Spring Cleaning (and Giving)

A combination of the recent stretch of unseasonably warm weather combined with recent weight loss triggered my inner spring cleaner a couple weeks ago. It was a Saturday afternoon when I hit my closet hard and was determined to downsize and donate.

Of course, whenever I’m ready to part with treasures; they go to Common Goods. Not only do I love the concept behind the thrift store, I also love knowing that my excess could be of benefit to someone with less.Common Goods logo

So I decided to reach out Danell Eggert and Andrea Martin, Retail Managers of the Common Goods locations in Baxter and Crosslake (respectively) for tips and tricks to spring simplification.

Both ladies agreed: changing seasons result in an increase in donations. As weather gets warmer, people begin cleaning out closets and storage areas looking to declutter.

“I think it’s easy to overload our lives with stuff,” Danell said. “I find myself getting antsy when I have too much stuff around the house, and clearing out always feels better. When I go through my things I do separate out things that can’t be re-used and throw it or label it to be recycled.”

And by donating to Common Goods, it’s a win-win for you and for the community!

“By donating items to Common Goods you are directly impacting families in our local community who are being served by Bridges of Hope,” Andrea said. “Common Goods also has a major impact on the number of products leaving our area or entering our landfills. In addition to selling items in our stores, we also work hard to recycle and redistribute goods within our community.  Local donations stay local, and proceeds serve local families in need through Bridges of Hope.”

Furniture tends to be the most requested item from Common Goods customers. Dressers and bookshelves are most popular; and unique or high-end pieces are the easiest to sell.

Andrea said unique items including antiques, old books and one-of-a-kind pottery are also in demand and are top sellers.

“These are the things that people love finding in our store,” she said. “We recently sold three wood block prints in which the artist, in 1938, painted Mt Fuji from different angles. There were 36 prints in all, and it was just beautiful to see the differences in scenery and seasons as he traveled around the mountain. The prints sold within 30 minutes of us putting them on the sales floor!

We also had some rare primitive long spoons from the late 1800s that were once used for soap making and two beautiful hand blown glass bowls that were shaped like swans. Interesting items come into the store all the time, and the examples I just gave were donated–and sold–in just the last week!”

Even if you don’t have antiques and sought-after collectibles, Common Goods certainly has a need for more ‘common’ items. As families being to think spring and summer, Common Goods is eager to receive fun and bright sun dresses, shorts, life jackets, bicycles and more.

A lot of people are headed off to spring break and need swimsuits and other warm weather apparel,” Andrea noted. “It’s time to put away the boots and get out the fun strappy sandals. Water skis, wake boards, golf stuff, roller blades, sporting equipment.… If you’ve got it, we want it!”

We are so thankful for all of our donors, as everything we sell has been generously donated,” Danell added. “That is one thing I have really worked to get across is how grateful we are and that our donors’ generosity helps so many people in our communities.

Over this past year I’ve really been able to see so much good. Good in people. Volunteers. Customers. Donors. Our team. Every single person coming together really makes this place great and in turn helps so many! We get a lot of people who say this is their happy place…and that makes me happy!”

Inspired and ready to declutter? Andrea advises spring cleaners to take it a little at a time.

“Keep it simple. Start small,” she said. “Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking you have to clean out your whole house from top to bottom. Make it a goal to tackle different problem areas one at a time, and be specific: ‘Tuesday, I’ll clean out the junk drawer.’ Have a donation box ready to go and add to it whenever you find items you no longer have a use for. When the box is full, DONATE! By making small regular donations it becomes a part of your lifestyle and you are less likely to find yourself cluttered in the future.”

“Stuff is just stuff,” Danell agreed. “If you have more than you need, then I say pass it on and help make a difference. That’s truly the bottom line as to why we are here… to make a difference.”

Note: When selecting items to donate, please be mindful of what can be sold versus what should be thrown, including items with stains and/or holes. If you have questions regarding making donations to Common Goods, visit www.commongoodsmn.org or call the Baxter store at 218.824.0923 or the Crosslake store at 218.692.7682.

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.

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.

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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!

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Storm Response: Proud of our Community!

Many of our neighbors were hit by the storm that produced up to 90 MPH straight line winds on July 12th. While some of us had just a few tree branches to rake up, others are currently living in homes with a tarp of the roof, and at least three homeowners have homes that were considered total losses.tree on cartree down

Bridges of Hope is proud to be participating in a still ongoing effort to care for those in our community who were impacted by this storm. In the days following the storm, we participated in twice daily briefings at the Relief Center at Timberwood Church along with the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department, Highway Department & Community Services teams, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Nisswa Chamber, Minnesota Power, Crow Wing Power, Lutheran Social Services, multiple disaster response teams, and many others.

Many of the folks at these briefings had experience significant damage to their own properties, yet they still showed up each day to coordinate the response for the entire community. It was incredibly moving to see the care for our community that was demonstrated by all involved.

Early on, the Initiative Foundation, Crow Wing Power, individuals, and multiple churches stepped up with donations to the Storm Response Fund – – THANK YOU!

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People experienced power outages that lasted several days, and some up to a week. This, coupled with significant property damage, caused extreme stress for many of our neighbors. While our agency partners were attending to immediate needs such as serving meals and distributing water at the Relief Center, Bridges of Hope heard from more than 140 households impacted by the storm. 

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Volunteers from AmeriCorps

We had the privilege of working with  relief groups such as Nechama Jewish Response to Disaster, a Southern Baptist relief group, Catholic United, Menonite Disaster Response, Home Depot, AmeriCorps, and many others and connected them with 46 households who were elderly, disabled, or facing some other barrier to assess & address emergent tree removal and yard clean-up need. At least 38 of those had their needs met by these relief groups while some resolved their own situations or were referred to professional services.

