Sara Jo’s Moment

Sara Jo is a single parent of two school-age girls. She had recently been divorced and was living with her mother, something she never thought she would do again, since moving out after high school. Although she appreciated her mother’s willingness to take her and the girls in, Sara Jo knew that she and her girls needed more space than what they had–and so did her mom. Tensions were starting to run high some evenings, as the girls and her mother struggled to adjust to the very different energies of each other. Sara Jo was working, though she did not have a car, so she was relying on rides from co-workers to get to work, which was also quickly wearing thin.

After searching for housing online and making some phone calls, Sara Jo had found a modest apartment that was on the bus line, but she was struggling to come up with both the first month’s rent and the damage deposit required for her to be able to move in. The landlord suggested that Sara Jo call Bridges of Hope to find out about area resources to assist her with these costs.

Sara Jo called Bridges of Hope and spoke with one of our staff, who assessed her situation to see what community resources she would qualify for. We connected her to Lutheran Social Service for assistance, since we could see from Sara Jo’s budget that she would be able to afford the rent and the rest of her ongoing monthly expenses once she was over this hurdle. Sara Jo saved up to pay for the damage deposit for the new place, and Lutheran Social Service was able to cover the cost of the first month’s rent. Bridges then was able to connect Sara Jo with Salem WEST for some much-needed furniture and other household items.

Sara Jo was able to move in to her new place with her girls, and a few weeks later, one of our staff called her to follow-up and make sure things were going okay. Sara Jo said how grateful she was for the assistance and support from Bridges of Hope, and she let us know that she was so happy with the furniture she had received from Salem WEST as well.


If you or someone you know is facing a difficult situation and not sure what to do next, call our office 218.825.7682 and speak with a Resource Specialist. Our staff can assist you in connecting with the area resources and programs that can help you resolve your situation. 

 

Third-Annual Afternoon Tea a Success

On Sunday, May 7, over 150 women, girls, and even some gentlemen joined Bridges of Hope at Cragun’s Legacy Pavilion on a beautiful and sunny afternoon in support of the women participating in Bridges’ Side by Side Mentoring Program, at the third-annual Afternoon Tea for Hope.

This year’s event raised over $13,000 and featured a raffle, silent auction, games, food, and the ever-popular fire fighters from Brainerd and Nisswa who served tea & coffee, took selfies, sold raffle tickets, and made the afternoon that much more enjoyable overall. Premier sponsors included Cragun’s Legacy Courses and Bloom Designs.

   

 

As the director of Bridges of Hope, it has been my privilege to get to know the Mentors, Volunteers, and Participants of Side by Side on a much deeper level over the past nine months. These women inspire me, humble me, and challenge me to be a better version of myself.

Side by Side is based on the premise that change–real, lasting change in one’s life–takes time and support from others. Our program focuses on a small “cohort” of women over a long period of time, who are tired of the day-to-day chaos and are ready to dive in head-first, taking on the challenges of chronic poverty, broken relationships, past hurts, and more. During the Tea, we showed a brief video that highlighted some of the challenges that Side by Side Participants, Mentors, Volunteers, and program staff have overcome; as well as showcasing many of the strengths of these incredible women. This video was a powerful reminder of how much we have in common as human beings, even when we might be coming from different places in life.

Bridges of Hope is currently seeking 8-10 new volunteer Mentors for Side by Side, as we have a waiting list of women ready to become program Participants, but we need enough Mentors to support them on this journey! Our program seeks a 2:1 ratio of Mentors to Participants. A Mentor is a women who wants to develop supportive relationships with program Participants; has an ability to communicate with Participants openly and non-judgmentally; shows concern for and acceptance of persons with internal and external barriers; offers practical problem-solving suggestions; demonstrates a sensitivity to and respect for persons of different educational, economic, cultural or racial backgrounds; and is flexible. Intrigued? Learn more here and email Kassie to get started.

On behalf of our Board, staff, and the women of Side by Side, I would like to thank you once again for participating in this year’s Afternoon Tea and for supporting the Side by Side program at Bridges of Hope! We hope to host a similar event sometime next year. Until then…

 

Just Over Four Weeks To Go!

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We’re already 4 weeks into our 2015 Bridges of Hope “I Hope” fall fundraising campaign, and we have been blown away by the generosity of so many individuals who believe in the power of this organization–and in the power of how, together, we can make a difference in the lives of countless people throughout our community.

As of today, we have raised approximately $18,300! You have dug deep and responded with your heart; and, for that, we say ‘thank you!’ Because of your giving spirit, we will continue to serve the needs – both mental, physical and spiritual – of those we are called upon to serve.

Thermo_02Your support makes a big difference. Did you know that in 2014 alone, thanks to you, we provided hope and assistance to over 2,500 households? And this year, during our storm relief efforts in July, we heard from more than 140 households impacted by the storm, which nearly doubled our services during that time! Many households were looking for information about how to access clean water, a shower, a hot meal, or simply where to bring their branches and other debris. In addition, 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 the emergent tree removal and yard clean-up needed.

