Callie’s Moment

Callie is a mom of three kids: Damion, Alayna, and Alexa, and is in the process of divorcing from her husband of many years. Even though it was emotionally and financially difficult, sad womanshe was learning to manage living on one income and providing for her kids on her own. In the midst of this transition, she was let go from her job. Callie was devastated. She had done her best to fulfill her job requirements throughout this transition, but between changing schedules, caring for her kids who were struggling, and her own mental health struggles, it was just too much. Her employer, after offering as much grace as they could, had to make the difficult decision to let her go.

Callie’s job had provided her with a wage that had been enough to provide a fairly comfortable living. Callie knew immediately that she needed to find other employment (and began the search) but in the meantime, she had no idea what to do. Rent was due for the month and any savings she and her husband had was gone with the divorce. Callie had never been in this position before and was not aware of the resources that were available to her, and she quickly found out that she did not qualify for most resources because she was over their income guidelines (even though she didn’t currently have any income, many agencies have guidelines that look back a few months and include any income you have received in those prior months).

Fortunately, Callie connected with an area church that referred her to Bridges of Hope. Callie began working closely with a Resource Specialist regarding her situation. Callie explained the steps she had already taken to find a new job and expressed her concerns for the immediate future, as well as sharing her discouragement of being told ‘no.’ While working with Bridges, Callie was able to get an interview as well as a few good leads on some part-time work.

steppingoutinfaithAs Callie progressed towards getting closer to a new job, our staff prayerfully considered her request for help and came to the conclusion that this was a time that God was leading us to step out in faith, knowing that a job was just around the corner for Callie. Bridges of Hope was able to partner with an area church to come up with a majority of the rent, and Callie was able to pay the rest. Through her tears, Callie thanked staff for helping her when no one else could.

When a Bridges staff called Callie a couple weeks later to see how she was doing, she had already started working a part time job on the weekends and would start a full time job in the coming week.This story is a great example of how Bridges of Hope is able to be flexible because we do not have specific income guidelines, and because we have such amazing partnerships with our local churches. God is good!

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  • Do you know someone facing a difficult situation? Bridges of Hope can talk with them about what community resources they may be able to tap into. Call our office at 218.825.7682 to speak with one of our staff today.
  • We are able to do this kind of work because of our invaluable donors and supporters.Your gift is tax-deductible and will go to work right away helping those in need in our community. Make a gift today.

 

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God is in Control

During this busy time of year it so important to remind ourselves daily: God is in control.

Simple words to read; not always simple to live by. Here at Bridges, we have a wonderful staff ready to answer His call on a daily basis by being truly present for each and every client we talk to. As prepared, patient, and knowledgeable as we try to be, when faced with the needs of more than 2,500 households each year, we need guidance and we to rely on God, each other, and our community to help families every day.

One way we rely on our community is by have a monthly staff devotional time, led by local faith leaders in our community. We are extremely thankful to those who continue to bless us during these devotionals month after month. They calm our minds, feed our souls, and have even filled our offices with the sweet sound of our own voices (at least we like to tell ourselves that our voices sound sweet!).

As you move from day to day during this fall season, whether you are busy at work, running children around to activities, keeping a household running smoothly, or tending to the multiplying leaves in your yard, I invite you to stop, take a breath & remember: God is in control!

God Is In Control

Be anxious for nothing
God is still in control!

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you,
for I am your God.
I will strengthen you…
I will uphold you.

          Isaiah 41:10 NASB

Thank you again to the faith leaders who help us remember to keep THIS in mind:

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when THIS happens!

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If you don’t already, we’d love it if you would partner with us in prayer by subscribing to our monthly prayer calendar. Just email us at info@bridgesofhopemn.org and let us know you’d like to receive the prayer calendar.

Thank you for helping us 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 and gain hope!

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Run for Hope – A Success!

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What a fun day!

Last Saturday, we partnered with the Journey North Community Church (TJN) to host the first-ever Run for Hope. It was a huge success! More than 140 people registered to walk or run and many others came to cheer us on. I was one of those 140 registered “runners.”

Flashback with me a few months ago. There was snow on the ground. It was cold. I was in an exercise slump that I am sure none of you can relate to (wink, wink). I received a call from Sheila at TJN saying, “We’d like to host a 5k as a part of our Wellness Initiative and we’d like to have the event benefit Bridges! How does that sound?”

“Great!” I said and agreed to attend a meeting the next week with her & Pastor Mark. They had all kinds of ideas already in progress and I was very excited. Pastor Mark said, “We need you to do something.”

Okay, I thought, they’ll need some help promoting the event & some volunteers at the event. No problem.

“We’d like you and some of your staff members to run in the event” said Pastor Mark.

“WHAT?? I am NOT a runner. How am I going to get out of this?” – – – – is what I was thinking.

What I SAID was, “Sure. I’ve been wanting to start running & this will be a good goal for me.” GULP!

Weeks passed & plans began shaping up for the Run for Hope. What did not begin shaping up was ME. Exactly one month before the event, I realized I really had to start “running.”

