Rachel’s Moment

Rachel arrived in Brainerd by bus late on a Friday afternoon. She had recently escaped an abusive relationship, and though an order for protection was in place, safety was not yet found as her abuser had begun stalking her. Rachel had no supportive relationships in her hometown, and her closest family lived hours away. Her local Police Department recommended she stay at a women’s shelter and purchased her a bus ticket to get to the nearest one.

a cute yorkshire terrier peeking from around a woman toned with

Although Rachel could only pack one bag to bring along, her small dog Rollo was definitely going, as he was her only source of comfort and strength. The shelter was expecting Rachel, but they were unable to accommodate the stay of a canine. Shelter staff then made a call to Bridges, in hopes of finding resources before area agencies closed for the weekend.

The Salvation Army was able to find and purchase several connecting bus tickets to get Rachel to the safety of her out of state family, but departure wasn’t until Monday morning. Finding a hotel room for her to stay in until then was no problem, however, once again they were not accepting of her canine companion, so alternate arrangements had to be made. To make matters worse, Rachel found out her bank account had been drained after trying to use her debit card to buy food.

It seemed like once one obstacle was passed a new one arose; but giving up wasn’t an option. Staff remained in contact with her throughout the weekend, ensuring her immediate needs were met and referring resources to help down the road, such as the Safe at Home program that would protect Rachel’s whereabouts by assigning a PO Box for her mail.

Bridges staff worked earnestly to ensure Rachel had the necessities she needed to get her to safety; not just food and shelter for her and her dog, but a person to talk to and ask questions when she had nowhere else to turn. Without your support, there’d be no where to call when situations like this arise. Thank you for helping us build bridges in the Brainerd Lakes Area!

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Levi’s Moment

“Shocked” was the emotion Levi used to describe how he felt after reading the notice sent out by his health insurance provider. There had been some kind of error with his premium calculations, so he would have a temporary spike in his monthly premium costs to correct the issue—to the tune of over $500 each month, for three consecutive months. “It felt so unfair–we’re getting penalized for someone else’s mistake.”

rentProviding for a family of six requires nearly flawless budgeting skills, even with both parents working full-time. Luckily, before the onset of this new higher bill, Levi’s family was current with all their payments, but there was nothing left over each month to save for an emergency—and now, with an extra $500 added to the monthly budget, the family knew they’d inevitably fall behind on something, and he was worried that it would be their rent.

Like many of us, Levi was not fond of asking for help, and didn’t even know where to start; but the fact was that if he didn’t, their large family could soon be homeless. Levi was proactive: he worked over the family budget to cut expenses, spoke with their landlord, who graciously agreed to a payment arrangement with them, but at the end of the day, their income still wouldn’t stretch far enough to cover everything.

That’s when Levi got connected to Bridges of Hope. Levi knew he couldn’t afford to hesitate, and called Bridges for what he thought would just be possible help with rent. After doing an intake, one of our Resource Specialists referred him to several resources that the family qualified for; including Energy Assistance, which would in turn free up money that the family could use to pay their rent.

After making sure all of the existing community resources were exhausted, Bridges was able to utilize its internal funding to assist the family with one month’s worth of rent, and Levi’s family was able to come up with the rest. An eviction notice was never sent out, their premiums went back down to their regular amount, and Levi and his family were able to move forward, keeping all of their bills current. During a follow-up call, Levi shared with staff, “I didn’t think there was a way out; we couldn’t have done this without you.”

While reaching out for help may not be easy for many, it is our hope to make the process of receiving assistance less painful and much less confusing. Because of our generous donors and supporters like you, families like Levi’s have a place to call when they need help. Thank you for helping build Bridges in the Lakes Area!

It’s the ‘Little Things’

Sometimes the little things are the biggest things.

Did you know that by simply making a date with your daughter, mother, grandmother, aunt, friend or any other important lady in your life, you’re also greatly impacting the life of women you’ve never met before?

It’s true.

