Hopelessly Devoted

Business owner. Bicycle enthusiast. Photographer. Father. Husband.Biff

And, just one year ago, Biff Ulm added ‘board member’ to the list.

“I first became involved with Bridges of Hope after being contacted by a friend to serve on an advisory team for their retail store, Common Goods,” Biff noted. “I quickly discovered the true impact that shopping and donating to Common Goods has on our community as a whole.  I truly believe when one learns about all the good Bridges does for the Lakes Area, it’s hard not to want to donate time and personal resources to such worthy causes.”

Biff, who – himself – knows the retail world well as manager of Zaiser’s in downtown Nisswa, has since increased his involvement with Bridges of Hope, including serving on planning committees for the annual Glow Run and the Afternoon Tea.

“The focus of every Bridges event is about those attending and the cause they are serving.  One quickly learns, Bridges is one hundred percent about investing in people of all walks of life.  To see so many people come out and support each other, makes for an extremely enjoyable time.”

As both a Bridges board member and supporter, Biff rolled up his sleeves and worked alongside hundreds of volunteers following the July 12th storm that hit the area – cutting trees and providing for the needs of those hardest hit.

“Hands down, the biggest event in the Lakes Area this year was the storm that devastated the communities north of Brainerd,” he said. “One doesn’t have to travel far to see the scars and work that continues to be done in so many neighborhoods. To see how quickly Bridges of Hope took the lead in coordinating a multi-organizational effort to help those in most need was amazing.

“In the areas hardest hit, one witnessed so much selfless giving by neighborsI Hope button helping neighbors. I spent two days on Bridges of Hope volunteer clean up crews and two additional days with other volunteer efforts.  What I heard over and over from property owners was the true heroes of the storm were those individuals who were there to
answer the phone for those in most need the days after the storms. Bridges of Hope staff listened and acted with care and compassion to help coordinate a massive effort across many organizations and hundreds of volunteers to get those in most need the help they needed.”

“While Bridges had never coordinated such a mass effort, they did so with such
ease,” he continued. “Never did the Bridges of Hope board or paid staff waiver on whether they should play such an integral role. Instead, they immediately focused on how they could do the most good. This illustrates the strength of this amazing organization.”

Biff said he most appreciates the effectiveness and scope of the Bridges organization and its staff, never ceasing to help build a stronger community.

“The level of synergy and teamwork should be the standard for any nonprofit,” he noted. “Bridges serves the entire Lakes Area by helping so many overcome life’s obstacles. I think one of the most humbling stories I have heard over and over again is how Bridges has helped families who never thought they would need help in the first place get back on their feet. One never knows when bad luck, or an action of no cause to one’s own, will put a family in a difficult situation. Knowing there is an organization that treats people with dignity and love to overcome unexpected hardship, gives so much inspiration. It is why I am proud to call Nisswa and all the surrounding areas home.”

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YOU can provide hope to those in need! From now through year-end, Bridges needs to raise $60,000 to meet the needs of our friends, family, and neighbors in the Lakes Area. Click here to make a 100% tax-deductible donation or your can mail a gift to PO Box 742; Brainerd, MN 56401.

Week 7 update of our campaign: we are halfway to our goal, at $31,600!

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Thank you for giving.

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Beauty in the Storm

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In the midst of a storm, the last thing many of us witness is beauty. However, one Brainerd area couple saw just that in the hours, days and weeks following the July 12th storm that hit the Lakes Area this past summer.

Tom and Marlene Larson have called this area home for over 50 years. But never has the Brainerd couple witnessed a disaster matching the magnitude of the storm on Sunday, July 12, 2015.

During the storm, the Larsons had three layers of trees fall on the west side of two garages, leaving gaping holes in the roof and a daunting job of clearing.

Despite the irreplaceable damage to property and the emotional toll it took on so many, Tom and Marlene noted that it was an opportunity for community to come together and witness the generosity and giving spirit of so many willing to step forward in times of need.

“We were so thankful to have little damage to our home, but we hardly had a tree left on our property,” Marlene noted. “It took six of us to open our driveway.”

“Yes, it was severe. Yes, there was much damage. But this has brought neighborhoods together. We think of this as ‘people helping people.’”AmeriCorps

Within days following the storm, crews arrived to help cover the holes in the roof with tarps. Bottled water and snacks were delivered, and the Larsons reached out to Bridges of Hope for additional assistance.

Fulfilling the call, Bridges of Hope partnered with local emergency services personnel to provide volunteers and necessary resources to those impacted by the storm; as well as providing spiritual, mental and emotional support to individuals and families just like Tom and Marlene’s.

Marlene shared, “It’s an appropriate name, as they were ready to assist our needs – emotional and physical.”

