Chuck and Kristi’s Moment

“To everyone who’s lost someone they loved, long before it was their time…. The days that you had with them were not enough, when you said goodbye….”

The words of this song by Third Day could not better describe the immense pain that Chuck and Kristi were feeling when they reached out to Bridges of Hope.

Maternal-Infant-Care-rfidChuck and Kristi have three children: Marcus (8), Lily (5), and Nora (2). A few months back, the couple was faced with an enormous loss; they lost their newest born son, Caleb. When Caleb was born, doctors told Chuck and Kristi that it would only be a matter of time until he would leave them. They stayed by Caleb’s bedside until, as the doctor’s feared, he passed away just weeks after being born. Chuck and Kristi were overwhelmed with grief and reached out to Bridges of Hope. Kristi called Bridges of Hope originally looking for help with gas, since they had made so many trips down to the Mayo Clinic. When I heard their story, I offered her some additional services and she voluntarily enrolled in the Parent Support Outreach Program, where a staff from Bridges meets in-home with families to work on goals set by the parents.

The first time I met with Kristi in person, she was noticeably depressed, having just lost her child, and she remained in bed for the entire meeting. At this time, the entire family was staying in the living room of a friend’s home–due to the financial stress they experienced after Caleb was born, they had been evicted from their apartment. I offered to set up Respite Services for Chuck and Kristi so they could get a much-needed break to care for their own mental health and process their grief. The look of relief on Kristi’s face gave me hope that they would all be okay.

And that was when things began to turn around. The couple set several goals: they wanted to work towards getting their own place to live again, and Kristi wanted to find employment. I met with Chuck & Kristi the following week and encouraged counseling as another goal. After a little hesitation, they said they were willing to give it a try.

Within a week of the family’s first time using Respite Services, the family’s change was amazing. Kristi had found employment, the family was able to move into their own home, AND the couple had made an appointment for one of the counselors I had recommended! This mom, who was initially thinking she would be unable to parent due to the trauma of losing a child is now planning a family game night and spending all of her free time with her children. Chuck & Kristi are looking forward to making the best of their future and see that there is hope for a happy family life once again.

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary and love for the broken heart….” –Third Day

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If there is anyone in your life who might benefit from supportive services from Bridges of Hope, please encourage them to contact us at 218.825.7682. There is hope!

New Program Making a Big Difference for Teen Parents

The Teen Parent Outreach Program is new to Bridges of Hope in the past year. This program is a collaborative effort with Crow Wing County Community Services who approached us last year to help them expand this successful program and work alongside more teen parents (receiving cash assistance) to increase successful outcomes for them and their little ones.Pregnant belly

There are a number of challenges teen parents face. For example, they are more likely to give birth to low birth weight or premature babies, be involved in the child protection system, drop out of high school, and live in poverty. They are also less likely to seek out proper prenatal care, and to follow through with well child checks & immunizations for their children. Through this program, I am working with more than 20 teen parents and their children to minimize these challenges.

The primary goals we are working on with the mothers are:

  • Ensuring prenatal care is received.
  • Increasing birth weight.
  • Carrying to full term.
  • Preventing subsequent pregnancies.

Other goals include:

  • Keeping children safe by reducing child protection issues.
  • Empowering the teens to graduate high school and/or obtain their GED.
  • Making sure the children are up to date in immunizations and well child checks.
  • Increasing the strengths in parents and lowering risk factors.

Good news! Teens involved in this program graduated from high school a rate of 51% (the state average for teen moms is 30%), AND 84% of the teens who participated in the program were not on cash assistance one year later.

I have been honored to help expand such a wonderful program to reach more teens and offer more in-depth services. Emily and Megan’s stories are great examples of how this program is changing lives:

Emily’s Story:

Emily struggles with her mental health and originally came onto my caseload while she was pregnant and applying for disability. During our time working together, she was denied disability benefits. While I was concerned this would  discourage her, it did not. Instead, she made the choice to begin looking for work and obtained a part-time job at a local restaurant. During this time, she also attended her prenatal care appointments.

On November 19th, her son, Matthew was born full-term and weighing a healthy 7+ pounds. She stayed in great contact with her employer and went back to her job six weeks later. I assisted her in applying for daycare assistance and getting all the necessary paperwork filled out for Matthew.  Unfortunately, her daycare provider was not approved by the county. She is still in the process of trying to obtain childcare, but I have been impressed in the meantime by how resourceful she has been in finding a trustworthy person to care for her son while she is at work.

I have seen Emily change so much since the birth of Matthew. As I mentioned earlier she has some significant mental health struggles, and I had concerns about how she would adapt to less sleep and the demands of caring for a newborn. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised, and being a mom has helped give Emily a purpose and reason to get up in the morning. She seems happier and more determined to keep her job and provide for Matthew.