On April 7th, Bridges of Hope will host the annual Afternoon Tea for Hope. This event will mark the fourth ‘tea party’ where women, girls and even our gentleman friends come together in their pearls, fancy hats and dresses (with the exception of our male guests!), to sip tea from delicate china, nibble on sweets and savories, listen to live music, take chances in raffles and bid in an impressive selection in our silent auction. (Psst: you can visit Common Goods to find the perfect Tea outfit!)

Last year over 150 women, girls and guys helped raise over $13,000 for the Bridges of Hope Side by Side Mentoring Program. Your support truly means the world for the women, and their families, who participate in this program.

You may ask, what is Side By Side? It’s hard to summarize this life-changing experience into a paragraph, but I’ll try! Side By Side was launched in 2012 to help adult women move from survival to sustainability by developing and maintaining long-term mentoring relationships with women from throughout our community. The women participating in the program: “Participants,” set personal improvement goals in areas including income and stability, skills and education, and relationships and meaning. The Mentors and Participants connect weekly and monthly to increase face-to-face communication and accountability.

To date, Side By Side has worked with 28 Participants and 32 volunteer Mentors to provide a ‘hand up’ for those ready and able to make a lasting change in their lives.

Please help us continue to provide this critical programming to the women who need it most in our community. Make a date for tea time! This year’s event will be held in the Town Hall at Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake. Tea will be served at 2 pm, along with additional refreshments, food, a candy table and much more.

Buy your tickets today! Individual tickets are $40, or gather a group of eight and reserve a table for $280!  BUT… if you purchase your tickets BEFORE February 10th, you’ll receive $5 off your ticket! Click here to get started, or visit our website (http://bridgesofhopemn.org).

Sponsorship opportunities are also currently available to help support this event. To learn more, contact Nicholle Dean at 218-825-7682.

And thank you. Your support truly has a ripple effect in our community, more than you know!

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Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.

Laura’s Moment

Daughter hugging her momWhen Child Protection took Eliana at the age of 6 due to Laura’s struggles with addiction, she was forced to acknowledge the problems that had been avoiding for so long. The county placed her child in foster care, while ordering Laura to become clean and maintain that sobriety if she wanted her child to live and grow with her.

Once Laura achieved sobriety, her child was temporarily placed back in her home on a trial basis before going back to court for the final decision; she was then referred to Bridges of Hope. Laura entered not only guarded, but visibly perturbed by the possibility of losing her child. Her history with social workers plagued any potential thought that this program would be beneficial. Our staff met with Laura, made a schedule and a plan. She was uneasy, but felt this time was somehow different.

Parenting support was especially needed, but it was clear Laura was ready to work hard to regain custody of her child. Staff gave Laura a chore chart appropriate for Eliana’s age, and implemented a reward system that really blossomed their parent-child relationship. Laura was excited at the bonding that was taking place, and of her own accord even started suggesting other activities the two could participate in together. She asked meaningful questions, and set healthy boundaries. To make things even better, Laura had been working through a temp agency for three months and was offered a full time position there, which she readily accepted!

For the first time in a long time, the two were not only stable- but happy. When asked by staff if she thought she needed to be in the program any longer, Laura replied with a smile and, “I’ve got this.” Court came and went, and Laura is still the sole provider for her child.

On behalf of our Staff and Board, thank you for helping enable families to thrive and providing a message of hope in our community!

Thanksgiving overflows

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” —2 Corinthians 4:15-16

Each year, families in need throughout the Brainerd Lakes Area are able to share a Thanksgiving meal thanks to the generosity of many in our community.

Nine years ago, Bridges of Hope began a seasonal campaign pairing donors with families in need each Thanksgiving. Donors provide a turkey and accompanying side dishes, and deliver to their ‘adopted family’ just prior to Thanksgiving Thursday.

(It’s) super rewarding,” commented one donor. “I was able to provide two meals and lots of extras with the help of my great friends and family. The tears of joy from  one of the moms we gave to was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. She was BEYOND grateful! Amazing!”pie

Referrals come in to Bridges of Hope of families in need by a variety of organizations throughout the area. Bridges staff solicits interested individuals willing to donate a meal, and then pair families with sponsors based on geographic area and any other preferences a sponsor may have.

