Beat the Heat!

Whether you have air conditioning or not, it can be hard to keep cool during the hot summer months that we all LOVE here in Minnesota! RKK_SAHotWeatherLogo

I try VERY hard not to complain, since we get so few months to enjoy warmth outdoors, but some days (and nights!) the heat and humidity can be almost unbearable.

Maybe you have central air throughout your house, or maybe you don’t have any at all. Maybe you have an air conditioner but want to try use it as little as possible to save on energy costs (I fall into this category), or maybe you have a window unit that only cools certain parts of your home (I also fall into this category).

No matter what your situation, did you know there are ways to beat the heat without even having to turn on the air conditioner?

It’s true! You can simply google “how to stay cool without an air conditioner,” and you’ll find many different lists and tips–some that I had heard of, and others not. Below I’ve compiled a list for you based on the tips that I found the most helpful (and ones that I am most likely to, or already use):

For right now:

1. Close windows & blinds during the day (keeps the sun from causing the temp to creep up inside your home).

2. Open windows at night (if you have a temperature gauge in your house & outside, monitor the temps and as soon as it gets cooler outside than it is inside your house–open up those windows! (but don’t forget about #1!)

3. Get air moving. By putting fans in windows, you can create much needed air movement as well as push some of the warm air back outside. You can even create a homemade “air-conditioner” by putting a pan filled with ice in front of a box fan.

4. Dress down. Wear light weight, light colored, loose fitting clothing.

5. Take a cold/cool shower. This is especially helpful to cool you down before going to bed at night.

6. Start grilling.  Using your oven or stove in the summer will make your house hotter.

7. Stay hydrated. Also avoid caffeine & alcoholic beverages that promote dehydration.

8. Go to a public place. When you really get desperate and need a break from the heat and/or humidity (and have transportation), go to a local business, coffee shop, or library that has air conditioning.

For later:

1. Plant trees in strategic locations to provide shade for your home. Specifically in areas where the sun shines in during the hottest part of the day (while this takes away from some natural light, it also makes a significant impact on the temperature of your home).

2. Install awnings.

3. Install attic insulation. This helps keep cool air from escaping your home.

ice1For the complete lists I found for how to stay cool without AC, visit the following articles:

Make sure to also be aware of signs of heat exhaustion & heat stroke in yourself, children, & pets. Click here for signs to look for in your pets. Let’s enjoy the summer heat by staying cool!

We want to hear your ideas! Comment below or on our Facebook post and include tips you have to beat the heat!

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Common Goods Now Open in Crosslake!

It’s been quite exciting and busy around here at Bridges of Hope!  In case you haven’t heard, we are officially open for business at our new Common Goods location in Crosslake! We have amazing staff who are working hard to get the space fully up & running (we were able to get into the space just yesterday). We took our first donation (also yesterday), and I literally JUST received a call from our Retail Manager, Nate, stating we’ve made our first sale TODAY!FrontofStorewithtempbanner

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As you can see in the picture, there’s still a lot of work to be done (painting among other things), so bear with us as we continue to transform the space into a unique, trendy thrift store. We are thrilled to be able to offer good quality items to the Crosslake area AND we are proud to say– all proceeds stay local and help fund the unique programming at Bridges of Hope!
CommonGoodsSupportsBoHHere are the details:

  • Store Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm & Sunday 12pm-5pm
  • Physical Address: 35562 Co Rd 66, Crosslake, MN
  • Phone #: 218-692-7682 (phones should be up & running by tomorrow)

So come on in, excuse the organized chaos, shop, and chat with one of our staff. We would love to share more with you about how donating, shopping & volunteering at Common Goods makes a difference in this community.

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For more information on our donation guidelines & other general information; check out our recent blog post: Summer Donations at Common Goods and visit our website.

(And stay tuned–we’ll be sure to share more about our progress on our Facebook page!)

 

 

Samantha’s Moment

Samantha and Matthew have three children (Alex, Tanner, & Asher). They have interacted with Bridges of Hope on a few different occasions over the past 7 years. I recently sat down with Samantha to chat with her about her experiences and the difference that Bridges of Hope has made in her life.

Q: What was life like “before Bridges?”