Megan’s Story:

Megan hasn’t been to the dentist for many years, if ever. Through our work together in the Teen Parent Outreach Program, it was a part of her case plan to go to the dentist. (She likes to say that I am forcing her to go, however, I’ve really only strongly encouraged it!) About five months ago, I sat with her at Starbucks, her favorite coffee shop, and we made dentist appointments for her and her two-year-old daughter, Eva. She was able to get Eva in without a problem, however, an adult on MA (Medical Assistance) is much harder to get in to the dentist. She ended up being able to make an appointment at the Central Lakes Community Dental Clinic and I committed to bringing her there for moral support (and because transportation is a huge barrier for this family).

The good news is that Megan finally went to the dentist! The bad news is she had 11 cavities and one tooth that needed to be pulled.

A couple of months later, Megan has gotten eight of those cavities filled and continues to go to her appointments. The neatest part of this story is that little Eva has already been to the dentist at age 2 and Megan is so proud that she is passing on better habits to her daughter. Eva brushes her teeth every night, and, of course in true 2-year-old fashion, wants to do it herself! I truly believe that Megan does not want Eva to go through what she is experiencing right now. It is exciting to see the impact this program is having across multiple generations.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges for families like Emily’s & Megan’s!

Stay connected with Bridges of Hope:

Shelly’s Moment

Shelly is a young mother of two: 8-year-old Stevie and 7-month-old Stephie. Shelly was referred to Bridges of Hope’s Family Support Services to provide her with some additional parenting support. She was struggling to manage the needs of both a school-aged child and an infant, in addition to the added financial costs–she had long since worn out, passed on, or shared all of her baby items with friends.

Family Support Services is a unique program that can be tailored to fit the goals of each family. Staff meet one-one-one with parents in their home and set goals based on each family’s individual strengths and challenges over the course of about three to six months. The goals often include support and resources for things like transportation, catching up on bills and strengthening budgeting skills, establishing childcare, or learning new parenting techniques. Our role is to assist and encourage parents throughout the process of accomplishing their goals.

Once we connected about the program, Shelly began meeting with me each week. During one of these weekly meetings, Shelly confided that she was three months behind on her rent, due to having been on bed rest during her last two months of pregnancy, which meant she didn’t have any income for those two months–or when she was on maternity leave for six weeks after Stephie was born. She had been able to return to work and had been paying her monthly rent since then, but she was still struggling to catch up. We were able to connect Shelly with two area resources–the Salvation Army and Cradle of Hope–to help Shelly catch up on her rent. Cradle of Hope is a program specifically for families who have experienced a financial hardship due to pregnancy and the birth of a child, and we collaborate with our local Salvation Army regularly to help meet the needs in our community.

After Shelly’s immediate housing situation was resolved, I was able to continue working with her for several more months, supporting her as she continued working toward accomplishing her parenting goals. Knowing that she would continue to have a place to live allowed Shelly to really focus on sharpening her parenting skills. Today, Shelly continues to work full time and has the financial means to provide for her family. She wrote a note to Bridges of Hope recently, which described her experience in our Family Support Services program: “Thank you again. Your organization is incredible. You’ve not only helped me stay in my house, but all of the other things you did too! I can’t say in words how much I appreciate it.”

We’re glad we were able to be a part of Shelly’s Moment.

Get more connected with Bridges of Hope:

Noah’s Moment

Noah and his mom

Photo by Neree Jackson | Studio You

A contribution of $150 supports our work with one family in need. Since 2002, the support from our community has enabled us to change the lives of thousands of families in the Lakes Area–and for that, we thank you.

Tim and Sara are young parents. Last spring their son Noah was born prematurely. Tim was employed and Sara had been staying home to care for Noah. The couple was managing okay, even though the medical bills had been adding up since their son’s birth.

Then in October, their furnace went out. It had been in need of maintenance for some time, but with Noah’s extra medical needs in addition to the added expenses of a new baby, the couple simply didn’t have anything left in their budget at the end of a month.

On the coldest days, Sara had been using the oven to warm the house while keeping herself and Noah wrapped in blankets. Noah was starting to crawl and Sara knew she couldn’t continue to open the oven door—but she felt like she just didn’t have any other options.

Thankfully, that’s when Sara was connected with Bridges of Hope by a friend from her weekly Bible study. We were able to talk through some options with Sara and, in the end, pay less than $200 for the repair. Within about two weeks, the couple had a working furnace—and a warm home. Now, almost one year later, Noah is beginning to talk, has met nearly all of his developmental milestones, and is able to move around safely in his home.

