It’s the ‘Little Things’

Sometimes the little things are the biggest things.

Did you know that by simply making a date with your daughter, mother, grandmother, aunt, friend or any other important lady in your life, you’re also greatly impacting the life of women you’ve never met before?

It’s true.

On April 7th, Bridges of Hope will host the annual Afternoon Tea for Hope. This event will mark the fourth ‘tea party’ where women, girls and even our gentleman friends come together in their pearls, fancy hats and dresses (with the exception of our male guests!), to sip tea from delicate china, nibble on sweets and savories, listen to live music, take chances in raffles and bid in an impressive selection in our silent auction. (Psst: you can visit Common Goods to find the perfect Tea outfit!)

Last year over 150 women, girls and guys helped raise over $13,000 for the Bridges of Hope Side by Side Mentoring Program. Your support truly means the world for the women, and their families, who participate in this program.

You may ask, what is Side By Side? It’s hard to summarize this life-changing experience into a paragraph, but I’ll try! Side By Side was launched in 2012 to help adult women move from survival to sustainability by developing and maintaining long-term mentoring relationships with women from throughout our community. The women participating in the program: “Participants,” set personal improvement goals in areas including income and stability, skills and education, and relationships and meaning. The Mentors and Participants connect weekly and monthly to increase face-to-face communication and accountability.

To date, Side By Side has worked with 28 Participants and 32 volunteer Mentors to provide a ‘hand up’ for those ready and able to make a lasting change in their lives.

Please help us continue to provide this critical programming to the women who need it most in our community. Make a date for tea time! This year’s event will be held in the Town Hall at Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake. Tea will be served at 2 pm, along with additional refreshments, food, a candy table and much more.

Buy your tickets today! Individual tickets are $40, or gather a group of eight and reserve a table for $280!  BUT… if you purchase your tickets BEFORE February 10th, you’ll receive $5 off your ticket! Click here to get started, or visit our website (

Sponsorship opportunities are also currently available to help support this event. To learn more, contact Nicholle Dean at 218-825-7682.

And thank you. Your support truly has a ripple effect in our community, more than you know!


Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.


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…


Dressed to Bless

Teatime is a great time–and excuse–to put on your finest and channel your inner English aristocrat.

Looking for a fun new dress, jewelry, shoes or hat for this year’s Afternoon Tea For Hope without breaking the bank? I recently stopped at the Baxter location of Common Goods and asked Danell to show me a few affordable frocks…and she didn’t disappoint.

We had a fabulous time looking through heels, pearls, dresses, hats and more. There were also a few beautiful tea sets for those who’d like to continue the tradition of tea time long past May 7th. So be sure to stop at Common Goods in Baxter or Crosslake before the Afternoon Tea for Hope and treat yourself to something that will make you feel extra sophisticated for sipping tea!


And don’t forget to get your tickets! Click here to purchase by the seat or table. See you Sunday, May 7th at 2:00 PM at The Legacy at Cragun’s.


Pinkies up! It’s time for Tea

The Bridges of Hope Afternoon Tea for Hope is just around the corner. With a new venue, sure to ‘stir’ excitement, this is a fantastic event for a fabulous cause!Sipping tea got me thinking about proper teatime etiquette. Obviously, the Afternoon Tea isn’t necessarily a formal affair; however, gloves and hats have been spotted at past events.

During some searching, I came across fun and fascinating information regarding how the tradition of afternoon tea came to be. According to “A Social History of Tea” by Jane Pettigrew:

‘Tea was generally consumed within a lady’s closet or bedchamber and for a mainly female gathering. The tea itself and the delicate pieces of porcelain for brewing and drinking it were displayed in the closet, and inventories for wealthy households during the 17th and 18th centuries list tea equipage not in kitchens or dining rooms but in these small private closets or boudoirs.”

While drinking tea as a fashionable event is credited to Catharine of Braganza, the actual taking of tea in the afternoon developed into a new social event some time in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s. Jane Austen hints of afternoon tea as early as 1804 in an unfinished novel. It is said that the afternoon tea tradition was established by Anne, Duchess of Bedford. She requested light sandwiches be brought to her in the late afternoon because she had a ‘sinking feeling’ during that time because of the long gap between meals. She began to invite others to join her and thus became the tradition.