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You can help ensure Bridges of Hope’s services are available for all who call; help us reach our $60,000 goal by year-end! As of 12/4/15, you have given ~$23,000 to help those in need. Thank you!DonateButtonOrangeLogo

Passion in Bloom

Kate Kuepers’ first experience with Bridges of Hope came when she and her Katefamily sponsored a family in need for Thanksgiving.

“I really wanted to help those in need in our community and involve my family, as well,” she said.

Then, last year, Kuepers – owner of Bloom Designs, a wedding and event florist and event styling business – was asked to help coordinate and decorate for the Afternoon Tea for Hope, a fundraiser to benefit Bridges’ Side by Side mentoring program.

“It was an unbelievable experience; truly moving and wonderful,” Kuepers said of the event. “After listening to the stories of women in our community who have been part of the ‘Side by Side’ program and hearing how, truly, life changing it has been for them. I think about all the people who rely on these women and the residual effects of helping one person at a time. To me, this hope they get from their mentors and Bridges of Hope, is truly miraculous.”

Kuepers said it has been these chance encounters that have fueled her passion for Bridges of Hope – from the volunteers and staff to the individuals it serves.

“Everyone you encounter while working with Bridges of Hope is amazing,” shares Kuepers. “There is so much love and hope for those in our community that are going through a crisis, and those who just need a boost. The people that work at Bridges are professional, resourceful, and true angels.”

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To learn more about the impact of Side by Side, read Charlotte’s MomentIreneI Hope button‘s Moment, and Samantha’s Moment.

YOU can create more Moments like these by contributing to the “I Hope” campaign.

Baptism by Fire

THolmesIHopeStarting a new job always comes with ‘first day jitters.’ However, Brainerd’s newest Fire Chief had a baptism by fire – no pun intended.

Tim Holmes’ first day on the job was July 13, 2015 – the morning after a devastating windstorm blew through the Lakes Area – changing the landscape, and countless lives, forever. There was no coffee and donut welcome social. Holmes’ immediately snapped into action, knowing the challenges and hardships being experienced by thousands of residents throughout his service area.

“My family had been out for dinner the night before,” Holmes recounted. “When the storm blew through, we started for home knowing I would be needed to assist with the devastation. But when we drove north along Highway 371, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Trees and power lines covered the roadway. Rooflines were shrouded by limbs. It’s certainly something I’ll never forget.”

After getting his family home safely, Holmes went to work as a volunteer with the Nisswa Fire Department. The crew spent hours making paths down impassable streets and assessed the situation to ensure there were no injuries. After only a quick night’s rest, Holmes switched hats and reported to work on Monday morning as the Brainerd Fire Chief.

tree down With much of a devastation lying within the Brainerd Fire Department’s service area, Holmes was one of several emergency management personnel who reported to the staging site at Timberwood Church in Nisswa. Together, with organizations and critical service providers throughout the area, the group strategized and quickly formulated a plan to help those in need. One of the partners at the table was Bridges of Hope – standing at the ready to help storm victims.

tree on car“Having lived in the area for some time, I had heard of Bridges of Hope; but I guess I never fully grasped the scope and reach of the organization. It didn’t take long that first day to understand how incredibly instrumental they are. Jana and her team were quick on their feet and eager to step in wherever needed. They remained right along side the first responders and emergency service workers to provide food, water and assistance to thousands of individuals who lost so much to the storm. They worked closely with emergency management to coordinate volunteer groups – providing assistance with everything from tree removal to mental health needs assessments.

Over a span of two weeks, Bridges of Hope worked with more that 140 households whose lives were impacted by the storm.

“I sincerely hope this area never again experiences devastation like we did in July; but I am proud to say I serve in a community that has amazing resources and caring individuals like those at Bridges of Hope who, regardless of the situation, stand ready to selflessly serve others.”

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You can ensure that Bridges of Hope’s services are available when the “storms of life” hit. Please help us reach our goal to raise $60,000 by year-end and share hope with the 300 householdI Hope buttons who will reach out to Bridges of Hope still this year. 

As of 11/16/15, we are just over $9,500–thank you!

Click here to make an online gift or your can  mail a check to PO Box 742, Brainerd, MN 56401. Your donation is 100% tax-deductible and will provide HOPE this holiday season.

What Does it Mean to Hope?

What does it mean to hope?I Hope button

For some, it’s the thought of building a dream home, or perhaps it’s anticipating an acceptance letter to your son or daughter’s first-choice college. It might be hoping for sunshine on a special day.

For others, it means knowing you’ll have a warm meal tonight, the resources to afford a new coat or warm pair of boots for your child this winter, or having somewhere to call after the storm hits.

This summer, many found themselves in hope of assistance when an unprecedented windstorm damaged countless homes, uprooted trees, and changed the landscape of the Lakes Area forever.

Last week, we launched our fall campaign, simply titled “I Hope.” We want you to know that you can make a difference for your neighbors in the Lakes Area, like Patti.

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Photo credit: Biff Ulm

Patti never imagined she would look to a nonprofit organization for assistance. But the evening of July 12th changed her life—and perspective—forever. With 90 mph straight-line winds and even stronger gusts, Patti lost between 60 and 70 percent of the trees at her home on the north side of North Long Lake. It was both a physical and emotional loss for Patti, as trees that dated back over 100 years were one of the favorite things about her property.

 “I used to lay outside and look up at those trees. They made such beautiful sounds. When I first saw the damage, I just started crying. I know I didn’t get the absolute worst of it and there were others who had much worse. But it was horrendous.”

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Photo credit: Biff Ulm

 As a widow, Patti was at a loss as to how she would afford to safely clear the trees that once towered 80 feet above her home. That’s when a neighbor suggested she call Bridges of Hope for assistance. Within days, a crew of volunteers and equipment arrived at Patti’s house and worked tirelessly to get things back in order.

Patti had this to say about Bridges of Hope and the volunteers who helped, “They were a Godsend. It was just a miracle. You talk about what God can do in one day, and I felt that’s what they did for me. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine they could do what they did in one day.”

In the days and weeks following the storm, Bridges of Hope worked with over 140 Lakes Area households who had been directly impacted by the storm. We are so grateful for the incredible support during that time that enabled us to respond to these needs in addition to our typical services.

You are the reason we exist and are able to extend the love and grace of God to more than 2,500 households annually. Today, we ask you to support our work with more than 300 households who will reach out to Bridges still this year. When you make a gift to our “I Hope” campaign, you make it possible for us to serve your friends, family, and neighbors in the Lakes Area during their time of need.

During this time of year, synonymous with giving, you can help us reach our $60,000 goal from now until December 31st, and make a real difference in the lives of individuals just like you and me. Give to the Max Day is on Thursday November 12th. For your convenience, you can schedule your donation ahead of time!

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Thank you for helping us build Bridges & bring HOPE to the Lakes Area! 

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Something to be Thankful For

Thanksgiving MealBridges of Hope has provided the community with a Thanksgiving Basket Program since 2009. Although it can be a very busy, stressful time of year, it is also one of the most fun and rewarding programs that I am a part of at the organization. (And we do a lot of fun, rewarding things here!)

It’s fun to be able to do something out of the ordinary from my more typical daily tasks, and it’s rewarding to be able to see community members from area churches, businesses, service clubs, and individual families come together to help families who would likely not be able to afford a Thanksgiving meal otherwise. Every year the program has grown, and this year we are expecting to serve approximately 275 families! We rely on the amazing generosity of our sponsors to make this a reality.

Another reason this is such a rewarding program is due to the fact that it is one of the best opportunities for Bridges of Hope to offer a more “hands on” experience for those of our partners and supporters out there who are looking for that kind of experience. This program allows sponsors the opportunity to shop for the food themselves and personally deliver the basket to the family.

We realize this is not the kind of experience that everyone is looking for, and so we are happy to offer other kinds of ways to interface with Bridges; including volunteering, shopping and donating at Common Goods; serving as a mentor in our new Side by Side program; and financially supporting our work with families. But for those of you considering sponsorship this Thanksgiving, I would like to share with you what a past sponsor (who is sponsoring again this year) shared with me recently. She was talking at her church group about the program and encouraging others to get involved, and she shared her experience delivering the baskets last year: “we were able to have conversations with the families and tell them about who we were and invited them to come to our Thanksgiving Eve service at church.” For this sponsor, the unique, personal experience was what made it a great.

Of course, we also realize that not every sponsor can afford the time to personally deliver their basket, and so Bridges of Hope offers the option for sponsors to instead shop and deliver the food to our office, so that another volunteer can deliver the basket to the family. However, we find that most sponsors choose to deliver the baskets themselves! If you would like more information on the program and how to become a sponsor, please click here.

While my post so far has been on the sponsors, the true focus of this program is the families receiving the baskets. The families are the reason we run the program, and serving them in the best way possible is how we make decisions on how the program should be run. Since 2009, you have helped provide over 600 meals to families for Thanksgiving–and we have received numerous thank-you calls and notes from those families, expressing just how thankful they are–and isn’t that exactly what Thanksgiving is all about?

I am so thankful for all of the families we are able to serve because of our amazing sponsors that make this program possible! Thank you!

Sponsors are still needed for this year’s program. To sponsor a family for Thanksgiving this year, visit our website for details.