If you haven’t had a chance to make your gift yet, there is still time to make a tax-deductible gift to support others in need in our community. Between now and December 31, we still need to raise about $41,700. A gift of just $175 can support one household in need–and EVERY gift makes a difference.

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Giving is easy – visit our website by clicking here. If you’d rather make a contribution in person or by mail, our address is PO Box 742 Brainerd, MN 56401. Checks can be made to Bridges of Hope.

Again, you are the reason Bridges of Hope has been in faithful service since 2002. We thank you for your support and look forward to what 2016 brings!

 

Storm 2015 Relief Efforts & Resource Updates

[Last updated: 7/28/15]

Bridges of Hope is helping to coordinate some of the relief efforts following the major storm that hit the Lakes Area on 7/12/15. We will be doing our best to keep this post updated regularly during the clean-up process.

Please call our office if you need help at 218.825.7682. We are a ‘small but mighty’ staff and will do our best to connect you with resources. Office hours are 8:00 am-4:30 pm, Monday-Thursday, and 8:00 am-2:00pm on Friday. Volunteer groups (for tree removal) are here through Friday, July 31 and currently have full assignments for the week. We can put your name on a waiting list but unfortunately cannot guarantee that we will find volunteers to assist you.
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If you are able to help financially, you can make a donation to Bridges of Hope to help us serve our neighbors affected by the storm. The Initiative Foundation is matching all donations, dollar-for-dollar, up to $5,000! This fund will help us in our efforts to coordinate the immediate needs, and will also enable us to assist with longer-term needs (rent & utilities assistance for those who missed work following the storm, for example). Click here to give now. Your gift is 100% tax-deductible. As of 2:25 PM on 7/28/15, donations have reached $5,739!

News About the Storm:

Someone to Talk To:

  • Volunteers (pastors, social workers, and others) are available if you need someone to talk to as you process through all that has happened (for your emotional/mental health). Call Bridges of Hope at 218.825.7682 to get that set up.

Volunteer Groups Offering/Seeking Help:

  • Volunteers are needed for debris haul-away (own hauling equipment needed). Call our office if you are able to assist with this (218.825.7682).

Burning Storm Debris & Burning Permits:

  • From the MN DNR Website: You need an open burning permit:
    • when the fire is more than 3 feet high and 3 feet in diameter.
    • when the ground is not completely covered by a minimum of 3 inches of snow.
    • when the fire is not contained in either an approved burner or in a cooking or heating device such as charcoal grill or camp stove.
    • Check their website for details on where to obtain a burning permit.

Storm Debris Drop-Off Locations:

  • Crow Wing County Landfill: debris & branches are free; fee for stumps. Open 8:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday-Saturday, on 15732 Hwy 210. Extended hours for just tree & debris drop-off, 5:00-8:00 pm.
  • Baxter City Hall: for Baxter residents ONLY. Call 218.454.5100 for more information.
  • Cass County: approximately 1/4 mile south of County Roads 18 & 77; turn on the road for the Pine Beach Waste Water center. There is a sign posted that says “Residential Brush.” Approximate address: 11800 County Road 45, Brainerd, MN 56401. (Trees & brush only.)
  • Cass County: Knife River Gravel Pit, on the north side of County Road 15. (Address unknown.)

Other Information:

Gordon and Rhonda’s Moment

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This year marks the 10th year that Bridges of Hope has been offering Crisis Nursery Services to the Brainerd Lakes Area. Yes, you read right–TEN YEARS! That’s a decade of giving parents a safe childcare option during a family crisis, which translates into thousands of children placed into the loving care of our selfless providers since the start of the program.

So what exactly is Crisis Nursery? It is a safe, positive childcare option for parents that have nowhere else to turn. There are Crisis Nurseries all around the state of Minnesota, and while they all operate a little bit differently, they also all have one thing in common: the goal to keep kids safe while providing stability to parents during a stressful time.

What defines a crisis? A crisis can be a single mom needing a break and not having friends or family who can provide her with that break. It can be a medical issue preventing a parent from caring for their children as they normally do. Or it can be work & medical related, like Gordon & Rhonda’s situation:

Gordon called one afternoon sounding extremely stressed; his voice full of concern. He explained to me that his wife Rhonda recently had had surgery, and during her recovery she had very limiting lifting restrictions. Gordon said that not only was Rhonda unable to do normal, routine tasks; she also wasn’t able to lift their ten-month-old son. Gordon said their family members had been helping out as much as possible, but there was a day coming up when he had to work and no other family members were available to help with childcare. Gordon said it was one of those family members that told him about the Crisis Nursery Services provided by Bridges of Hope.

Ames_3410 Gordon had already taken some time off work and if he missed another shift, he was afraid he would be suspended from his job, so he was wondering if the family could use Crisis Nursery for his ten-month-old son and three-year-old twin daughters while he was at work. Gordon explained that he only needed help for one day, as his mother was coming to stay with them for about a week until Rhonda had recovered enough for her doctor to lift her restrictions. I assured Gordon that this was an appropriate situation for Crisis Nursery Services; and after a few phone calls to various childcare providers, an available provider was located. Gordon let out a HUGE sigh of relief when I told him a provider was available to care for his children.

