Inspiring Hope

I have the awesome privilege to work for an agency that I love and in a role that is a perfect fit for me. I am an Outreach Worker at Bridges of Hope and I provide in-home support to families that are in complex and challenging situations.

inspire hopeRecently, I worked with a family that struggled with chemical dependency issues, domestic violence, mental health struggles, and financial barriers. Prior to Bridges of Hope’s involvement, Anna and Jacob (names changed for anonymity) were not actively working with any area providers. When I first met Anna, Jacob, and their children, it was apparent that they were all skeptical of me…and who wouldn’t be!? I am a stranger to them and they have demonstrated resilience and fortitude already for decades of their lives. I get it. It’s scary and overwhelming to put your trust into someone that you don’t know, and who am I to receive that trust? Yet, incredibly, that is just what they did. This family allowed me to walk alongside of them for several weeks as we worked together to build bridges of support; and not only were they part of building those bridges, but they courageously walked across them as well. 

One of Anna and Jacob’s biggest strengths was their desire for the betterment of their family and the well-being of their children. Though we all want what’s best, it takes a very strong couple to recognize that “wanting” something is not always enough. Loving someone is not always enough, either: often we don’t have the tools, resources, and skills to improve our situation. Anna and Jacob worked on their relationship, their communication with their children, setting appropriate boundaries, and collaborating with the school and other providers. I was honored to be a support for them as they did this. It was not always an easy process, as learned behaviors and unhealthy habits have a way of creeping back into our daily routines, but they stuck with it. My role was to teach the family new skills, hold them accountable, and be a cheerleader for their incredible successes…and what an awesome success they are! Anna & Jacob are now receiving therapy, chemical dependency support, school support for their children, and are successfully paying for their household expenses after obtaining employment. The families I work with are the true inspirations.

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If you or someone you know could benefit from support from Bridges of Hope, call 218.825.7682 or visit our website for more information.

 

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Building Bridges, Building Community

Do you know what happened when local 5th graders were given:

  • 100 popsicle sticks,
  • some white glue,
  • strong science classroom instruction, and
  • a boost of expertise from local design & engineering firms?

Building Bridges 2015 happened, that’s what! The event took place at Forestview Middle School this past Monday evening with over 600 people in attendance. Check out this crowd!               Bridges 101Students, parents, & community members carefully examined bridges in the Aesthetic Category before casting their vote:

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Then everyone was able to watch the testing for the Strength Category which is always a good time…

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…filled with excitement…

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….anticipation…

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and, this inevitable sound: “CRUNCH!”

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Check out what is left at the end of the testing phase:

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The night wraps up with the announcement of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams in each category. A big congratulations to this year’s winners!

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This event is one of our favorites each year & such a fun way for our community to come together to raise awareness of the “bridges” we are building for families every day at Bridges of Hope to fulfill our mission:

To build bridges of support, anchored in Christ’s love, between families in the Lakes Area and the community assets that can help them thrive & gain hope.

That is good stuff. And, we couldn’t do it without the cooperation & support of ISD 181, Mr. Danielson, Ms. Knutson, Mr. Trout, Mrs. Harrison, and these incredible sponsors:

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Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

  • Want to see all the pictures from the event? Check out our Facebook Page!
  • To learn more about the services we offer and how we build bridges for families in the Lakes area, please visit our website.

Building Bridges…in more ways than one

“To build bridges of support, anchored in Christ’s love, between families in the Lakes Area and the community assets that can help them thrive and gain hope.”

In an effort to spread the word about our mission, Bridges of Hope partnered with the 5th grade at Forestview Middle School to host our Second Annual Building Bridges event on February 3rd.

Fifth graders worked together in teams to create a bridge out of 100 popsicle sticks to compete in either the strength or aesthetic category. They received education & coaching from their science teachers and from four local engineering & construction firms: Nor-Son, Northway Construction, SEH, and Widseth-Smith-Nolting.

Building Bridges 2014

The students also had a chance to hear from our staff about what it means to build a bridge of support for those in need in our community.

Over 400 students, parents, grandparents, teachers, and others from the community attended the event. You could hear sounds of bridges breaking and the crowd cheering as the winning bridge held a whopping 165 lbs (we even had to get more weights from the school weight room in order to break the bridge)! To learn more about the event, watch this clip from Lakeland News.

What makes a bridge strong? What makes a community strong? That’s what fifth graders were tasked with figuring out, TOGETHER. That’s the key: Doing things TOGETHER creates strength, whether you’re talking popsicle stick bridges or helping your neighbor.

All of the teams did an amazing job, and prizes were awarded to the top finishers. The first place winners in each category enjoyed a limo ride (courtesy of Reichert’s) and a pizza lunch (courtesy of Boomer Pizza).

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Bridges of Hope is so thankful to our sponsors for this event, and to ISD 181 for the collaboration and opportunity to spread the word about our mission. THANK YOU!!  (To learn more about Bridges of Hope, please visit our website).

