uniquely.

Online fundraising for Bridges of Hope Fall Campaign - 60K in 60 DaysHere at Bridges of Hope, we are ALL thankful that we have such supportive donors who understand that the need is great, and because of that, you have again responded this fall with gifts to support this work. We thank YOU for helping US build Bridges!

From all of us at Bridges of Hope, thank you for your partnership, and Happy Thanksgiving.


Great Partnerships, Guaranteed

Amazing things are happening at Bridges of Hope, all because of you.

BOH_BBCampaign_36kBecause of you, today (one week before Thanksgiving), our Fall Fundraising Campaign (60K in 60 Days) has reached $36,000 of our $60,000 goal, just 21 days into the campaign–that is simply incredible. That translates into help and hope for 240 more families this year. Thank you.

Common Goods - Hip ThriftBecause of you, Common Goods has had a record-breaking number of shoppers (and sales) in the past 30 days–which means even more help and hope for families in our community! Thank you for both donating such high-quality items and for coming in and shopping for those amazing items.

Because of you, we are SO CLOSE to meeting the challenge of providing Thanksgiving Meals for 368 households this year–100 more than any year in the past! (Approximately 50 more sponsors are needed for adult households without children. Click here to learn more.) Thank you.

Because of you, Bridges of Hope is able to partner with our local landlords, utility companies, local businesses, auto repairs, appliance stores, local agencies, area churches, and others to provide critical shelter and basic needs assistance to families in our community, and we are so thankful to you for your willingness to partner with Bridges of Hope. Since our inception, Bridges of Hope has worked with well over 100 different partners/vendors in Crow Wing County and the surrounding communities. Thank you. 

Our amazing local partnerships are something I’d like to tell you a little more about:

Bridges of Hope is first and foremost a resource and referral agency–our role is to bridge the gap between those in need in our community and the community assets that can help them. But of course there are times when all of the local resources have been exhausted, or nothing exists to help with a particular situation, or there is some other reasonable explanation as to why we are unable to connect them to local resources, but the family’s situation still warrants helping.

In those times (depending on whether we have funding), Bridges is able to assist financially, thanks to our church-supported community benevolence funds (Spirit of Kindness Fund) and the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation-supported fund, Spirit of Hope. Annually, this is still a very small percentage of the overall services we provide (in 2012, it was ~160 of 2,570 households), but in those situations it still matters a LOT, and that is when our local partnerships are so important and so helpful.

Guarantee of Payment Letter ExampleEven if we’re able to make a decision to assist a family, it can still take up to 3 weeks to draw up the appropriate paperwork, have it approved by a supervisor, sent to our accountant, have a check issued, and then have the payment actually received by whatever business we’re working with.

That is why we are so grateful for the acceptance of our “Guarantee of Payment” letter, which is exactly what it sound like–the business/vendor trusts our word that we are going to pay on the client’s behalf, and they accept the letter as “payment” while they wait for our check to arrive.

This removes a HUGE amount of stress from the family we’re working with, as well as enables us to work through the needed internal controls practices that are required of us. We use this process in situations such as electric shut offs, eviction notices, car repairs, housing repairs, rent, and deposits, among many other unique situations.

An example of how this works would be in a situation where Bridges of Hope is working with a homeless family of five with an annual income of $34,700. We work with them to find affordable housing, which is recommended to be about 30% of their income. They find an available place for $775/month that meets this guideline, but in order to move in, their new rental requires first month’s rent and a damage deposit, as well as a utility deposit to hook up their electricity and heat–over $1,800 for a family that makes just $2,900 per month. In addition, their income of $34,700 was calculated based on one of the parents’ new jobs, where they have only received one paycheck so far–but the family cannot move in until all the deposits have been paid.

This is a common scenario for families in our community, but thanks to the acceptance of our “Guarantee of Payment” letter by our amazing partners, we are able to assist the family in getting into their affordable housing without further delays. We know that stable, safe, and affordable housing is the backbone of a successful, productive community member–and this is just one simple way that several different parts of our community pull together to help some of our members in need.

So because of you, Bridges is able to continue fulfilling our mission to bridge the gaps, support & strengthen families, and send a message of hope. Thank you to all of our partners in the Lakes Area and beyond. Together we are making a difference in our “commUNITY.”

Thanksgiving Meals

pieHere are Bridges, we are again coordinating Thanksgiving meals for households in need during this holiday season. We anticipated receiving about 275 applications by this past Friday’s deadline.

We actually received over 360 applications and 208 kind-hearted sponsors have already stepped forward. Thank you!

If you haven’t already, please consider sponsoring a household for Thanksgiving. We are still in need of over 150 sponsors so these families do not go without a meal on Thanksgiving.

