Liz’s Moment

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Liz is a 45 year-old with bright green eyes and an infectious personality whose dream was to move out of a group home and into her own place. Liz would call our office almost like clockwork once a month, requesting help with either gas, clothing, or furniture. Each month, we would kindly remind Liz that all of those needs were taken care of for her through living at the group home. Her disability made it difficult for Liz to fully understand why she didn’t need these items, and each time our staff would patiently explain the process she needed to follow first before calling us.

Then one afternoon late last fall Liz called again, and once again I expected to talk to her about why she didn’t need any gas, clothing or furniture yet, but this time, Liz had moving plans! We were thrilled for her. We were able to confirm the details with Liz’s mental health worker, and then things really started to take off. Because we all wanted this move to be successful for Liz, I talked to her about her new responsibilities; such as paying her rent on time, buying groceries for herself, learning new transportation resources, and other details about living on your own. Liz and her mental health worker came up with a list of furniture and household items Liz would need. After all her past requests, we were finally able to say “yes” to Liz!
Moving day arrived, and Liz moved out of the group home and into her own apartment. A few days later, Liz’s donated furniture and household furnishings were dropped off. A month later, my heart sank just a little when I received that familiar monthly call from Liz. I was expecting to hear the worst–that she had lost her rent money, or her furniture wasn’t working out, or something else. But once again, Liz surprised me. She was requesting help with a bus pass. Since Liz doesn’t drive, walking and the bus were her only forms of transportation–and now that we were in the dead of winter, it was just too cold out to walk.sidewalk-goodcondition

At our weekly staff meeting, we discussed the request as a team, and we were able to provide Liz with a bus pass. A couple of weeks later, I followed up with Liz, and she positively gushed about her new life on her own. She was volunteering in the community and had already lost weight from all the walking she was doing. She was so happy!

The next month came and…I never received the familiar call from Liz. And then the next month came, and still no call. When the calls stopped coming, we knew that Liz had made her dream come true.

 

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.

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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.

Samantha’s Moment

Samantha and Matthew have three children (Alex, Tanner, & Asher). They have interacted with Bridges of Hope on a few different occasions over the past 7 years. I recently sat down with Samantha to chat with her about her experiences and the difference that Bridges of Hope has made in her life.

Q: What was life like “before Bridges?”

A: Well, Matthew works full time and is a student full-time, so sometimes I feel like a single mom. He helps when he can, and we are lucky to live somewhere where there are extra hands to help out when he can’t. It all started when I was diagnosed with cancer and lost my job. I was uninsured at the time and we racked up a lot of medical debt. Matthew’s wages began to be garnished and we eventually lost our home. We ended up homeless—we were couch surfing between friends and family. Through this all my kids had a “schedule,” but I knew in my heart the instability was not good for them.

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Alex & Asher

In January we ended up at New Pathways. That was when I hit rock bottom and was reported to Child Protective Services. At first I was upset, but now I realize that there is a stigma about Child Protection. Just because you are reported, does not mean you are a bad parent; it just means someone is concerned for your kids. I was reported but a case was not opened, and that is how I was referred to the Parent Support Outreach Program at Bridges of Hope. Jennifer [Outreach Worker at Bridges of Hope] was great. She was open and honest with me about the referral to Child Protection, but helped me see it as a way to make necessary changes in my life. After that program was finished, I was referred to the Side by Side program and have been participating in that since July of this year.

Q: What steps did Bridges of Hope take with you to address the concerns you had?

A: Jennifer, and now the Mentors and other women in the Side by Side Program were constantly checking in and giving me resources. Stress was a big problem for me; I felt like a single mom most of the time. Jennifer let me know it was okay to feel what I was feeling and gave me skills to deal with my stress. I was connected with Respite care, which gives us a break every month—that has been HUGE!

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Samantha and her kids

Q: What is different now?

A: STABILITY! And I get out of the house! The other women participating in Side by Side have been amazing. They have been there, just like me, and I don’t feel that “shame on me” that I have felt other times in my life. They, along with my Mentors, help me see that the best I can do is good enough, but they also challenge me to be better. Now Matthew and I both have full-time jobs and we are planning on buying a house. (No, not tomorrow–its part of our five-year plan!) Our kids are happier and A LOT less stressed, and so am I. They are growing and back on track developmentally. My daughter had been behind on reading and now is reading 4 grades above where she should be.

Q: What if Bridges of Hope didn’t exist?

A: We’d have failed. Our kids would have been taken. There’s no doubt that I could not have kept it together without the support that Bridges gave me. My life is more balanced—I have learned to focus on myself so I can then focus on my kids and be a good mom.

Q: What are the first words that come to mind when you think of Bridges of Hope?

A: Supportive, Positive, Uplifting, and Genuine. Everyone I have ever talked to at Bridges of Hope has been genuine. No one has ever talked down to me or made me feel ashamed. They have always focused on the positive strengths that I have and used them to help me see the things I needed to work on.

Thank you Samantha, for your willingness to share, for your courage to make amazing changes in your life, and for allowing us to be a part of your story. We are proud of you!

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Will YOU give the Power 2 HOPE to a family this year? A gift of any size makes a difference for families in the Lakes Area every day. Make a donation today!

