Thanksgiving overflows

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” —2 Corinthians 4:15-16

Each year, families in need throughout the Brainerd Lakes Area are able to share a Thanksgiving meal thanks to the generosity of many in our community.

Nine years ago, Bridges of Hope began a seasonal campaign pairing donors with families in need each Thanksgiving. Donors provide a turkey and accompanying side dishes, and deliver to their ‘adopted family’ just prior to Thanksgiving Thursday.

(It’s) super rewarding,” commented one donor. “I was able to provide two meals and lots of extras with the help of my great friends and family. The tears of joy from  one of the moms we gave to was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. She was BEYOND grateful! Amazing!”pie

Referrals come in to Bridges of Hope of families in need by a variety of organizations throughout the area. Bridges staff solicits interested individuals willing to donate a meal, and then pair families with sponsors based on geographic area and any other preferences a sponsor may have.

Bridges of Hope Program Specialist Janelle Vesely said while the number of sponsors varies from year to year, the need for meals continues to be great.

At this point, we are on track to serve 200-plus households,” she noted. “If that is the case we still need more sponsors; specifically in the Crosby, Deerwood and Ironton area.”

In 2016, the Thanksgiving Meals program:

    • Served 222 households consisting of 947 people
      • 556 children (0-17)
      • 391 adults (18+)
    • Found the largest household served was 14 people
    • Found the average household size was 4


Consider making the holidays a little brighter for someone. The deadline to sponsor a family is November 15th. For additional information, call Bridges of Hope or visit

–Written by Jenny Holmes with assistance from Janelle Vesely

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.

Thanksgiving and Christmas

For many of us, Thanksgiving and Christmas are days where we spend time with loved ones, attend a special evening service at our place of worship, eat turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes until we can hardly move, and watch as our family members open nicely wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree.  We never worry that we are not going to be able to provide a meal for our family, or that we will not be able to afford to buy our children or grandchildren gifts for the Holiday season.

Though many of us don’t have to worry about those things, there are thousands of families living right here in Crow Wing County who do.

For those living in poverty, or those going through a prolonged illness, unexpected injury, or other rough spot, spending decisions are much more limited–generally based on the largest bills and basic needs.

Just consider your household’s monthly expenses for a moment: do they add up to $3,000? $4,000? More than that? The Jobs Now Coalition estimates that the basic monthly household expenses for a family of four in Crow Wing County (with two adults working full time) are around $3,900–or that their income would need to be just over 200% of the Federal Poverty Guideline. Last year, Bridges of Hope worked with over 1,500 households who were living below this 200% threshold. Families right here in our community struggle every month to make ends meet.

For many of these families, there simply isn’t enough left over at the end of the month, which, at this time of year, means no Thanksgiving dinner, no traveling to Grandma & Grandpa’s house, and not a single toy, book or new piece of clothing under the tree for their children.

That is why Bridges of Hope, with the help of our local human service agencies, churches, service clubs, individuals, and businesses, offers the Thanksgiving Basket and Christmas Gift programs. Through these programs, families in need are supplied with food for a Thanksgiving meal and Christmas gifts for their children. The programs exist entirely due to generosity of the sponsors, who volunteer to receive the name of a household (or several households) they are sponsoring, go shopping, and then deliver a basket or gifts to a family.

In 2010, Bridges of Hope coordinated the distribution of Thanksgiving meals for 198 households and Christmas gifts for 222 households. This year, as I write this post, we are just finishing up coordinating the distribution of Thanksgiving meals for a record number of 270 households: a 36% increase over last year…and if this trend continues, our Christmas program could serve up to 300 households.

As a student in the College of St. Scholastica Social Work program, part of my senior internship experience included coordinating these Bridges of Hope programs. During this experience I have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions: nervousness, since I have never been in charge of something this large; excitement as I saw families matched to sponsors; and extremely touched too, as I watched the generosity of our community pouring out through these programs.

Last Friday when I left Bridges of Hope, 210 families had been sponsored for Thanksgiving. That meant that yesterday morning I came into the office with 60 families still awaiting sponsorship. By 10:30 am, thanks to several local churches putting out the word over the weekend and a couple of businesses making one last announcement on Monday morning, every single family who had signed up had a sponsor for Thanksgiving. 

I am proud to say that I am a member of a community who reaches out their hands to a stranger, to ensure that they may have a memorable Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday too.

Thank you for your generosity this season.


Want to become involved too? We have approximately 100 households sponsored for Christmas so far. Learn more.