2016 in Pictures

Here are just a few shots from 2016, highlighting the enormous person-power that is involved in making Bridges of Hope and Common Goods “happen.” We are so thankful to our shoppers, donors, volunteers, staff, and board for the ways you contribute to this amazing organization.

Thank you for building Bridges.

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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.


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.


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!















A Few Numbers, and Many of Your Words

Last year was another record-breaking year at Bridges of Hope. In 2013, we received referrals, calls & requests for help from 2,896 households! Part of my role at Bridges is to crunch the numbers, which I realize doesn’t necessarily sound all that fun or exciting, but I really do enjoy it because of what it can tell us about our services to the community. For example: of the 2,896 households we were in contact with last year…

  • The majority (78%) were for help with resources through our Resource Connection Services (help with housing, transportation, utlities, etc).
  • Childcare Services (Respite & Crisis Nursery) comprised another 14% of households.
  • Family Support Services (Intensive In-Home Services, the Parent Support Outreach Program, and the Teen Parent Outreach Program) made up 7% of the households.
  • Mentoring Services (Side by Side) was the final, very tiny less-than-1%.
  • Our mission is focused on serving families, and 68% of the households were part of our target service population (families, parents, “children” 0-21 and those who care for them). We continue to offer connections to resources for those who are not part of this population.
Bridge Photo

You help us build bridges!

Unfortunately, but understandably, most  households (~63%) who contacted Bridges for help were living at or below 100% of poverty, which was an annual income of $23,550 for a family of four in 2013. Another 30% were living between 101% and 200% of poverty (this is an annual income was $47,100 for a family of four).

Another rather astonishing set of numbers is those reporting physical and mental health concerns for at least one of the members of the household: 41% of households report a mental health concern, issue, or diagnosis;  14% report a physical health concern or disability; and 23% report both concerns! We know that these numbers aren’t based off of physical or clinician diagnoses, but they DO mean that people are clearly struggling in our community, when they’re willing to self-report concerns to these extents.

Despite these somewhat sobering statistics, thanks to the richness of resources in the Lakes Area, we were able to suggest viable solutions, resources, and/or practical ideas for 92% of the households. (Another 4% didn’t stay in contact with us, we screened out 2% as inappropriate, and we were unable to find resources for 2% of the households.) On the whole, that is great, great news!

And one final number: working with 2,896 households represents a somewhat incomprehensible 2,274% increase from our first year of operation, 2002, when we served just 122 households the entire year. (These days, we serve more than that in a single month–in fact, as of January 28, the day before I wrote this post, we had served exactly 122 households so far in 2014!)

Part of our programming includes following up with those we worked with, to make sure we’re providing services that are truly helpful–and if not–what we can do to modify our programs for the future. While this feels a little bit like tooting our own horn, I really wanted to share some of the great things our staff hear from those we follow up with–because our clients are really the ones that matter in this equation. Bridges was founded to bridge the gap between those in need and those with the resources–all of YOU…so, in no particular order, here is a sampling of some of the feedback we received from our clients In 2013:

  • Everyone was really helpful.
  • You guys are awesome!
  • I know I can call you anytime. I’ve learned so much from you; thank you!
  • Everyone thinks very highly of you!
  • It was very helpful. I appreciate you and would call Bridges again in the future.
  • The service was excellent. Thank you very much!
  • I very much appreciate you being so kind and not making me feel like I wasn’t important!
  • I don’t know what I would have done without you.
  • You’re most helpful and very kind.
  • If I ever come into a bunch of money, I’m donating to you for all your help over the last 3 years.
  • Thank you for listening and helping in our time of need.
  • I asked for parenting tips and I got a lot of good ideas.
  • The things I got through Salem are really making this house a home.
  • You guys always do the best you can and I appreciate it!
  • This isn’t the first time Bridges has given me hope!
  • You made me feel confident even though I had no confidence.

In addition to making sure our client’s situation was resolved, we ask them to give us a rating on the quality of services from Bridges, on a scale from 1-5:

  • A 10! You guys are awesome! I don’t know what I’d do without you.
  • I would give you a 6!
  • Definitely a 5!
  • I’d give you a 6 for calling back to follow up.
  • I’d give you guys a 20!
  • 5 + + +
  • I’d give Bridges a 10 on a scale of 1-5!
  • [And my personal favorite:] Bridges of Hope is beyond a 5; you are Phi-nominal.

Thank you for the very positive feedback, as well as for all of the very the helpful and constructive feedback you give us, because it is what enables us to serve our community in ever-better, more transformative ways. Thank you to our many community partners that work alongside us every day to help our community become a better place to live. And finally, thank you to our many, many donors and funders who enable us to DO this very important work. It is ALL OF YOU who deserve the greatest praise. We are looking forward to another great year at Bridges of Hope–thanks to you!