Sheila

Thanks for all your hard work, Sheila!

I downloaded a running app on my iphone, put on some sweats, tennis shoes & a sweatshirt (remember May…when it was STILL really cold?!) and I went for my first “run.” Yep, I walked for 5 minutes, ran for 90 seconds, walked for three minutes, ran again for 90 seconds, etc. I thought I was going to fall over! It was so hard! Remember, I was NOT a runner (at this point).

Well, I stuck with it and ran/walked every other day for a month. A few of us on our staff & board swapped training stories and it was starting to feel fun. The runs were really hard some days & went well on other days.

The big race day came & I wasn’t quite through with my training, but I managed to run the first mile-and-a-half (trailing my 9-year-old daughter & almost everyone else the whole way, mind you!). I took a little walking break & then ran some more. Low & behold, I finished the Run for Hope in just under 40 minutes which was my goal. Hooray!

At the finish line, I celebrated with so many people who, just like me, had just finished their first 5k and with some people who had done this before.The energy at the event was amazing. I was so inspired by all the participants who spanned a variety of ages, ability, fitness levels & anxiety levels! We were cheered on by spectators, family, friends & volunteers. It was a very powerful experience — I felt like a “runner!”

At Bridges of Hope, we cheer people on every day to make adjustment or changes in their lives to improve their well-being. We are so thankful to TJN for hosting this great event to challenge us, to support us & to raise awareness about the work we do. To all of you who helped with the planing or on race day and to all of you who ran, walked, or cheered us on: THANK YOU!

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We really did have runners, walkers & crawlers (in their strollers, anyway!)

me

I made it to the finish line!

 

Churches Play a Key Role

cross2Last Tuesday we hosted our Annual Faith Leader Lunch and were so blessed to have more than 30 of our local faith leaders in attendance. Area Churches have played a critical role in the ongoing success of Bridges of Hope since our inception.

In 2012, local churches provided:

  • Our largest non-grant source of support ($46,963 in 2012).
  • Over $23,000 to be used as direct assistance to households through the Spirit of Kindness fund.
  • Referrals to Bridges: churches were the fourth-most-frequent referral source, after Crow Wing County, Lutheran Social Service and the Salvation Army.
  • Partnership support: including sponsorship, promotion, and organization for projects like the Thanksgiving Meal program.
  • Volunteer support: from Confirmation students, youth groups, and adults at Common Goods and more.
  • Prayer support– priceless!

Our Faith Leader Lunch is one of my favorite events of the year as it gives us the opportunity to thank our faith leaders for their support, share stories of the work we do together & remind all of us about how we can accomplish more together than any one organization on its own.

If you were not able to attend the meeting or would like to know more about how your church can join this partnership, here is some info:

  • Give what you can. Whether you are able to support the work of Bridges (so that we can continue to help families navigate area resources), the Spirit of Kindness fund, or both, your support is helpful. Thank you for giving.
  • Continue to refer households to Bridges of Hope. Bridges was created specifically to partner with and cross-connect all of our community resources and supports. Bridges of Hope can help reduce the frustration that many experience, being sent to one agency after another, just to be turned down at each stop. Our staff specialize in knowing about all of the area resources and how to access them.
  • Be clear that Bridges is a resource to help people navigate the “system,” but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily receive financial assistance.While we work really hard to help a household resolve their current situation or crisis (and often try to help them think creatively about how to do that), we have found that when there truly are no other resources to assist them, families most appreciate it when we are upfront and honest with them about that.
  • If you have referred a family to Bridges,and they tell you that “Bridges told me they can’t/won’t help,” feel free to call our office to learn more about the situation. Even if we don’t have a Release of Information from the family to give you all of the details, we can tell you more about our program processes and the kinds of things we typically suggest. Though it does occasionally happen that we “won’t help” (because the request is not appropriate or legitimate) or “can’t help” (because there are simply no resources in the community), annually this is a small number of households (in 2012 it was approximately 160 households out of 2,500).
  • Remember that Bridges of Hope offers many services to help families and individuals, so even when we may not have a financial solution for a family, we may be able to support them in other ways!
  • Invite us to come & speak to you or your group about how we can work together! Call Jana at 218-825-7682 or send an email to jana@bridgesofhopemn.org.

I am so thankful to live in a community that works together to meet the needs of those who are struggling. God bless!

It’s Not About the Bunny, the Candy, and the Ham. Or is it?

Silhouettes of Three CrossesAs I prepare for the upcoming Easter holiday with my own family, I am reminded about the tearful phone call we received at Bridges of Hope from Nicole a couple of years ago. It was a just three days before Easter and she had made the difficult decision not to go visit her grandmother for the Easter holiday.

She explained that, because her work hours had been reduced lately, she just couldn’t afford the gas money to travel, and, on top of that, one of her little ones was ill. She told one of our workers that she was feeling sad & lonely and was upset that she couldn’t afford the fixings for an Easter dinner or Easter baskets for her children. Even though she knew that’s not really what the holiday is about, she was feeling a loss at not being able to provide for her children.