You make great stories like this one happen. Every day, situations like Tim and Sara’s become a reality for families across the Lakes Area. There are small crisis for some families, and larger ones for others. At Bridges of Hope we are able to act quickly, and in many cases, put a family back on track with a very small amount of financial support. A family just like little Noah’s.

We invite you to join us in our Annual Fall Fundraising Campaign. We must raise $60,000 to eliminate our year-end funding gap and allow us to change the lives of 400 more families we are expecting to serve between now and the end of the year. Would you consider a gift of $150 to support a family like Tim, Sara and Noah? 

Here’s how to get involved:

  • Make your gift today or on Give to the Max Day (Wed, November 16), when your online gift will be doubled, up to $10,000!
  • Set up a recurring donation. $25/mo supports two families over the course of a year.
  • Visit Common Goods to see our progress: thanks to the generosity of Nor-Son and Simonson Lumber, we are building a real bridge to symbolize our progress toward closing our funding gap. Learn more.
  • Pray for us. Pray for our board, staff, and the families we serve; and pray we are able to eliminate our year-end funding gap.
  • “Like” us on Facebook and visit our website often to monitor the Campaign’s progress.

Kendra’s Moment

Kendra was out of options. She had moved into an apartment in the Lakes Area after leaving her home community–and having to sever all her ties to friends and family–due to a domestic violence situation. She had fled shortly after learning she was pregnant with her third child and had since found a part-time job, established regular childcare, joined a parenting support group, and was on her way to mapping out a new life. But finding new friendships in a new community was happening slower than she thought it would; and now, nine months pregnant, there were times Kendra still felt very much alone in the world.

And then one day, on a Thursday afternoon, she went into labor.

Baby Boy

Image by Clare Bloomfield: http://bit.ly/clareportfolio

About a half-hour before closing time, Bridges of Hope received a phone call from Mary, a social worker at a local hospital. Mary explained that she had been called in by Kendra’s nurses, because Kendra had recently been admitted and was in active labor–but her two other children, ages 2 and 4, were there with her. Mary had learned that when the labor started, Kendra tried calling a few acquaintances from the parenting group, but no one was available, and not knowing what else she could do, Kendra brought her kids with her.

This was a perfect situation for Crisis Nursery. The Bridges of Hope staff spoke with Kendra over the phone and explained how the program works. She then began calling our trained Crisis Nursery providers and quickly located an available provider who could pick up the children from the hospital–all within twenty minutes of Mary’s phone call. The children would be cared for in Crisis Nursery for 48 hours until Kendra could leave the hospital, putting both Mary and Kendra at ease. Two days later, Kendra brought her new baby boy home to meet his older siblings.

Crisis Nursery Services Logo

Crisis Nursery Services

Crisis Nursery is a free, short-term childcare option for parents of children ages 0-12 when there are no other available childcare resources. This program is funded by a grant from the Children’s Trust Fund and is a partnership between Bridges and Crow Wing County Community Services. The Crisis Nursery has more funding available in 2011 than it did in 2010; if you or someone you know is in a childcare crisis, please call Bridges of Hope at 218.825.7682 and speak to a Family Service Worker about your situation or click here for additional details.

Michelle’s Moment

Michelle calls Joshua her miracle baby. After a devastating car accident two years ago that had also left Michelle unable to work, doctors had said it just was not possible for her to have children. But Joshua’s arrival last winter proved them all wrong.

Stroller

Though unable to work, the new mom actively volunteered at a local ministry program through her church. Michelle owned a van specially equipped for her disability, but various maintenance needs had gone unrepaired until the van was finally not driveable–Michelle’s disability income simply would not stretch far enough. To continue to attend her regular monthly appointments and volunteering, Michelle had been using public transportation whenever she could and was simply taking Joshua out in a stroller the rest of the time.

As the days became cooler and she battled a recurring bout of bronchitis, Michelle knew it was finally time to ask for help. Michelle went to her church first, and because they give to the Spirit of Kindness Fund,* the social ministry leader called Bridges of Hope. The van was in need of several different repairs, and Bridges of Hope was able to partner with the Salvation Army for most of them. In the meantime, Michelle’s church had a connection to a local mechanic who offered a free estimate and who even donated a tank of gas to Michelle. Michelle also took responsibility for what she could by working out a payment plan with a local business to pay for one of the specialized repairs. Because local resources came together to support Michelle and Joshua, they now have a working van, ready just in time for winter.

Click here to support families like Michelle & Joshua this season.

*Spirit of Kindness is a collaborative benevolent fund administered by Bridges of Hope. Many area churches donate to the fund, and any church can refer someone in crisis to Bridges of Hope for intake, screening and referrals. When local resources are exhausted, Bridges of Hope can utilize the funds to assist the family.