Liz’s Moment

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Liz is a 45 year-old with bright green eyes and an infectious personality whose dream was to move out of a group home and into her own place. Liz would call our office almost like clockwork once a month, requesting help with either gas, clothing, or furniture. Each month, we would kindly remind Liz that all of those needs were taken care of for her through living at the group home. Her disability made it difficult for Liz to fully understand why she didn’t need these items, and each time our staff would patiently explain the process she needed to follow first before calling us.

Then one afternoon late last fall Liz called again, and once again I expected to talk to her about why she didn’t need any gas, clothing or furniture yet, but this time, Liz had moving plans! We were thrilled for her. We were able to confirm the details with Liz’s mental health worker, and then things really started to take off. Because we all wanted this move to be successful for Liz, I talked to her about her new responsibilities; such as paying her rent on time, buying groceries for herself, learning new transportation resources, and other details about living on your own. Liz and her mental health worker came up with a list of furniture and household items Liz would need. After all her past requests, we were finally able to say “yes” to Liz!
Moving day arrived, and Liz moved out of the group home and into her own apartment. A few days later, Liz’s donated furniture and household furnishings were dropped off. A month later, my heart sank just a little when I received that familiar monthly call from Liz. I was expecting to hear the worst–that she had lost her rent money, or her furniture wasn’t working out, or something else. But once again, Liz surprised me. She was requesting help with a bus pass. Since Liz doesn’t drive, walking and the bus were her only forms of transportation–and now that we were in the dead of winter, it was just too cold out to walk.sidewalk-goodcondition

At our weekly staff meeting, we discussed the request as a team, and we were able to provide Liz with a bus pass. A couple of weeks later, I followed up with Liz, and she positively gushed about her new life on her own. She was volunteering in the community and had already lost weight from all the walking she was doing. She was so happy!

The next month came and…I never received the familiar call from Liz. And then the next month came, and still no call. When the calls stopped coming, we knew that Liz had made her dream come true.

 

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Is AmeriCorps VISTA Right for You?

AmericorpsVISTA50yrs2015Bridges of Hope is looking for a VISTA Member–a full-time volunteer who serves through AmeriCorps, to assist our organization with some very cool projects from August 2015-July 2016.

VISTA is often described as the “domestic version of the PeaceCorps,” and is a national service program that Bridges has successfully participated in over the course of several years of our organization’s history. The focus of VISTA is on reducing and eliminating poverty.

It can be a great opportunity for recent college grads looking to gain experience in the human services field, and it is also an opportunity for recent retirees looking for a way to give back to their community—as well as for many others in-between these two poles of life!

Here’s what Jacklin, a former AmeriCorps member–and current Bridges of Hope staff–had to say about her experience with VISTA:

After spending almost 2 years as an out-of-state AmeriCorps member, I was eventually placed in Deerwood, MN, where I finished up and entered the “real” world. Those years as a VISTA are what prepared me for where I am now, three years later. It not only gave me that on-the-job training that’s so vital, but it also taught me life skills that I needed. I learned how expensive and limited housing options can be, especially when choosing to do something as “crazy” as having a dog! I learned how to live on a very small budget and what things were absolutely needed and what I could live without. I learned what things were out there that I could ask for help with – and I learned how it felt to ask for help.

The experience allowed me to start realizing what priorities meant the most to me and that there were consequences to those choices. My AmeriCorps time put me in a position that I had never been in before. It’s because of those experiences that I feel I could better relate to the people I would eventually work with. It’s allowed me to pose the question, “what would I have done?” and I can draw on actual experience as I think about it.

Looking back, those were definitely some hard years that I’m still making up for (hello, credit card bill!), but I wouldn’t have changed or replaced them for anything. I got to travel to places that I would never have otherwise. I got to meet some of the greatest people, and I now spend my vacation time going back to see old co-workers. If you’re looking for a challenge with great rewards and a little life experience thrown in, then I would definitely recommend AmeriCorps VISTA!

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Do you know someone looking for this kind of life-changing experience, or might YOU be that person? Bridges of Hope is currently seeking an AmeriCorps VISTA Member to assist our organization with a threefold project over the course of one year (August 2015 – July 2016). This is a fantastic professional development opportunity to grow your resume, give back to your community, expand your network, and gain experience within the nonprofit/human services sector!

For more information and to apply, visit http://bit.ly/bohvista. We will be accepting applications through the end of May 2015.

**New: effective May 3, 2015, VISTA members are now permitted to hold part-time employment outside of their VISTA assignment. More information is available upon request.

Callie’s Moment

Callie is a mom of three kids: Damion, Alayna, and Alexa, and is in the process of divorcing from her husband of many years. Even though it was emotionally and financially difficult, sad womanshe was learning to manage living on one income and providing for her kids on her own. In the midst of this transition, she was let go from her job. Callie was devastated. She had done her best to fulfill her job requirements throughout this transition, but between changing schedules, caring for her kids who were struggling, and her own mental health struggles, it was just too much. Her employer, after offering as much grace as they could, had to make the difficult decision to let her go.

Callie’s job had provided her with a wage that had been enough to provide a fairly comfortable living. Callie knew immediately that she needed to find other employment (and began the search) but in the meantime, she had no idea what to do. Rent was due for the month and any savings she and her husband had was gone with the divorce. Callie had never been in this position before and was not aware of the resources that were available to her, and she quickly found out that she did not qualify for most resources because she was over their income guidelines (even though she didn’t currently have any income, many agencies have guidelines that look back a few months and include any income you have received in those prior months).

Fortunately, Callie connected with an area church that referred her to Bridges of Hope. Callie began working closely with a Resource Specialist regarding her situation. Callie explained the steps she had already taken to find a new job and expressed her concerns for the immediate future, as well as sharing her discouragement of being told ‘no.’ While working with Bridges, Callie was able to get an interview as well as a few good leads on some part-time work.

steppingoutinfaithAs Callie progressed towards getting closer to a new job, our staff prayerfully considered her request for help and came to the conclusion that this was a time that God was leading us to step out in faith, knowing that a job was just around the corner for Callie. Bridges of Hope was able to partner with an area church to come up with a majority of the rent, and Callie was able to pay the rest. Through her tears, Callie thanked staff for helping her when no one else could.

When a Bridges staff called Callie a couple weeks later to see how she was doing, she had already started working a part time job on the weekends and would start a full time job in the coming week.This story is a great example of how Bridges of Hope is able to be flexible because we do not have specific income guidelines, and because we have such amazing partnerships with our local churches. God is good!

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  • Do you know someone facing a difficult situation? Bridges of Hope can talk with them about what community resources they may be able to tap into. Call our office at 218.825.7682 to speak with one of our staff today.
  • We are able to do this kind of work because of our invaluable donors and supporters.Your gift is tax-deductible and will go to work right away helping those in need in our community. Make a gift today.

 

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.