 

She is Clothed with Strength and Dignity…

Defeated…worn out…confused. These are some of the words that Cindy used to describe herself and her situation when I first met her. Cindy is a young mom with three small children: Luke, Isabelle, and Nicholas. When she first started working with me, she and her children were homeless and living in a shelter. Cindy was a victim of domestic abuse and made the choice to leave her relationship to make a better life for her and her children, but it wasn’t easy, and she faced many challenges along the way. Not only did Cindy lack stable housing, but her children were displaying some concerning behaviors. One of her sons was becoming more defiant, the other was often sad and reclusive, and her daughter struggled with outbursts and tantrums. To make matters worse, Cindy had many financial concerns due to limited financial resources. Thankfully, she was referred to Bridges of Hope at just the right time.

three-siblings1I worked with Cindy through the Parent Support Outreach Program for three months and met with her weekly to provide resources, guidance, and support. Though Cindy felt scared and overwhelmed, she continued to work hard to do everything she could to improve her situation. While participating in this program, Cindy was connected with county assistance, where she accessed childcare services, food support, and some financial assistance. She also attended financial counseling through Lutheran Social Service, which helped her prioritize her expenses and get a handle on her debt. She was already enrolled in classes at Central Lakes College, and she was able to reduce her course load to something more manageable. I was able to help Cindy connect with in-home counseling services to help her children work through the trauma and life changes they had experienced in such a short time, and she was eager to make the first appointment. Cindy’s strength and perseverance paid off. She found housing, and Bridges of Hope was able to assist her with the deposit she needed to move in. Cindy was also connected with Salem WEST to provide her with furniture and household items for her new home, and Cindy was thrilled!

Cindy is an amazing woman who has faced many significant challenges, but with the right supports and resources and a whole lot of resilience and determination, Cindy made huge changes for herself and her children. Her entire face lights up when she talks about her home, and I’ve seen more smiles on the faces of her kids since they’ve had a place to call their own.

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Help Bridges of Hope continue to be able to be there for other families like Cindy’s this year: make a donation today!

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.

 

Kimberly’s Moment

It’s that dreaded feeling you get…when you realize you have just been in a car accident.

What happened before the accident is usually a blur, but what happens after an accident can leave you feeling just as foggy. At Bridges of Hope we try to help lift some of the fog for the clients that reach out us. Some have experienced a figurative “car accident” that has left them spinning emotionally, and others have experienced a literal car accident that has caused injury in other ways, like in the case of Kimberly:

Apartment Building PicKimberly called Bridges of Hope a few months after she had had a car accident that left her needing neck surgery. During her recovery, Kimberly was unable to work and was let go from her job. Without any income, Kimberly also found herself without a home shortly afterward. She moved in with her mother and younger brother.

During her three-month-long recovery, Kimberly’s family was helping her pay her other bills, and they all just managed to get by. At the end of the three months, Kimberly was going to be released from her work restrictions and had already found a new job that was just a few blocks away from an available apartment. When Kimberly  connected with Bridges, she was seeking resources for the first month’s rent and damage deposit to get into this apartment.

Since her mother lives out of town and Kimberly does not have a vehicle, an apartment close to her employment is ideal. Lutheran Social Service (LSS) is one of our community partners that we regularly collaborate with in instances when a client needs help with housing. Bridges of Hope and LSS both have guidelines to ensure that the rent is sustainable for the client based on their current situation, and typically that means the housing is close to 30% of their income and fits into their budget. Based on these factors, Bridges and Lutheran Social Service were able to assist Kimberly in getting into her new apartment.

When we followed up with her a few weeks later, Kimberly stated she is loving her new job and has made great strides in her recovery. She is extremely grateful for the help!

And we are grateful to be able to be there for people in our community like Kimberly. Thank you for helping us help others! For more information about how you can get involved, please visit our website.

Dustyne’s Moment

Dustyne and her beautiful children had experienced too much heartache, and Dustyne turned to Bridges of Hope despite feeling nervous and afraid. She recalls: “Things just weren’t adding up. I needed help to stop going in the same circle.”

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Dustyne With Her Son Derrick

Dustyne was connected with our Side by Side Mentoring Program. She had the skills to live a healthy and successful life; she simply lacked the social connections that help everything fall into place.

Over the course of 8 months in the Side by Side program, with help from her mentors and her own strong determination, Dustyne obtained employment, moved her family into more suitable housing, and began to realize just how much she had to offer.

Dustyne reflects on her experience, one year after starting the program: “In the beginning, I didn’t think I had anything to offer. After a while, I realized other women were actually learning from me too, and that is pretty special. My mentors and the Bridges staff want to see me grow, and I thank God for putting them in my life.”

You can watch Dustyne’s story in her own words here:

A gift of $150 supports our work with one family.

A gift of $150 supports one family.

Our supporters have continued to come alongside Lakes Area families just like Dustyne’s, helping Bridges of Hope make life-changing transformations like this possible. Thousands of households are facing challenging situations and continue to reach out to Bridges for support each year.

This fall and winter we invite you to join us on our journey to raise “60K in 60 Days.” That $60,000 will make it possible to improve the lives of 400 families who will call Bridges of Hope before the end of the year.

With your support, we can reach this goal by December 31st!

Here are three ways that you can make a difference:

  • Make a gift now to support other families just like Dustyne’s.
  • Make a gift on Give to the Max Day (Thursday, November 14), and your online gift will be matched, up to $15,000!
  • Make a year-end gift in memory or honor of someone special in your life. Checks can be sent to Bridges of Hope, PO Box 742 Brainerd MN 56401.

On behalf of Dustyne & her family–and all of the families we serve–thank you for your generosity.