A: Well, Matthew works full time and is a student full-time, so sometimes I feel like a single mom. He helps when he can, and we are lucky to live somewhere where there are extra hands to help out when he can’t. It all started when I was diagnosed with cancer and lost my job. I was uninsured at the time and we racked up a lot of medical debt. Matthew’s wages began to be garnished and we eventually lost our home. We ended up homeless—we were couch surfing between friends and family. Through this all my kids had a “schedule,” but I knew in my heart the instability was not good for them.

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Alex & Asher

In January we ended up at New Pathways. That was when I hit rock bottom and was reported to Child Protective Services. At first I was upset, but now I realize that there is a stigma about Child Protection. Just because you are reported, does not mean you are a bad parent; it just means someone is concerned for your kids. I was reported but a case was not opened, and that is how I was referred to the Parent Support Outreach Program at Bridges of Hope. Jennifer [Outreach Worker at Bridges of Hope] was great. She was open and honest with me about the referral to Child Protection, but helped me see it as a way to make necessary changes in my life. After that program was finished, I was referred to the Side by Side program and have been participating in that since July of this year.

Q: What steps did Bridges of Hope take with you to address the concerns you had?

A: Jennifer, and now the Mentors and other women in the Side by Side Program were constantly checking in and giving me resources. Stress was a big problem for me; I felt like a single mom most of the time. Jennifer let me know it was okay to feel what I was feeling and gave me skills to deal with my stress. I was connected with Respite care, which gives us a break every month—that has been HUGE!

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Samantha and her kids

Q: What is different now?

A: STABILITY! And I get out of the house! The other women participating in Side by Side have been amazing. They have been there, just like me, and I don’t feel that “shame on me” that I have felt other times in my life. They, along with my Mentors, help me see that the best I can do is good enough, but they also challenge me to be better. Now Matthew and I both have full-time jobs and we are planning on buying a house. (No, not tomorrow–its part of our five-year plan!) Our kids are happier and A LOT less stressed, and so am I. They are growing and back on track developmentally. My daughter had been behind on reading and now is reading 4 grades above where she should be.

Q: What if Bridges of Hope didn’t exist?

A: We’d have failed. Our kids would have been taken. There’s no doubt that I could not have kept it together without the support that Bridges gave me. My life is more balanced—I have learned to focus on myself so I can then focus on my kids and be a good mom.

Q: What are the first words that come to mind when you think of Bridges of Hope?

A: Supportive, Positive, Uplifting, and Genuine. Everyone I have ever talked to at Bridges of Hope has been genuine. No one has ever talked down to me or made me feel ashamed. They have always focused on the positive strengths that I have and used them to help me see the things I needed to work on.

Thank you Samantha, for your willingness to share, for your courage to make amazing changes in your life, and for allowing us to be a part of your story. We are proud of you!

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Will YOU give the Power 2 HOPE to a family this year? A gift of any size makes a difference for families in the Lakes Area every day. Make a donation today!

 

Irene’s Moment

“Crazy.” –Irene said with a little chuckle. That’s how she described her life before Bridges of Hope. Irene is able to see the joy in her life now, but that was not the case before joining the Side by Side Program at Bridges.

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Irene

A few years ago, Irene was recovering from some family circumstances that had thrown her into deep postpartum depression. She had a very difficult pregnancy, and shortly after her daughter (Mackenzie) was delivered, her fiancé was deployed. Irene was weak from the pregnancy and had very little support.

As often happens during challenging situations, people in Irene’s life shared words of advice and encouragement. Unfortunately, no one was actually there to help her when she was up all night with a new baby which often led to her other children being late to school the next day.

Irene struggled to keep up with the day to day. Not only was getting her children to school on time more than she could manage, she also struggled with the daily tasks of keeping their (at that time) very small apartment in order. Irene pointed to the size of the room we were sitting in and said—“It [our apartment] was probably not much bigger than this room.”

Even after her fiance came home, things continued to be tough. Not only was Irene still wrestling with depression, but now they began to have relationship issues. As great as it was to have him back–they had been living separate lives for over a year. These struggles went on for years–eventually Irene’s mental health issues, taking care of her home, and parenting her kids seemed like too much. And it was. The school pointed out some concerns to Irene and that was when she knew something needed to change. Thankfully, Irene was connected with a counselor at Northern Pines Mental Health Center and was referred to Bridges of Hope’s Side by Side Mentoring Program last year.