Bridges of Hope Program Specialist Janelle Vesely said while the number of sponsors varies from year to year, the need for meals continues to be great.

At this point, we are on track to serve 200-plus households,” she noted. “If that is the case we still need more sponsors; specifically in the Crosby, Deerwood and Ironton area.”

In 2016, the Thanksgiving Meals program:

    • Served 222 households consisting of 947 people
      • 556 children (0-17)
      • 391 adults (18+)
    • Found the largest household served was 14 people
    • Found the average household size was 4

     

Consider making the holidays a little brighter for someone. The deadline to sponsor a family is November 15th. For additional information, call Bridges of Hope or visit http://bit.ly/BoHThanksgiving

–Written by Jenny Holmes with assistance from Janelle Vesely

Alyssa’s Moment

Alyssa and Dan had been married for several years. The couple has two active children, solid jobs, vehicles, and a comfortable home; the average American dream as we know it. But when pressure builds, it must go somewhere. Through the ups and downs of their relationship, Dan had become abusive to Alyssa. Eventually, enough was enough and she resolved to get out, so she started saving money to help her move. It didn’t take long for Dan to catch on to her motive, however, and he promptly soaked up all her financial stores.

Alyssa had a job, a car, and a goal. With no support other than her own income, she decided to start saving once again, and hopefully avoid her husband’s scrutiny. Her perseverance paid off, and with a down payment and first month’s rent, Alyssa was able to secure an apartment. But because of her lack of credit and rental history, the agency also required an additional security deposit; another obstacle. Violence at home had been mounting, and Alyssa desperately needed a way out, so she called Bridges of Hope.

Bridges partnered with another local ministry, St. Vincent de Paul, to raise funds for the additional deposit Alyssa needed. The life of a single parent was something she was financially unfamiliar with, but Alyssa met this challenge with a strict budget, and even asked for additional tools to help her succeed!

The Lakes Area is blessed to have several agencies that serve the underprivileged. Every organization has their own specific lines to guide how they operate, which can inadvertently create a gap in services. Because of your generosity, the people who fall through those gaps have a place to call for help. Thank you for partnering with Bridges of Hope in our community!

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If you or someone you know is facing a difficult situation and not sure what to do next, call our office 218.825.7682 and speak with a Resource Specialist. Our staff can assist you in connecting with the area resources and programs that can help you resolve your situation. 

 

Sara Jo’s Moment

Sara Jo is a single parent of two school-age girls. She had recently been divorced and was living with her mother, something she never thought she would do again, since moving out after high school. Although she appreciated her mother’s willingness to take her and the girls in, Sara Jo knew that she and her girls needed more space than what they had–and so did her mom. Tensions were starting to run high some evenings, as the girls and her mother struggled to adjust to the very different energies of each other. Sara Jo was working, though she did not have a car, so she was relying on rides from co-workers to get to work, which was also quickly wearing thin.

After searching for housing online and making some phone calls, Sara Jo had found a modest apartment that was on the bus line, but she was struggling to come up with both the first month’s rent and the damage deposit required for her to be able to move in. The landlord suggested that Sara Jo call Bridges of Hope to find out about area resources to assist her with these costs.

Sara Jo called Bridges of Hope and spoke with one of our staff, who assessed her situation to see what community resources she would qualify for. We connected her to Lutheran Social Service for assistance, since we could see from Sara Jo’s budget that she would be able to afford the rent and the rest of her ongoing monthly expenses once she was over this hurdle. Sara Jo saved up to pay for the damage deposit for the new place, and Lutheran Social Service was able to cover the cost of the first month’s rent. Bridges then was able to connect Sara Jo with Salem WEST for some much-needed furniture and other household items.

Sara Jo was able to move in to her new place with her girls, and a few weeks later, one of our staff called her to follow-up and make sure things were going okay. Sara Jo said how grateful she was for the assistance and support from Bridges of Hope, and she let us know that she was so happy with the furniture she had received from Salem WEST as well.


If you or someone you know is facing a difficult situation and not sure what to do next, call our office 218.825.7682 and speak with a Resource Specialist. Our staff can assist you in connecting with the area resources and programs that can help you resolve your situation.