Written by Jenny Holmes & Kassie Heisserer
On the heels of announcing a new community collaborative project, Bridges of Hope has announced the addition of two new staff to help support this endeavor: Tom Gonzalez and Amy M. Wyant have been named Project Coordinators to support the Self-Healing Communities Project and will begin their positions in August 2018.
Gonzalez joins Bridges of Hope from Pointway Church in Baxter and holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry and Church Leadership from Crown College. Gonzalez is currently working on his Doctorate, studying Adverse Childhood Experiences and their effects on pastors’ resiliency in ministry. Tom has 20 years experience working in churches counseling individuals, and has been an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Interface presenter and trainer for the last two years. “I feel like everything in my life has pointed to this moment,” Gonzalez said of his new position at Bridges of Hope, adding he is excited to begin work on this project.
Wyant joins Bridges of Hope from the International Schools Group Dammam in Saudi Arabia and holds a Master’s degree in Education from the College of St. Scholastica. Amy has 29 years experience working in community capacity building and education. She is ready to begin work on this project, stating, “we can improve generational health and equity by intentionally expanding, linking and leveraging the efforts of the whole community. The goal is to build right-fit solutions around available and sustainable resources in solving problems rather than treating symptoms.”
In June, Bridges of Hope announced the start of – as well as its involvement with – the Self-Healing Communities Project. At the request of Crow Wing County Community Services last fall, Bridges of Hope has agreed to spearhead the project in Crow Wing County and will be working with many area nonprofits, businesses, churches, local government, and others to implement a self-healing community—beginning with grassroots work in individual neighborhoods.
The Self-Healing Communities Model is designed to build a community’s capacity to improve outcomes for health and social issues by reducing and preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACES). By promoting community and culture change, Self-Healing Communities can help make dramatic reductions in youth and family problems; including suicide, juvenile offenses, and dropout rates; and can develop strong networks that promote greater collaboration across the community.
“We are honored to be part of this collaboration,” said Bridges of Hope Executive Director Kassie Heisserer. “The Self-Healing Communities work aligns with our mission and vision at Bridges of Hope, and having Tom and Amy on board to lead this project gives us even more momentum and opportunity for success.”
Heisserer anticipates the implementation of the Self-Healing Communities Model will take 24-36 months and hopes to see outcomes in 3-5 years; fundraising for the first several years of the project has been underway since January 2018. The initial seed funders for this project include the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, Crow Wing County Community Services, Crow Wing Power Community Trust, St. Joseph’s Essentia Health Foundation, and United Way of Crow Wing and Cass Counties. Together these agencies have already committed over $100,000 to the project!
Since 2002, Bridges of Hope has served over 26,000 households in the Lakes Area. Program services include Childcare Services, Family Support Services, Mentoring Services, Resource Connection Services, and the new Self-Healing Communities Project. Bridges of Hope’s goals are to prevent child abuse and neglect and to promote stronger, healthier families.
For more information or if you are in need of assistance, call Bridges of Hope at (218) 825-7682.