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Mackenzie (Age 4)

Bridges helped Irene gain focus through goal setting with her case manager and mentors. She addressed her mental health issues (depression, PTSD, and anxiety) and learned the skills necessary to cope with them. This has made a tremendous difference for Irene and has allowed her to work on her relationship, parenting, and other life skills.

Irene has since enrolled in school at Central Lakes College and was recently invited to join the honors program. She is hopeful that she will be accepted.

Everyone I’ve met through Bridges has helped me gain confidence to take the step and get back into school. I am now pursuing a business management degree and have dreams of owning two different businesses.

The mentors and other women in the program made a big difference in my life. They would text me just to check in and we would meet as often as we could. They have given me the confidence I need and have told me my dreams and goals are attainable. I wouldn’t be where I am at now without Bridges. It was the interactions with the mentors and case manager that kept me focused, reminded me of my goals, and built me up when others were tearing me down. I finally feel I’m on the right path—because of the support and encouragement from Bridges things are getting better– it just feels like it’s all clicking.

As Irene made these final statements…I couldn’t help but notice the twinkle of hope in her eye. Hope truly makes all the difference in the world.

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You can make a gift that will multiply hope for Lakes Area families this holiday season. Please help us reach our $80,000 fall campaign goal to make more stories like Irene’s possible:

  • Make a donation today!
  • All donations are 100% tax-deductible and go directly to serving the Lakes Area.
  • Learn more about our programs.

 

 

Common Goods–5 Years and 5 Ways to Say Thanks!

It’s hard to believe Common Goods has been supporting the work of Bridges of Hope for five years! So much has happened, from the initial idea of opening a store to benefit Bridges, to celebrating Common Goods’ 5th Anniversary this month.

The idea for a opening a store that would provide a portion of the funding needed for our programs was around before I was. It was an idea that, like everything we do here at Bridges, was given a lot of patient thought, thorough research, prayer, and careful planning.

I was lucky enough to participate in choosing the name and logo for the store. There were a lot of unique names in the running, however, once Common Goods–for the Common Good was introduced, it was an easy decision. The name fit so well, and before we knew it, the store was opening its doors for the first time back in 2009.

All of us at Bridges of Hope and Common Goods would like to take a moment to thank the original funders that made opening Common Goods possible:

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Volunteers are also a key part of our success. Since the start of Common Goods, our volunteers have donated more than 6,054 hours of time –and that is just what’s been logged! We know that doesn’t include absolutely everyone who has given their time!

Your shopping over the past five years has made a difference in the lives of Lakes Area families. The profits from Common Goods has allowed more than 2,000 households to be served at Bridges of Hope! Wow!

So, it’s time to celebrate! Come on in, check out our new look, and take advantage of the great deals Common Goods is offering all month long to thank YOU for your loyal support.

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AND, don’t forget to join us for the customer appreciation lunch on Saturday, September 13th, TOMORROW from 11-2 (hot dogs & pop will be available for free).

A Fairy Tale Ending

Over the past two and a half years, I have had the privilege to work with 44 teen parents through our Teen Parent Outreach Program at Bridges of Hope. As the program comes to an end, I am saddened to not continue to work with such wonderful people; however, I am so grateful that our amazing community partner, Crow Wing County Community Services, will continue their great work with teen parents in our community. I’d like to share with you a story written by my counterpart and “good witch”–you’ll understand after reading the story (Kaylo Brooks, MFIP Outreach Worker at Crow Wing County). This story was shared at a graduation celebration for one of our teen dads, James, and is used with his permission:

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James & His Girlfriend Catherine

Once upon a time a long, long time ago (well, okay, 8 months ago) in a village far far away (well, actually just in Brainerd) there lived a boy who had the magical superpowers of, um, playing video games. This boy was really skilled at “gaming” and could do it day in and day out, even in the nighttime! This boy was very bright, well-mannered, had a very kind heart, and was adored by all who knew him. This boy had a beautiful baby with fiery red hair and eyes like the ocean who was the center of his universe and he of hers. When you saw them together you knew that theirs was a bond that would forever remain. He also had a spectacular girlfriend who cheered him on and gave him courage and encouragement and knew all along in her heart that his potential was limitless.