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How Are YOU Involved This Fall?

Fall is our busiest season here at Bridges of Hope and we  would love to have YOU join us! Here are a few updates about what we’ve been up to and how you can get involved:

With 400 more families likely to call Bridges of Hope this year for parenting support, help paying a utility bill, a Thanksgiving meal, or whatever the need may be, you can help! Please consider how you can share your time, talents & treasure with others during this fall season.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

Stay connected with Bridges of Hope:

Steven and Laura’s Moment

Steven and Laura are parents of two teenagers. When Laura contacted Bridges of Hope, the couple was in the process of adopting their young niece and nephews. To say that Jack, Chloe and Dylan had experienced a difficult childhood would be to put it delicately. Their loving aunt and uncle wanted to provide a safe and loving environment for these sweet children, and this meant their family of four was becoming a family of seven.

Jack, Dylan and Chloe

Steven and Laura’s three-bedroom apartment did not fit their growing family, so they found an available townhome. A Bridges staff member worked one-on-one with Steven and Laura, helping the couple analyze their current financial situation and estimate the future expenses for their new, larger family. Happily, the increased rent payment fit into the couple’s budget, but they couldn’t afford the larger deposit. Because Steven and Laura both worked full-time, they did not meet the income criteria for other local housing resources. Bridges was able to determine that this was a perfect situation to act as the “bridge” between the family’s current space crunch and the solution that would help Steven and Laura have room for everyone.

We followed up with Laura recently and she reported that everyone loved their new home and that the kids (teenagers included) were enjoying having a backyard for the first time ever. She was so thankful her co-worker had told her about Bridges of Hope and said that she did not know what they would have done without this help.

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Your support is what allows us these beautiful moments to happen: join us in making a difference in the life of a family. A gift of $150 will support our work with a family like Steven and Laura’s. With more than 2,500 families calling us or walking through our doors this year, you can be sure that your gift matters.

Make your gift today. And thank you.

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.

Entertaining Angels

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby, some have entertained angels unawares.”—Hebrews 13: 1 & 2 

From Bridges’ inception, the strong link to local churches has been a central part of our design. Even the original concept of Bridges of Hope started in a church that saw both the wide array of resources and the vast needs of families within the community–and wanted to design a system that could better bridge the gap between the two. As a faith-based organization, Bridges of Hope is fortunate–and blessed–to have the support of many of our local area churches.

And now, ten years later, in addition to many other services we provide, Bridges of Hope continues to play a key role in connecting those in need to the resources that can best serve them–and a key role in acting as the resource “specialists” for area churches to refer someone to when they come to a church for help. In fact, last year, gifts from churches made up almost 30% of our donations! Churches were also the third-largest group of referrers to Bridges of Hope in 2011.

Occasionally, we will partner financially with a church to help a family in need, and typically these partnerships occur when they are members of church who need help beyond what the church can provide, like in Lisa’s case:

Lisa contacted Bridges of Hope inquiring about resources for help with an electric bill. She is a single mom of two children; an eight-year-old and five-year-old. For the past three years, Lisa has owned and managed her own business. For the last three months, Lisa’s business had not been turning a profit, so she stopped drawing a personal paycheck and had been getting by in the short-term with child support, food support, and savings. Lisa had managed to keep up with her bills, but when gophers chewed through her wiring and cut power to her house, she knew that she simply couldn’t afford the rewiring, which would cost nearly $1,500 to repair.

Lisa was referred to Bridges of Hope by her church, after she had expressed concern about her inability to pay this bill during a weekly prayer group. During her conversation with a Bridges staff, Lisa indicated that (amazingly) she had been able to budget tightly and set aside a small portion of money to go towards the bill. Bridges of Hope was able to partner with Lisa’s church and utilize its internal funding in order to cover the remaining cost of the rewiring.

An Electrical Contractor was able to fix the wiring and power was restored to the home very quickly, and during a follow-up phone call, Lisa said she was very grateful for the help from Bridges of Hope. She explained that without it she didn’t know what she would have done.

Esther Reagan, Pastoral Associate, when asked why Brainerd Area Catholic Churches has been providing financial support to Bridges of Hope for over five years, said:
“Your [organization] is serving many of the people of our community who do not meet the criteria for other services and [we support you] because of your coordination across several social service agencies, thus reducing duplication of service….We are grateful for the services you provide. It is an asset to the community.”

We feel privileged to serve this community and to be thought of as an asset for churches. We consider it one of our essential roles to help protect and steward our church resources, using them responsibly in order to help as many in need as possible. We also know that in the process, we may be “entertaining angels” unawares.

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How to connect with Bridges of Hope at your church:

  • Join our “Faithful Friends” group to act as a key link between your congregation and Bridges of Hope. Email Jana to learn more.
  • Refer someone in need to Bridges of Hope.
  • Invite Bridges to share about our services during your weekend service, coffee hour, an adult forum, youth group, or other group–or contact us to learn more about how we can be a partner with your church.