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.

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.

 

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.

 

Great Partnerships, Guaranteed

Amazing things are happening at Bridges of Hope, all because of you.

BOH_BBCampaign_36kBecause of you, today (one week before Thanksgiving), our Fall Fundraising Campaign (60K in 60 Days) has reached $36,000 of our $60,000 goal, just 21 days into the campaign–that is simply incredible. That translates into help and hope for 240 more families this year. Thank you.

Common Goods - Hip ThriftBecause of you, Common Goods has had a record-breaking number of shoppers (and sales) in the past 30 days–which means even more help and hope for families in our community! Thank you for both donating such high-quality items and for coming in and shopping for those amazing items.

Because of you, we are SO CLOSE to meeting the challenge of providing Thanksgiving Meals for 368 households this year–100 more than any year in the past! (Approximately 50 more sponsors are needed for adult households without children. Click here to learn more.) Thank you.

Because of you, Bridges of Hope is able to partner with our local landlords, utility companies, local businesses, auto repairs, appliance stores, local agencies, area churches, and others to provide critical shelter and basic needs assistance to families in our community, and we are so thankful to you for your willingness to partner with Bridges of Hope. Since our inception, Bridges of Hope has worked with well over 100 different partners/vendors in Crow Wing County and the surrounding communities. Thank you. 

Our amazing local partnerships are something I’d like to tell you a little more about:

Bridges of Hope is first and foremost a resource and referral agency–our role is to bridge the gap between those in need in our community and the community assets that can help them. But of course there are times when all of the local resources have been exhausted, or nothing exists to help with a particular situation, or there is some other reasonable explanation as to why we are unable to connect them to local resources, but the family’s situation still warrants helping.

In those times (depending on whether we have funding), Bridges is able to assist financially, thanks to our church-supported community benevolence funds (Spirit of Kindness Fund) and the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation-supported fund, Spirit of Hope. Annually, this is still a very small percentage of the overall services we provide (in 2012, it was ~160 of 2,570 households), but in those situations it still matters a LOT, and that is when our local partnerships are so important and so helpful.

Guarantee of Payment Letter ExampleEven if we’re able to make a decision to assist a family, it can still take up to 3 weeks to draw up the appropriate paperwork, have it approved by a supervisor, sent to our accountant, have a check issued, and then have the payment actually received by whatever business we’re working with.

That is why we are so grateful for the acceptance of our “Guarantee of Payment” letter, which is exactly what it sound like–the business/vendor trusts our word that we are going to pay on the client’s behalf, and they accept the letter as “payment” while they wait for our check to arrive.

This removes a HUGE amount of stress from the family we’re working with, as well as enables us to work through the needed internal controls practices that are required of us. We use this process in situations such as electric shut offs, eviction notices, car repairs, housing repairs, rent, and deposits, among many other unique situations.

An example of how this works would be in a situation where Bridges of Hope is working with a homeless family of five with an annual income of $34,700. We work with them to find affordable housing, which is recommended to be about 30% of their income. They find an available place for $775/month that meets this guideline, but in order to move in, their new rental requires first month’s rent and a damage deposit, as well as a utility deposit to hook up their electricity and heat–over $1,800 for a family that makes just $2,900 per month. In addition, their income of $34,700 was calculated based on one of the parents’ new jobs, where they have only received one paycheck so far–but the family cannot move in until all the deposits have been paid.

This is a common scenario for families in our community, but thanks to the acceptance of our “Guarantee of Payment” letter by our amazing partners, we are able to assist the family in getting into their affordable housing without further delays. We know that stable, safe, and affordable housing is the backbone of a successful, productive community member–and this is just one simple way that several different parts of our community pull together to help some of our members in need.

So because of you, Bridges is able to continue fulfilling our mission to bridge the gaps, support & strengthen families, and send a message of hope. Thank you to all of our partners in the Lakes Area and beyond. Together we are making a difference in our “commUNITY.”

Iris’ Moment

IrisIris was a widow living on her own, with her beloved dog Rosie as her constant companion. She was continually struggling to make ends meet on a fixed income, but she reached a breaking point when she received a disconnect notice on her electric last spring.

Iris’ adult son was able to help with her mortgage once in awhile; and Iris also had good friend, also a widow, with whom she would frequently car pool–but this bill was something that neither could help with.

By the time she called Bridges of Hope, Iris was 5 months behind and had accumulated a bill that had nearly reached $1,000. She had been receiving Energy Assistance through Lutheran Social Service over the winter and had been under the impression that it was taking care of her monthly bills, but in fact the assistance had run out in February, and it had only been covering a portion of her full bill amount each month. Iris had already sought out the Salvation Army for Heat Share assistance, and they were able to help with a small portion toward the total past-due bill. She was also working with her mortgage company to get her monthly mortgage payment lowered, so her entire expenses each month would be slightly more affordable.

After working with Iris over the phone, I was able to meet with Iris and look at her budget even more in-depth. Based on the information, I suggested she connect with Financial Counseling from LSS, who specializes in that kind of assistance. At that point, Iris pulled out two sheets of paper from her purse–she had already completed financial counseling with them and had her new budget right there for me to look at! Iris had still not heard back from her mortgage company about a lower payment, but she was expecting that once it was processed, her living situation would be sustainable in the future. We knew if that happened, and if we could help Iris get caught up on the electric bill, she should be able to afford her life going forward.

About a week later, Iris stopped into the Bridges of Hope office to let me know her mortgage payment had been cut in half–great news! I helped her start the process of finding resources to get her house weatherized before next winter, and I was able to let her know that Bridges would be helping her with her electric bill as well. She expressed her thanks, saying she couldn’t thank Bridges of Hope enough. Two weeks after that, we made a follow-up call with Iris to see how things were going. It happened to fall right on her 80th birthday, and she let us know that she was now caught up on all of her monthly bills and was even putting away a portion of money into savings every month. What a great turnaround for Iris and Rosie both!

If you or someone you know has fallen into hard times and could use some support bridging the gap back to stability, please call Bridges of Hope at 218.825.7682, or learn more about our services here.

Campaign Reaches $12,000 Mark!

You might have noticed that we have fall fundraising goal: to raise $60,000 to support our work with Lakes Area families like Steven and Laura’s. You helped us reach this same goal last year and we pray that you’ll help again this year. Just 19 days into this year’s campaign, this generous community has already donated over $12,000!

This year has brought many amazing opportunities to Bridges of Hope, and we’ve faced a few challenges, too. One of our major challenges is the extremely competitive nature of the “Grant Funding World.” Many of our favorite foundations report receiving requests for 3-4 times the dollar amount they have available to give during a funding cycle. During a time when nonprofits are being asked to do more than ever, that math does not add up for local families who are looking to organizations like Bridges of Hope to help during a crisis.

We have a couple of staff members who devote part of their time to writing grants for the organization all year round, and they are pretty good at it. In fact, our “success rate” in 2011 was 59% and the dollar amount funded for these approved grants was 50%. In 2012, our grant writing success rate is 63% (not bad, right?), but the kicker is that only about 30% of the dollar amount we requested has been granted. This has played a large role in our $60,000 year-end funding gap.

Now, we certainly do not intend to sound ungrateful–because we are SO appreciative of our Foundation partners! We simply want to convey to you the extreme importance of your personal gift to Bridges of Hope this year. We have never had a waiting list at Bridges of Hope, and I do not want this to be the first year our clients have to wait for the guidance and support that could change their lives.

Jack, Dylan and ChloeCan you make a gift of $150 to support our services with one family? Every gift matters, whatever the size, and you can be sure we are putting your gift to good use. If you’re curious about what your gift can do, you can read some of our Moment of Hope stories here.

Thank you for helping us keep up with the demand for services during this very busy fall and holiday season. This generous community has already helped our campaign raise over $12,000! Can YOU help us get to the halfway mark by Thanksgiving? Your gift is 100% tax-deductible.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

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.