But alas, as always in stories such as this, there comes along a witch–or in this case, three. They wrote a book of spells (also known as a Social Service Case Plan) which encouraged the boy to go to school and look for work and do good in the world. The boy, overcome by the persuasive witches, decided to follow the path the witches laid out in front of him. He took one step down the path, and then another, and another. The path was curvy, bumpy and often uphill, but before long the boy was sprinting down the path–fiery haired baby in one hand and holding his girlfriend’s hand in the other.

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James & His Three “Witches”

Despite their broomsticks and cauldrons, even the witches couldn’t keep up with the boy! He graduated high school months earlier than the school said was possible, he earned awards at school for perfect attendance, and he was the Area Education Center Student of the Month in May. He missed one day–and one day only–when the blizzard wizard created a snow storm so deep that even the good witch, Kaylo, could not keep her broomstick on the road and therefore could not get the boy to school. He was loved by teachers and staff alike. One teacher told the witches that in all her years of teaching she has never seen a boy with such tenacity, perseverance, or work ethic. She said that above all that he is one of the nicest kids she has ever worked with, and with tears in her eyes, she said she was so very proud of him.

The path also brought the boy to a job at Target where he sometimes walks eight miles round trip to keep his job. (Yes, really!!) And most importantly, on this path, he has committed to his daughter by attending weekly classes at TCC for parenting skills: not because he isn’t good dad, but because he is willing to do whatever it takes to be a great dad.

And so here we are today, at the end of the boy’s path but certainly not the end of his journey. And without any hocus pocus, magic wands or fire breathing dragons, the boy and hero of our story, right before our eyes, has turned into a man.  

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What an amazing honor it has been to be a small part of Cat & James (and many others’) paths!

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Get Involved:

  • Learn more about our programs and services.
  • Financially support our work with children & families in the Lakes Area.
  • Refer someone needing assistance to call Bridges of Hope (218.825.7682).

One step forward…and another step back.

In this job we celebrate a lot of successes–both small and large–with the families we work with. However, the reality in life (for our clients and ourselves) is that sometimes, with each step forward, we are forced to take one or two steps back.

Brick Wall with Woman on GroundIt can be very frustrating for the teens I work with through our Teen Parent Outreach Program at Bridges of Hope: when they are trying to make a better life for themselves and their children, at times it seems that they run into wall after wall (or in social work jargon, “barrier after barrier”) that just stops them dead in their tracks. Luckily, more often than not, the teens I work with are very resilient and keep trying to push forward despite the difficulties. For example:

Erin is 18 and has a son, Derek, who is 11 months old. When I first met Erin, she was going to high school, was on track to graduate, and was planning on starting college in the spring (one step forward), but there was no room for her to start until the fall (one step back). At that time she was living with her dad and brother, and she found out she was going to get into housing of her own (step forward). Two weeks before she was set to move in, she found out that the previous tenant would not be moving after all (step back). Shortly after that, her family was forced to vacate the apartment where they were living, and her dad and brother moved out of town, leaving Erin alone with Derek (step back). Thankfully Erin was able to live with a friend and found a job (step forward). She began to receive some child support, and with her job, she was able to stop receiving county cash assistance (step forward). Then, her hours at work were cut and the child support stopped too (step back). Erin decided to look for more work (step forward). She is limited to where she can search because she does not have a driver’s license or a vehicle (step back). She was able to obtain a bike and a carrier for Derek (step forward). Shortly after obtaining her bike, the wheel on the carrier popped and she does not have the money to fix it (step back).

And on and on it goes for so many of the families we work with–sadly, this is the day-to-day reality for many living in our community. I see it as my job to help walk alongside and celebrate the successes, as well as provide encouragement during those (sometimes difficult to swallow) steps back.

Happily, Erin is once again on the “step forward” track: she recently obtained housing of her own, is still looking for a second job, and she continues to push forward to provide for Derek. And no matter what, I’ll be there to support her in in her journey.