I partnered with a co-worker here in our office last year to sponsor a family. We shopped for, packed & delivered the usual fixings for a holiday meal. The family was so appreciative and the cute little gal who answered the door was especially excited about the fact that we brought two pies. “Now we can share one with our neighbors!” she said.

Wow! Isn’t that what it’s all about? Sharing the gifts we have with others.

If you can find the time to help out by sponsoring a household, we would really appreciate it. Please help us spread the word as well. We are looking for participation from individuals, families, church groups & co-workers. To be a sponsor, please contact Janelle in our office at or 218-825-7682.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

Tuesday 11/19/2013 update: Our final count of applications came to 370–nearly 100 more than any prior year. We now have 234 households sponsored (thank you!!), and we are in need of 136 additional sponsors. Click here for sponsorship details.

Thursday 11/21/2013 update: Thank you for your amazing response, Lakes Area! We now have just 50 households (all adult households without children) in need of sponsorship. It’s not too late to become a sponsor: call Janelle today at 218.825.7682 or click here for sponsorship details. And thank you so much.

Friday 11/22/2013 update: As of 10:15 AM, we have received sponsors for every single household–we are overwhelmed with gratitude! Thank you, and thank you again for meeting the increased need right alongside Bridges of Hope.

Brenda’s Moment

Brenda had been in an abusive relationship from the time when she was a teenager, and she was convinced that she could not support her children without her husband.

MuffinsShe had no self-esteem and no job skills: the only gift she felt she had was baking, and that was what enabled her, in her words, to “keep her sanity”–she confided that it gave her something to do to take her mind off of her “unhappy life.” Just in her mid-30s, Brenda certainly had her hands full with five children: Waylon (age 14), Twyla (age 12), Sissey (age 10), and twins Orley & Oscar (age 8). She was referred to work with me through our Intensive In-Home program, which is one of Bridges of Hope’s Family Support Services.

Brenda told me that the way she justified staying in the relationship was by knowing that Tom had never hit the children–only her. She reasoned that she could take it, as long as he did not hurt the children. But then one day Tom came home from work, extremely angry, and everyone knew to stay away from him. When Brenda put the dinner on the table, Tom threw it on the floor and raised his hand to hit her. Waylon grabbed Tom’s arm and said that he would not allow Tom to hurt his mom anymore. That night Waylon got a beating.

The next day the children did not come home on the bus after school, and a social worker came by the house and said that the children would not be returning home (they had been placed in foster care for their safety).

This was the turning point for Brenda. She knew she could not continue living this kind of life, so she left Tom and went to a local women’s shelter, where she stayed for a few months. During that time, the shelter staff helped her understand the nature of abuse and gave her the support she needed not to go back to the abusive situation.

That’s when Brenda was connected with Bridges of Hope. The goal of our work together was to help her with parenting and resources to get her on her feet and enable her kids to return. I was able to connect Brenda to Lutheran Social Service’s HOPE Housing program, and she was able to find income-based housing within about three months. I also connected her with the Workforce Center, and with their help, Brenda found a full-time-seasonal job at a nearby resort as a baker’s assistant–but by the end of the summer she had been promoted and hired year-round! We also got Brenda connected with a counselor for herself and her family at Northern Pines Mental Health Center.

Within about four months, Brenda and her children were able to be reunited, and she began implementing the Love and Logic parenting techniques that she had worked on with me during our in-home work together. The best part was that Brenda had worked so hard, had gained many skills along the way, and now felt confident that she would be able to raise her children on her own.

Today, Brenda feels that her life is finally her own, and she wants to “pay it forward,” aspiring to someday open her own business and help train women who do not have the skills (or who feel like they don’t have the skills) to make it on their own.


You Can “Pay it Forward,” Too

60K in 60 Days Kick-Off Event a Success

On Friday, November 1, about fifty brave souls gathered at the Franklin Arts Center parking lot for lunch at Prairie Bay’s Side Dish food truck. It was the kick-off event for Bridges of Hope’s fall fundraising campaign: “60K in 60 Days,” and Prairie Bay generously donated a full 25% of their sales to us during the event!

Side Dish Truck & Bridges of Hope

The Side Dish is Ready to Serve!

Lakeland News showed up to cover the event as well, which you can watch here:

There were many bowls of Prairie Bay’s famous Lobster Bisque ladled out; as well as many, many steaming cups of coffee ordered by those who came out both to support Bridges and to take advantage of the Side Dish’s last stop of the season.

The First Customers Put in their Orders at the Side Dish

The First Customers of the Day

Our Staff Are Ready to Greet You!

Our Staff Braving the Weather

The Line Gets Longer at the Side Dish

The Line Getting Longer

We are so thankful for the great show of support on a rather chilly, windy day! YOU helped make our Fall Fundraising Campaign kick-off successful!

Here are a few more ways you can help us build Bridges this fall: