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.

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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!

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. 

 

Diane’s Moment of Hope

[Note: Diane graciously allowed us to use her real name and details. Diane: thank you for your courage and generosity!]

It has been 27 years since Diane made the life-changing decision to become, and remain, clean and sober. However, despite overcoming this huge obstacle, she continued to fight demons and encounter issues that tested her faith over all those years.

Having been raised in the Aitkin area, Diane relocated to the Twin Cities area where she tackled her addictions with the help of a mentor. She was also able to get the help that enabled her to return to school and accept a job working for a non-profit food bank.

In 2000, Diane returned to her childhood home to care for her aging mother, as well as help raise her grandsons. During that time, Diane struggled with depression that worsened with each new year. Jobs also came and went over the years, adding insult to injury.

In 2016, Diane’s daughter was being released from prison and needed a ride back home. However, Diane’s car was in dire need of repairs and she couldn’t afford the insurance to legally get back on the road. Diane also acknowledged that her daughter would need clothes that fit since she was coming home to, literally, nothing.engine-repair-rebuild

It was at that point Diane reached out to Bridges of Hope and connected with Resource Specialist Nicholle Dean.

“I took a leap of faith with Bridges of Hope,” she said. “I called for my daughter’s sake; but, while talking to Nicholle, I ended up breaking down. I’m not typically prideful. But is there pride in not asking for help? I learned that when you truly need help, you just need to swallow that pride. And it was very hard. But I can’t express enough how much Nicholle took me in and told me what I needed to do to help myself and allow them to help me. She held me accountable.”

Nicholle said after she and Diane talked, she was able to connect her to a variety of resources available for her particular situation, including securing additional funding from St James Church in Aitkin and Pine Lake United Methodist Church. Together, Nicholle and Diane also worked through budgeting and sustainability planning for the future.

Because of the help of Bridges of Hope and others, Diane was able to safely pick up her daughter and now has car insurance in place.

“Swallow that pride,” Diane encourages others who need help. “You know, ask the questions you need. But be okay with ‘no.’ Not everybody can help you or answer your questions, but somebody, somewhere along the way, can and will. They will find the resources you need. I never thought I would be able to get the repairs and insurance. So this was a big relief off my shoulders. Keep an open mind. I am so grateful. There’s always help and hope. God will provide.”


If you or someone you know is in need of assistance working through a tough life situation, please call our office and speak with one of our staff members about it: 218.825.7682.

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.