Danielle’s Moment

Nativity_tree2011If you’re like me, you are focusing some time & energy today on wrapping up loose ends at work so you can turn your focus to wrapping up gifts and the final details for your Christmas celebrations next week. Or maybe you’re that amazing person at your church who is leading the Christmas program performance this weekend (God bless you!).

No matter what our “loose ends” might be, I hope we all take more than a few moments to pause, breathe, and prepare our minds & hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

At Bridges of Hope, we are helping individuals and families with more than loose ends. We are proud to do this rewarding, tough, and sometimes heartbreaking work.

I want to tell you about one family in particular who is weighing heavily on my mind today. (I’ve changed the details about their family, in order to honor their privacy.)

Danielle called our office a couple of weeks ago. She was encouraged to do so by a hospital social worker. Danielle has been battling cancer for the last few years and just received the news that no one wants to hear: there is nothing more that can be done by her doctors. It is unclear how much time Danielle has left on this earth with her family. She was clear about this when she spoke with Jacklin in our office, though: she feels blessed. She plans to enjoy the time she has left with her husband and two young kids. And she wants to continue doing the things she loves as long as possible, including reading.

The cancer is affecting her vision, but she can still read with a magnifying glass–which is where Bridges comes in. When making some plans for her transition home, Danielle and her social worker were looking into large, hands-free magnifying glasses. They aren’t very expensive; however, the $50 – $80 cost is not in the family’s already stretched budget.

Danielle, who is only in her late 30’s, participated in our simple intake process with Jacklin and our team quickly agreed that getting Danielle a magnifying glass, utilizing our Spirit of Kindness Fund, was absolutely the right thing to do! Just a couple of hours after we made this decision, Jacklin approached me and was excited to report that she ended up connecting Danielle with a local office who wanted to help an individual or family out at Christmas. This amazing group of office folks now plans to purchase the magnifying glass and shower Danielle with a few other goodies for the holidays (another community group has already committed to adopt Danielle’s kiddos for Christmas).

This is a little thing that means a lot for Danielle and her family and they prepare for the uncertainty ahead during this Christmas season.

YOU make it possible for us to extend Christ’s love to Danielle and the hundreds of other individuals and families who are reaching out to Bridges of Hope during this holiday season. As you know, we are nearing the deadline for our year-end “I Hope” campaign and we’ve raised $34,039 so far. Thank you!

IThermo_04n order to continue making a difference in big and small ways, we must reach our goal of raising $60,000 by December 31st. Can you help provide hope still this year to others like Danielle? A gift of just $175 will allow us the honor of serving one household.


Will you help us build Bridges today? On behalf of the Bridges staff & board, I ask that you consider pausing from whatever you might be doing right now and make a gift, big or small, to support our work with families in the Lakes Area. Your gift will truly make a difference!



Loving Our Neighbors

At Bridges of Hope, our mission 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

Basically, that’s a fancy way of saying we want to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Last year, somewhere around 7,000 of “our neighbors” reached out to Bridges of Hope for help (~2,600 households). We live out our mission each day through a range of programming that is designed to meet a person where they’re at--whether they’re calling us for the first time or the twenty-first time.love-your-neighbor-logo

When working with a household, we often connect people to resources to help them, sometimes we help them find the solution within themselves, and other times we provide a longer-term service to walk alongside them more intensely–always striving to maintain the mindset that we’re just doing what we’d hope someone else would do for us, if we were in the same situation–because that’s what a caring community is all about.

Below is a sampling of things that “our neighbors” said to us when we called them to follow up on their situations last year:

  • “Thank you so much for your help.”–a grandma raising her three grandchildren, who needed help with rent resources.
  • “I want to rate you all as ‘excellent’.”–an elderly adult receiving disability who needed furniture and other household items.
  • “Crisis Nursery helped me keep my job. Thank you so much! I also now have a new daycare provider, thanks to you!”–a single mom whose daycare provider went out of business.
  • “You are our go-to people.”–a family of four who were sleeping on futons and mattresses on the floor.
  • “You made me so happy! It was so nice! I was overwhelmed. Five plus plus.”–a woman using a walker who needed a smaller bed for her room to move around it more easily, rating our quality of services on a scale of 1-5.
  • “Thanks for calling back and checking on me.”–an adult with a roommate whose power steering had gone out on his car.
  • “Thank you for not judging me.”–a single mom who had gotten behind on her rent.
  • “Getting assistance is very overwhelming, and it was helpful to have someone to tell us where to start.”–a family of six living in a 2-bedroom apartment, needing to find a larger (and still affordable) place.
  • “You were nice, and also easy to talk to.”–a woman who had moved to the area to escape an abusive relationship, needing connections to employment and housing.
  • “You were extremely helpful in making our home feel like a home.”–a recently single mom who had moved into a new apartment and needed household furnishings.
  • “Thank you Bridges! God Bless you.”–an elderly woman who needed home repairs.
  • “I feel the love Bridges of Hope has for the people you help.”–an adult couple in their 70s; the wife needed new dentures and hadn’t been able to eat solid foods for awhile.