Because of our special relationship with churches, we decided to see if a local church might be able to connect with Nicole and sponsor her family for Easter. A couple of our workers made a list of the items needed to make this family’s Easter a little brighter. We sent an email to our church mailing list and, within 20 minutes, The Journey North responded and committed to take care of the whole list!

Nicole sent a heartfelt note of thanks just a week later and shared that it was the best holiday she had ever experienced with her children. She also called a week or so later and asked if we had any resources for her to obtain a bible. A Bible was put into her hands right away! So, even though we all know Easter is NOT about the bunny, the candy or the ham, I think God was at work in Nicole’s life to get her connected with Bridges and re-connected with her faith. Even if it started out being just about the bunny, the candy, and the ham!

It actually happens that way quite often. People reach out to Bridges of Hope with one concern, and, through His wisdom, something else comes to light. We are so thankful for The Journey North’s help with Nicole’s situation and we are thankful to them again this year at Easter time. At their Good Friday service, they will collect a special offering to support our work at Bridges so we can continue connecting families like Nicole’s to the resources that can help.

I wish you all a blessed Easter. He is Risen!

An Anchored Board and Staff

The mission of Bridges of Hope is 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. That sounds nice, but what does “anchored in Christ’s love” really mean? To the Board of Directors, when they were crafting this mission statement in 2003, it meant that the organization was founded in faith–that the reason we do what we do is to show Christ’s love to His people. As Bridges has grown and developed over the last ten years, we have realized that how we can best do that is through trying to be what God wants us to be in our local community.

Recently we gathered over 50 of our local church leaders and staff for our annual Faith Leader Luncheon. It was humbling to experience in person the amazing support we have from our area churches, which have played a key role in both the development and the ongoing successes of Bridges. It was a great time of fellowship, sharing about the work of Bridges of Hope, and of learning how we can be a better resource for churches. Churches make some of the most frequent referrals to Bridges of Hope, act as our largest non-grant source of financial support, comprise some of our most-frequent volunteer groups at Common Goods, and definitely serve as a vital source of prayer support. (Read more about how churches and Bridges of Hope can partner to serve our community.) It was a great reminder of how many are involved in making the work of Bridges of Hope possible!

This year, I have had the privilege of taking a lead role in our Strategic Priority of centering Bridges of Hope in Christ. There have been many new initiatives that have grown out of this Priority area, including a Staff and Board Retreat that took on the Priority as its theme. It was both nourishing and refreshing, and it also allowed us to connect on a deeper level with one other.

Staff & Board Retreat: Labyrinth

Staff & Board at the Retreat, in the Labyrinth

We have also started offering optional monthly devotional times for staff and have invited area pastors, church Board members, and others to spend some time leading us in various topics. We have enjoyed connecting with members of our local faith community this way, which is different from our “regular” interactions through our work at Bridges. The main focus of this Strategic Priority is to nurture our staff and Board in their own faith journeys so that they can better serve those who seek our services.

It is in a similar spirit of nurturing and supporting others that we are offering a community workshop this summer, called Healing the Heart of the HealerIt is a training focused on self-care for those of us in the helping profession. You can see a flyer about the training here.

I believe it is thanks to the organization’s work to center its Board and staff in Christ–this anchoring–that Bridges of Hope continues working to meet the needs of others in our community every day.

Community Concert Touched Hearts

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Written by Guest Author Tracy Jeremiason, Board Member

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At the end of March, Bridges of Hope hosted a Community Concert of thanks and praise! Bridges of Hope was hosting it second concert of this kind and was also celebrating its 10th Anniversary–a day to celebrate ten years of of service, commitment, and partnerships with the community.

The event featured the Lord of Life Worship Band along with music and a story of hope from Jennifer Perez. The Lord of Life Band shared amazing music with us that day!

Tears were brought to my eyes as I listened to Jennifer Perez share her life story through intense lyrics and a breath-taking singing voice. Listening to her songs echo throughout the church sanctuary, and in sharing her powerful story, I am reminded of HOPE.

Hope that shows up in the most unpredictable moments, comes in many forms, and helps us all move forward in life. Hope that comes in the deepest form and leads us to our Heavenly Father, who is our rock.

Cupcakes     Table Decorations

Comm concert 2012   Kid Activities

Bridges of Hope is part of the story Jennifer shared and was a point of hope that was brought into her life. It makes me smile to think of all the people God brought together to share hope with Jennifer–people who Jennifer will probably never meet but who may have touched her life through prayer, a financial gift to Bridges of Hope, or their partnership as a congregation or business in the community.

Today Jennifer shares the gift of hope with others, whether it is through her singing, sharing her story with others, volunteering for Bridges of Hope, or through her work as a social worker, she is passing on the gift that was given to her.

This event inspired me to take a moment to reflect on what I can do to spread HOPE to our community.

Jennifer & Tracy