Fred-Mark Golf Tournament Raises $15,000

It was a chilly day for golf but the warmth for Bridges of Hope was more than present from the 200+ golfers at the 22nd Annual Fred-Mark Charity Golf Tournament. Our staff & board members had the opportunity to greet golfers in the morning & serve them lunch in the afternoon. We also hosted a Closest to the Pin contest & a Silent Auction at dinner.lunchlunch tent staff

Sponsorships totaled nearly $10,000 and the golfers’ participation in the events of the day brought in another $5,000 for Bridges of Hope’s work with families in the Lakes Area.

This brings the 8-year grandbat winner & Jana total of funds raised at the Fred-Mark to over $80,000! Wow!

A great day was had by all and we are, again, so appreciative to Grand View Lodge for including us in this class act tournament! If you haven’t made your summer vacation or “stay-cation” plans yet, we highly recommend Grand View Lodge!

If you’re not a golfer, and running or walking is more your style, sign up for the Run for Hope which will take place next Saturday, June 15th in partnership with  Journey North Community Church.Run Logo

There are so many ways YOU help us build Bridges. Thank you!

Stay connected with Bridges of Hope…

Make a tax-deductible donation today.

Visit our website

Find us on Facebook.

Volunteers Make a Difference at Common Goods

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Washing Windows!

At Common Goods, we are thankful for the hundreds of volunteers who help out every year! Volunteers help us get extra projects done (see photos below), keep the store clean & neat and also raise awareness and bring donations in to Common Goods. Many of our volunteers are local youth who are excited to make a difference in this community. In the last few months, we have had the privilege of serving alongside awesome students from Pillager and Pequot Lakes Schools as well some some of our youth volunteers who are “regulars.”

Pillager 9th grade and Pequot Lakes 8th grade students are encouraged to volunteer in the community as a part of their curriculum. Also, the community-minded Pillager High School National Honor Society students and their adviser, Sue Turner, recently completed their spring community service project for Common Goods.  They called us to do some research about what kinds of donations are helpful and then created flyers for a school-wide donation collection. Next, they collected, sorted & delivered donations to Common Goods. They even rewarded their peers who donated – with root beer floats!

All of these students and the adults who support them are very involved in our community and at their schools. This service-oriented attitude will carry them far beyond their high school years.  We applaud the generosity and community-minded outlook of these students and the dedication of the caring adults who work with them. By working together, we strengthen our community and raise our children to reach out and serve.  Well done Pequot Lakes and Pillager Schools!

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Common Goods, call Suzanne at (218)824-0923.

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A Creative Project

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The final product!

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Steaming clothes

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Straightening up the Sales Floor

New Collaboration with Salem WEST Begins April 1

Salem WEST



You may have heard that Bridges of Hope is teaming up with Salem WEST to serve our clients better. As many of you know, Salem WEST is a ministry of Salem Lutheran Church in Deerwood, MN. They have been serving the community for nearly 20 years and have worked closely with Bridges of Hope for the past 11 years. Conversations have been taking place between their director Greg and myself for a couple of years now, and recently, those conversations culminated in a plan for action that will better serve our clients.

Effective April 1, 2013, Salem WEST will begin using a new intake and referral process. Clients wishing to access services from Salem WEST will now contact Bridges of Hope to complete an intake form that enables us to help them resolve the challenges they face.  Salem WEST will no longer directly accept requests & referrals, as they had in the past. The new process to request support is still very simple and convenient: those in need should contact Bridges directly at 218.825.7682 or toll-free at 888.750.7682.

Salem WEST is still extremely committed to their mission of accepting and distributing quality material goods for those in need. The only change is that Bridges of Hope will deliver the intake & screening process for Salem WEST. This will help ensure that clients are served in a well-rounded manner, with Bridges of Hope’s well-established multi-faceted approach to each situation. Someone may contact us for furniture, and through our intake process we may be able to identify other needs and direct the household to additional helpful resources.

If you work with clients who could benefit from the services of Salem WEST or Bridges of Hope, simply encourage them to call us at 218.825.7682 or 888.750.7682. As always, part of our referral process usually includes requesting a release of information to other agencies they are working with so we can talk with other professionals directly about the household’s situation. The better we can all communicate with each other, the better off the whole community will be. Please help us by spreading the word to your co-workers and your professional network.

To make a gift to support this important work, visit Bridges of Hope’s website and click “Donate Now” or mail a check to Bridges of Hope, PO Box 742, Brainerd, MN 56401. Your donation is 100% tax deductible and will help us change lives in the Lakes Area. Thank you for your partnership.