We always attempt to follow up with parents and providers after they’ve used the Crisis Nursery, to make sure everything went smoothly, see how they are doing, and to make sure the situation has been fully resolved. Almost 90% of parents surveyed report feeling less stressed, thanks to Crisis Nursery Services.This was certainly true for Gordon:

When I followed up with Gordon the day after using Crisis Nursery, he said he was so relieved that he didn’t have to miss another day of work, and he was able to focus at work knowing that his children were in good hands. Gordon said his daughters loved the childcare provider because she was kind, caring, and she had a dog! Gordon expressed his thanks one more time and said he knows where to turn if he is ever in an emergency situation like this again.

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If you or someone you know could benefit from more information about our Crisis Nursery Services, please call 218.825.7682 to speak with one of our Resource Specialists, or visit our website.

Want to help ensure these services remain available for those who need them? Make a donation today!

The Role of Volunteers at Common Goods

Bridges of Hope owns and operates a thrift store called Common Goods, which is located at 16227 Hwy 371 North in Baxter, Minnesota. If you have ever been to Common Goods, you have seen the end result of a very labor intensive process. Behind all of the shimmer, shine, and freshly steamed clothes there is an extreme amount of work that has gone into the final product. Every item that comes through the door at the store is checked, sorted, cleaned, painted, hung or steamed by group of amazing individuals. Some of the individuals are our employees; however, there are also a number of extremely hardworking individuals that volunteer their time to the cause of making Common Goods such a great success!

We have all different kinds of volunteers throughout the year. Some come in for special projects, and others volunteer every week. Volunteers at Common Goods include church youth groups, families, students, retired individuals, couples, and others. We have many opportunities for volunteering; including a new “host/hostess” volunteer position that includes greeting our customers and ensuring they have a great shopping experience. You can call Nate for more information at 218.824.0923.

Jeff & Penny CarlsonI would also like to introduce you to two of our long-time volunteers: Jeff and his mom Penny, who volunteer regularly at the store. Not only do they help us with some of daily tasks of keeping Common Goods in great shape, but they also bring with them a great deal of energy and smiles every week. Jeff and Penny are so “famous” at Common Goods that some of our regular shoppers often ask us if Jeff and Penny are in that day! Penny is our expert at keeping our $2.00 clearance section full and organized, and Jeff can usually be found at either our garment steamer or in the back room, creating great pieces of art.

Since Common Goods is part of a non-profit organization, volunteers play a vital role in cost-saving for the organization. Would you believe that volunteers donate over 60 hours of time, talent, and service every single month? There is no way that we could afford to pay for all of the amazing work that our volunteers do, and we are so grateful for their service, since profits from the store help pay for the programs offered at Bridges of Hope for individuals and families in need…so you could say that every hour of volunteering at Common Goods has a double impact in our community!

We are very grateful for all of the help that volunteers provide to the cause of Bridges of Hope and Common Goods–whether it be a one-time project, few hours every month, or every week! If you are interested in learning more about becoming one of our amazing volunteers, please contact us at (218) 824-0923 or stop by the store and we will be happy to explain the process and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make our operation a success. You can also check out our website for more information.

To everyone who has, currently does, or will volunteer in the future, thank you! And remember:

volunteersnot paid

 

Building Bridges, Building Community

Do you know what happened when local 5th graders were given:

  • 100 popsicle sticks,
  • some white glue,
  • strong science classroom instruction, and
  • a boost of expertise from local design & engineering firms?

Building Bridges 2015 happened, that’s what! The event took place at Forestview Middle School this past Monday evening with over 600 people in attendance. Check out this crowd!               Bridges 101Students, parents, & community members carefully examined bridges in the Aesthetic Category before casting their vote:

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Then everyone was able to watch the testing for the Strength Category which is always a good time…

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…filled with excitement…

Bridges 049 Bridges 121

….anticipation…

Photo Feb 02, 6 39 02 PM Photo Feb 02, 6 38 40 PM Photo Feb 02, 6 39 06 PM

and, this inevitable sound: “CRUNCH!”

Bridges 119  Bridges 104  Bridges 096  Bridges 135

Check out what is left at the end of the testing phase:

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The night wraps up with the announcement of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams in each category. A big congratulations to this year’s winners!

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This event is one of our favorites each year & such a fun way for our community to come together to raise awareness of the “bridges” we are building for families every day at Bridges of Hope to fulfill our mission:

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 & gain hope.

That is good stuff. And, we couldn’t do it without the cooperation & support of ISD 181, Mr. Danielson, Ms. Knutson, Mr. Trout, Mrs. Harrison, and these incredible sponsors:

Building Bridges poster2015_Sponsors

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

  • Want to see all the pictures from the event? Check out our Facebook Page!
  • To learn more about the services we offer and how we build bridges for families in the Lakes area, please visit our website.