After a week without power and the stress of storm clean up, a number of households also sought assistance from Bridges for mental health concerns, food, and other issues. We worked as quickly as possible to provide referrals and assistance in these situations. We will continue to work with those affected by the storm in the coming weeks. We know that with the huge impact this storm had on our local resorts and other businesses, some of you may have experienced lost wages or other issues.

If you or someone you know were impacted by the storm and need assistance, please call Bridges of Hope at 218-825-7682 and a staff will speak with you about your situation.

We want to take this time to say a special thank you to the following businesses and churches who partnered with us to feed volunteers for the past three weeks! 

  • Salvation Army
  • Church members at Trinity, Lord of Life, and Timberwood.
  • Nisswa Chamber who coordinated donated meals from: Raffterty’s in Nisswa, Wendy’s in Nisswa, Prairie Bay, Nisswa Legion, and Zorbaz.
  • Mid-MN Federal Credit Union
  • Donors to the Bridges of Hope Storm Relief Fund

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We’ve seen many messages of thanks over the past three weeks (here is one example from Tom & Marlene who were affected by the storm).

On behalf of the staff & board at Bridges of Hope, I want to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in the storm relief effort. We are truly grateful to be a part of this community!

Summer Donations at Common Goods

garagesale-640x391Summer time is upon us which means two things at Common GoodsGarage sale season and increased donations. Because of this, I have a couple of questions to ask you:

  • Do you have great items just sitting around that you no longer have any use for?
  • Have you recently had a garage sale or plan on having one in the near future?

If so, we may be able to help you out with some of your left over treasures! If you have items that you feel may be a good fit, we invite you to call us at 218-824-0923 or visit us at 16227 Hwy 371 N Brainerd, MN next to Dondelinger Chevrolet. We suggest you call the store to verify that we are currently accepting items and to see what our greatest needs currently are. Under most circumstances we receive donations until 5:30 pm daily. However, there are times that we have to temporarily stop receiving items due to the amount of generous donations we receive. At Common Goods we have discovered that it is in our best operating practice to only accept what we can process in one working day. If you have a large amount of items to donate we ask that you call ahead to schedule a time to donate them. The call allows us to plan ahead to prepare for the increased amount of processing that will occur.

Here is a general guideline of the items that we typically can and cannot utilize for the families we serve:

Items that we can best utilize to generate revenue to serve families:
  • Quality furniture pieces with no tares, stains or faded
  • Newer home decor pieces
  • New or gently used clothing & footwear
  • Dish or glass sets for a place setting of 4+
  • Reading books in new like condition

Items that we typically CANNOT accept to generate revenue to serve families:

  • Seasonal or holiday items 3+ months before the season
  • Large exercise equipment
  • Individual glasses, mugs, dishes
  • TV’s, computers and stereo equipment
  • Stuffed animals
  • High chairs or strollers
  • Furniture that is stained, faded or ripped

For more information on our donation guidelines, please visit our website.

We would like to thank all of our generous donors and shoppers for their loyal support over the past five years. Without your support it would not be possible to do the work we do and serve households in the Brainerd Lakes Area. So again, thank you!

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Summer Store Hours (Memorial Day through Labor Day):

Monday-Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm & Sunday 12:00pm-5:00pm. We hope to see you soon!

It Shouldn’t Hurt to be a Child

radiothon logoEach December, BL Broadcasting collaborates with local Child Protection Teams in our area to bring awareness to and raise funds for Child Abuse Prevention. The public service announcements during the on-air event state, “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.” How true.

Child abuse is difficult to think about, but we need to think about it and we need to create a community where parents are supported and children are nurtured.

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, another time of year to bring awareness to the struggles parents and children in our community are facing. It’s a time to shine a light on the good work being done to strengthen families.

Here at Bridges of Hope, we are proud to partner with Crow Wing County in a state-wide program called Parent Support Outreach Program (PSOP). This is a voluntary program for families to engage in when the want to stabilize their struggles with basic needs and strengthen their parenting skills. Click here to read about how the PSOP program helped Cindy and her family.

biracial childrenAnother service in our community that aims to support parents and reduce child abuse & neglect is Crisis Nursery Services, which is free, short-term crisis childcare for children 0-12 in Crow Wing County and the surrounding areas. The goal of the Crisis Nursery is to provide a safe place for children during a family crisis like Kendra & her children experienced.

Crisis Nursery is made possible through the Crow Wing County Child Protection Team with funds that YOU donate during the Radiothon to End Child Abuse. THANK YOU!

As community members, there are many things we can do to support families around us. Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota makes the following suggestions about what to do if you see a parent who is “on edge” in public:

  • Divert the adult’s attention.
  • Start a conversation with the adult. Offer sympathy. For example, you could say, “Shopping with children can really try your patience, can’t it?” Talk to the child.
  • If the child is acting out or misbehaving, start a friendly conversation to distract him or her.
  • Praise the parent or child.
  • Find something positive to say about the child or the parent. For example, “That’s a pretty dress your daughter is wearing. Where did you get it?”
  • Offer to help.
  • For example, if a child has been left unattended in a grocery cart, stay near him or her until a caretaker returns.
  • Avoid negative looks or comments.This may only increase the adult’s anger, making things worse for the child.

There are many preventative efforts happening in our community, however it is important to state that if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected in our area, you should contact Crow Wing County Social Services at 218-824-1140. 

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, please take a moment to enrich the life of a child in your life and support the parents around you. It really does take a village to raise a child!

Pinwheel for Prevention

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.