Finding Creative Solutions to Help

At Bridges of Hope, we deal with a wide variety of situations, and we try to find not only appropriate but also creative solutions for families who sometimes are facing some unique situations.

One example of the ways we are sometimes able to be creative is Sandy’s story:

Sandy is a mother of two boys: Nathan (age 7) and Kyle (age 4).  Sandy was struggling to find productive activities and healthy outlets for the boys who both have serious mental health diagnoses. Sandy had been utilizing Respite Services once or twice a month, but she was wondering what she could do to provide an activity for the times when they were together as a family. That was when Sandy was connected with Bridges of Hope.

SandboxA staff member met with Sandy and then took the information back to the entire team. As staff pondered Sandy’s story and her concerns, slowly the idea to build a sandbox began to form. A sandbox would provide the boys an active outlet for their ADHD and other mental health issues. Bridges of Hope was able to utilize its Just For Kids fund to assist with purchasing wood, sand, and other materials needed to build the sandbox.

A few weeks later, when the Bridges staff followed up with Sandy, she reported that she had made building the sandbox into a family project, and it was already getting lots of use every day. Sandy said both boys loved the sandbox, and it was a real benefit to have something for the boys to do outside together.

Over the past ten years, we have encountered many different family situations. Some happen more commonly for families: cars break down, someone loses a job, a plan for daycare falls through, or there simply just isn’t enough money to pay all the bills. Others, like Sandy’s situation, have happened only once or twice: gophers chew through wiring, a toddler is sneaking out of the house at night, two boys need a healthy outlet for their extra energy. Whatever the situation, Bridges of Hope seeks to look at each individual family’s story as its own unique situation, and we tailor our services, suggestions and resources to best fit that family’s needs. Bridges was founded on this idea: to simply be the bridge between families and those with the resources to help families. That means the bridge might look different for different families, but that’s the whole idea: that each family is different, and a one-size-fits all solution simply doesn’t work in every case.

For Sandy, her solution was a sandbox. The next time for another family it might be help with a water bill. Or referrals to a housing program. Or help setting up Respite Services to provide a break for a parent. Each time, for each family, we work to connect families with the resources that best fit them, right in the situation they’re in, given the strengths and needs they have at the time. In that way, we are able to constantly adapt our services to best meet the needs of each person who reaches out for support. And that’s what it’s all about: helping in creative ways to build bridges.

Get Involved:

  • Learn more about Bridges of Hope’s services, or refer a family in need to us.
  • Read other stories about how we are helping families connect to resources.
  • Make a donation to support our work with a family.
  • Contact us to make sure we know about the services you provide in our community.

Thanksgiving and Christmas

For many of us, Thanksgiving and Christmas are days where we spend time with loved ones, attend a special evening service at our place of worship, eat turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes until we can hardly move, and watch as our family members open nicely wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree.  We never worry that we are not going to be able to provide a meal for our family, or that we will not be able to afford to buy our children or grandchildren gifts for the Holiday season.

Though many of us don’t have to worry about those things, there are thousands of families living right here in Crow Wing County who do.

For those living in poverty, or those going through a prolonged illness, unexpected injury, or other rough spot, spending decisions are much more limited–generally based on the largest bills and basic needs.

Just consider your household’s monthly expenses for a moment: do they add up to $3,000? $4,000? More than that? The Jobs Now Coalition estimates that the basic monthly household expenses for a family of four in Crow Wing County (with two adults working full time) are around $3,900–or that their income would need to be just over 200% of the Federal Poverty Guideline. Last year, Bridges of Hope worked with over 1,500 households who were living below this 200% threshold. Families right here in our community struggle every month to make ends meet.

For many of these families, there simply isn’t enough left over at the end of the month, which, at this time of year, means no Thanksgiving dinner, no traveling to Grandma & Grandpa’s house, and not a single toy, book or new piece of clothing under the tree for their children.

That is why Bridges of Hope, with the help of our local human service agencies, churches, service clubs, individuals, and businesses, offers the Thanksgiving Basket and Christmas Gift programs. Through these programs, families in need are supplied with food for a Thanksgiving meal and Christmas gifts for their children. The programs exist entirely due to generosity of the sponsors, who volunteer to receive the name of a household (or several households) they are sponsoring, go shopping, and then deliver a basket or gifts to a family.

In 2010, Bridges of Hope coordinated the distribution of Thanksgiving meals for 198 households and Christmas gifts for 222 households. This year, as I write this post, we are just finishing up coordinating the distribution of Thanksgiving meals for a record number of 270 households: a 36% increase over last year…and if this trend continues, our Christmas program could serve up to 300 households.

As a student in the College of St. Scholastica Social Work program, part of my senior internship experience included coordinating these Bridges of Hope programs. During this experience I have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions: nervousness, since I have never been in charge of something this large; excitement as I saw families matched to sponsors; and extremely touched too, as I watched the generosity of our community pouring out through these programs.

Last Friday when I left Bridges of Hope, 210 families had been sponsored for Thanksgiving. That meant that yesterday morning I came into the office with 60 families still awaiting sponsorship. By 10:30 am, thanks to several local churches putting out the word over the weekend and a couple of businesses making one last announcement on Monday morning, every single family who had signed up had a sponsor for Thanksgiving. 

I am proud to say that I am a member of a community who reaches out their hands to a stranger, to ensure that they may have a memorable Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday too.

Thank you for your generosity this season.

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Want to become involved too? We have approximately 100 households sponsored for Christmas so far. Learn more.