What I found even more interesting is that, according to ‘proper tea etiquette,’ it is not correct to put your pinky finger up when sipping tea. “A guest should look into the teacup when drinking – never over it.

So here’s a spot of other teatime tips….

When attending a tea party:

  • Always begin with a greeting and/or handshake.
  • After sitting down, put your purse on your lap or behind you against the chair back.
  • Napkin placement — unfold napkin on your lap. If you must leave, temporarily place napkin on chair.
  • Sugar/lemon — sugar is placed in cup first, then thinly sliced lemon; but never milk and lemon together. Although highly debated, milk goes in after tea, according to the Washington School of Protocol. The habit of putting milk in tea came from the French. “To put milk in your tea before sugar is to cross the path of love, perhaps never to marry.” (Tea superstition)
  • The correct order when eating on a tea tray is to eat savories first, scones next and sweets last. However, many have changed the order somewhat. Many like their guests to eat the scones first while they are hot, then move to savories, then sweets.
  • Scones — split horizontally with knife, curd and cream is placed on plate. Use the knife to put cream/curd on each bite. Eat with fingers neatly.
  • Proper placement of spoon: the spoon always goes behind cup. Also, don’t leave the spoon in the cup. (Gasp!!)

Regardless of how you take your tea, we hope you plan to join us for the Afternoon Tea for Hope at The Legacy at Cragun’s on Sunday, May 7th at 2:00 PM. To purchase your ticket or table, click here.



Nichole’s Moment

A survivor of domestic violence, Nichole describes her experience working with Bridges of Hope over the course of a few years, and particularly in the Side by Side mentoring program.

Today, Nichole works for Wadena County Human Services. Her hope is that more education and awareness about domestic violence and its effects will be shared throughout our community.

During our Fall Campaign, Bridges of Hope is seeking to raise $60,000 from the community to help us serve over 300 households by December 31. Thanks to our generous past supporters, Bridges was there for Nichole when she needed additional support for herself and her family. Will you help make a difference for someone just like Nichole this year?

Click here to make a gift today. And thank you – you are truly the reason we are able to extend hope to others.

A special thanks to Justin DeZurik, who created this video.

Patty Sue’s Story

Since joining the Side by Side program two years ago, Patty Sue is the first to admit that her life has changed for the better. Patty Sue initially heard about the Side by Side program at Bridges of Hope while receiving Respite care services for her family. A stay-at-home mom of five children, ages one through eight, Patty Sue had seen her share of hardships and hard times that made life a constant struggle.

“I was at a point in my life where I could really use it,” Patty Sue said of the outside interaction. “I had a lot of negative things in my life and really needed something positive to look forward to.”

Patty Sue had been a victim of domestic abuse and homelessness for many years. In her life, positive relationships were few and far between. “I’m the type of person who isolates herself,” Patty Sue admitted. “I would isolate myself in my house, and I knew I needed to get out; but I wasn’t sure I wanted to. So when they asked me to join Side By Side, I knew it would be a good thing for me.”

Coordinators and volunteers with the Side by Side program say they’ve witnessed tremendous growth in Patty Sue since joining the program: “She truly has become so much more of a vibrant and happy person,” one individual noted. “I know she doesn’t necessarily recognize that, but she has overcome so many obstacles and hurdles with her personal growth and mental health. It’s been pretty amazing.”

Now in her second year as a Side by Side participant, Patty Sue said she is seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. She has also created friendships and support outside of the Side by Side meetings through other program Participants.

“Having positive experiences with the other women was something I needed,” she said. “I agreed to it because you can never have too much positive in your life. It helps me get out of the house more often and visit with others who can lift you up. If I’m having a bad day, I go there and feel so much better.”

The Side by Side program is more than Mentors reaching out to Participants; it’s also about Participants finding common ground and support with each other, as well as positive interactions and words of encouragement at, oftentimes, bleak moments.

“Life throws a lot of things at you,” Patty Sue said, “and some people, like myself, don’t always manage well in reaching out. But Side By Side has helped me in so many ways.”A Mentor Walks Alongside You Quote

If you are interested in helping a woman change herself for the better, contact Kassie at Bridges of Hope for more information on becoming a Mentor.

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.”


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.