Thank YOU, Lakes Area, for making it possible for Bridges of Hope to love our neighbors as ourselves every day.


Make a gift to support a neighbor in need this year: a gift of $175 helps us support one family. Your donation is 100% tax-deducible.

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!


  • 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.


Looking Ahead

Our staff and board members spent the day together yesterday enjoying good food & fellowship and we also did some planning for the future of Bridges. It was a relaxing & energizing day!

We started out by naming our burdens & distractions and giving them to God so we could be fully present in our conversations.What a relief!

photo 4After sharing a morning meal together, we spent some time “getting to know each other better.”

Now, I don’t mean the “where did you go to school and what is your favorite ice cream flavor” kind of getting to know each other. I mean the fun, quirky, silly, and interesting kind of getting to know each other!

For example, we learned about each others diverse interests such as sewing, horseback riding, “mudding,” playing the djembe, and singing. There was even one person among us who plans to water ski this weekend. BRRRR!

All of us shared how important family is, with one staff member sharing she has 14 siblings and another that her husband is extremely lucky to have been married to her for 32 years!

A few of us  are pet lovers our pets & have given them unique names (some based in Greek mythology and others named after dearly departed grandmothers).

Strategic Priorities

Bridges of Hope’s Strategic Priorities, adopted in 2011

picstitchAfter setting aside our burdens and getting to know each other better, we reaffirmed our strategic priorities.

Bridges of Hope's Strategic Priorities, adopted in 2011

Bridges of Hope’s Strategic Priorities, adopted in 2011

Then, we moved on to the important business of answering some key questions:

  • What value do we offer our community?
  • How do we know this?
  • What are some important goals for us to focus on in the coming years?
  • Is there anything we need to stop doing in order to start doing something new?
  • What are the resources we will need?

We have some gifted thinkers, listeners, & visionaries among us!

These are some of the exciting (and just plain necessary) areas Bridges will focus on in the coming years.

  • Expand our Side by Side mentoring program.
  • Encourage learning – for ourselves, our clients, our partners, and the community.
  • Mobilize volunteers.
  • Go paperless!
  • Increase use of technology to serve better.
  • Secure resources to continue the great work.
  • Share information regarding gaps in services and act as a catalyst to fill those gaps when possible.

In order to do our work and accomplish these new goals, WE NEED YOU! If you are interested in being a mentor or volunteering for other opportunities, please contact jana@bridgesofhopemn.org or click here to make a gift that can change lives in the Lakes Area!

To stay up to date on all the latest happenings at Bridges, follow us on Facebook.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!















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:










when THIS happens!










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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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!

A Place at the Table

Hunger is a very real issue in our community. In fact, at Bridges of Hope, we hear from around 8 households per week who are worried about where their next meal will come from. Summer is just around the corner and many low-income families will struggle with providing food for their childreAPATTn while they are home for summer vacation. Please consider contacting one of our local food shelves to find out how you can help keep them stocked up during the busy summer months:

Brainerd Salvation Army Food Shelf: 218-824-1120

Cuyuna Food Shelf (Crosby): 218-534-9264

Lakes Area Food Shelf (Nisswa): 218-568-8474

Also, please consider attending an important event at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter tonight, May 13, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.:

The documentary, A Place at the Table, just released on March 1, will provide an opportunity for people to explore the economic, social and cultural implications of hunger for our nation, and move people to take steps toward making healthy and affordable food accessible to all.

Fifty million people in the U.S.—one in four children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America through the lens of three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hardworking mother can afford.

Ultimately, A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation, and that it could be solved once and for all, if the American public decides — as they have in the past — that making healthy food available and affordable is in the best interest of us all.

You are invited to come, learn, discuss, pray and act! This event is open to people of all ages and to all members of the community.

For Jesus said, “I was hungry…and you gave me food.”

To help Bridges of Hope assist the 8 household who call every week about food-related needs, click here to donate now.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!