She is Clothed with Strength and Dignity…

Defeated…worn out…confused. These are some of the words that Cindy used to describe herself and her situation when I first met her. Cindy is a young mom with three small children: Luke, Isabelle, and Nicholas. When she first started working with me, she and her children were homeless and living in a shelter. Cindy was a victim of domestic abuse and made the choice to leave her relationship to make a better life for her and her children, but it wasn’t easy, and she faced many challenges along the way. Not only did Cindy lack stable housing, but her children were displaying some concerning behaviors. One of her sons was becoming more defiant, the other was often sad and reclusive, and her daughter struggled with outbursts and tantrums. To make matters worse, Cindy had many financial concerns due to limited financial resources. Thankfully, she was referred to Bridges of Hope at just the right time.

three-siblings1I worked with Cindy through the Parent Support Outreach Program for three months and met with her weekly to provide resources, guidance, and support. Though Cindy felt scared and overwhelmed, she continued to work hard to do everything she could to improve her situation. While participating in this program, Cindy was connected with county assistance, where she accessed childcare services, food support, and some financial assistance. She also attended financial counseling through Lutheran Social Service, which helped her prioritize her expenses and get a handle on her debt. She was already enrolled in classes at Central Lakes College, and she was able to reduce her course load to something more manageable. I was able to help Cindy connect with in-home counseling services to help her children work through the trauma and life changes they had experienced in such a short time, and she was eager to make the first appointment. Cindy’s strength and perseverance paid off. She found housing, and Bridges of Hope was able to assist her with the deposit she needed to move in. Cindy was also connected with Salem WEST to provide her with furniture and household items for her new home, and Cindy was thrilled!

Cindy is an amazing woman who has faced many significant challenges, but with the right supports and resources and a whole lot of resilience and determination, Cindy made huge changes for herself and her children. Her entire face lights up when she talks about her home, and I’ve seen more smiles on the faces of her kids since they’ve had a place to call their own.

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Help Bridges of Hope continue to be able to be there for other families like Cindy’s this year: make a donation today!

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What You Might Not Know About the Cold Weather Rule

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As we experience God’s blessings during this fall season, we think about colorful leaves,apple cider, a trip to the pumpkin patch, and other fun outdoor festivities. None of us really wants to think about what is right around the corner…winter (ugh!).

Some of us rake our leaves & make room in the garage for the car to be parked. Others put plastic on windows and winterize the air conditioning unit. Some people look forward to winter for the snowy fun it brings, but some of our neighbors feel anxious about the toll that higher heating bills will take on their family’s finances.

You may be thinking, “They’ll be okay, we have a Cold Weather Rulethey can’t be shut off; it’s the middle of winter.” And, you’re right, we do have a Cold Weather Rule. However, there are some common misconceptions about exactly how it works.

Actually, “THEY” (your utility company) CAN SHUT YOUR HEAT OFF.

Thankfully, Centerpoint Energy recently published a nice summary about the Cold Weather Rule. Click here to learn more.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to rely on the Cold Weather Rule, please read through the link above carefully and follow the steps outlined. Here is a brief summary to avoid being shut off this winter:

  1. The Cold Weather Rule applies from October 15 through April 15.
  2. You MUST contact your utility provider and ask to set up a payment plan under the Cold Weather Rule.
  3. Keep up with your payment plan. You can be shut off if you miss a payment or make a payment less than the agreed amount.
  4. Take it seriously if you receive a past due notice from your heating utility provider.

If you are experiencing financial hardship, here are some budgeting tips that can help:

  1. Keeping a roof over your head needs to be a priority for your budget.
  2. Check with your utility provider to see if you can get onto a budget plan all year round.
  3. Utilize resources like Ruby’s Pantry or your local food shelf to free up some of your food budget, which in turn can be used for heating expenses.
  4. Look into whether or not Energy Assistance through Lutheran Social Service or HeatShare through The Salvation Army is an option for your household.

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If you or someone you know needs assistance with accessing resources for heating costs, please call Bridges of Hope at 218-825-7682.

If you are interested in making a donation to help Bridges of Hope to assist families in need, please click here or mail your gift to PO Box 742, Brainerd, MN 56401.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

 

 

The Fall Season at Common Goods

DSC02106Last week was the official start of fall. To most of us that means purging closets, rotating seasonal attire and trying to prepare for what Mother Nature is about to bring us in the upcoming months (don’t worry, I won’t talk about that white fluffy stuff just yet). For those of us at Common Goods, it brings other changes–such as the types of donations we are looking for.

Just like you, we are in the process of rotating our seasonal attire, and stocking the floor with fall/winter clothing and accessories. However, in order to do that, we need seasonally appropriate clothing & accessories donated from YOU, our amazing supporters! I know when my wife goes through her clothes this time of year, it is usually the time when she gets rid of the summer things she didn’t wear. I challenge you to also go through your fall/winter clothes right now and ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Did I wear this last year?
  • If yes, ask yourself, will I wear it this year? (if your answer is yes, keep it)
  • If no to either the first or second question, ask yourself, is it still in great shape?
  • If your answer is yes, then donate it to Common Goods!

A few of our specific needs this year are fall and winter attire, including sweaters, jackets and boots.bed

One type of item that we always welcome, no matter the time of year, is good quality furniture. High-end furniture pieces are the most sought-after items at Common Goods. Who doesn’t love finding a unique piece of quality furniture at a fraction of the cost that ALSO allows Bridges of Hope to serve even more families in the Lakes Area! By donating or purchasing these amazing pieces of furniture at Common Goods, YOU play a vital role in the success of Bridges of Hope and the programs that it offers. The items that our customers ask about the most are large, solid wood pieces such as hutches, armoires, complete dining sets, and beds/bed frames like the one pictured here.

Our staff will be more than happy to work to accommodate a local furniture pickup for your items. If you have items that you are willing to donate, please call Common Goods at 218-824-0923 or email nate@commongoodsmn.org to start the process.

Don’t forget to check out our donation guidelines–thank you for your support!