Hopelessly Devoted

Business owner. Bicycle enthusiast. Photographer. Father. Husband.Biff

And, just one year ago, Biff Ulm added ‘board member’ to the list.

“I first became involved with Bridges of Hope after being contacted by a friend to serve on an advisory team for their retail store, Common Goods,” Biff noted. “I quickly discovered the true impact that shopping and donating to Common Goods has on our community as a whole.  I truly believe when one learns about all the good Bridges does for the Lakes Area, it’s hard not to want to donate time and personal resources to such worthy causes.”

Biff, who – himself – knows the retail world well as manager of Zaiser’s in downtown Nisswa, has since increased his involvement with Bridges of Hope, including serving on planning committees for the annual Glow Run and the Afternoon Tea.

“The focus of every Bridges event is about those attending and the cause they are serving.  One quickly learns, Bridges is one hundred percent about investing in people of all walks of life.  To see so many people come out and support each other, makes for an extremely enjoyable time.”

As both a Bridges board member and supporter, Biff rolled up his sleeves and worked alongside hundreds of volunteers following the July 12th storm that hit the area – cutting trees and providing for the needs of those hardest hit.

“Hands down, the biggest event in the Lakes Area this year was the storm that devastated the communities north of Brainerd,” he said. “One doesn’t have to travel far to see the scars and work that continues to be done in so many neighborhoods. To see how quickly Bridges of Hope took the lead in coordinating a multi-organizational effort to help those in most need was amazing.

“In the areas hardest hit, one witnessed so much selfless giving by neighborsI Hope button helping neighbors. I spent two days on Bridges of Hope volunteer clean up crews and two additional days with other volunteer efforts.  What I heard over and over from property owners was the true heroes of the storm were those individuals who were there to
answer the phone for those in most need the days after the storms. Bridges of Hope staff listened and acted with care and compassion to help coordinate a massive effort across many organizations and hundreds of volunteers to get those in most need the help they needed.”

“While Bridges had never coordinated such a mass effort, they did so with such
ease,” he continued. “Never did the Bridges of Hope board or paid staff waiver on whether they should play such an integral role. Instead, they immediately focused on how they could do the most good. This illustrates the strength of this amazing organization.”

Biff said he most appreciates the effectiveness and scope of the Bridges organization and its staff, never ceasing to help build a stronger community.

“The level of synergy and teamwork should be the standard for any nonprofit,” he noted. “Bridges serves the entire Lakes Area by helping so many overcome life’s obstacles. I think one of the most humbling stories I have heard over and over again is how Bridges has helped families who never thought they would need help in the first place get back on their feet. One never knows when bad luck, or an action of no cause to one’s own, will put a family in a difficult situation. Knowing there is an organization that treats people with dignity and love to overcome unexpected hardship, gives so much inspiration. It is why I am proud to call Nisswa and all the surrounding areas home.”

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YOU can provide hope to those in need! From now through year-end, Bridges needs to raise $60,000 to meet the needs of our friends, family, and neighbors in the Lakes Area. Click here to make a 100% tax-deductible donation or your can mail a gift to PO Box 742; Brainerd, MN 56401.

Week 7 update of our campaign: we are halfway to our goal, at $31,600!

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Thank you for giving.

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Beauty in the Storm

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In the midst of a storm, the last thing many of us witness is beauty. However, one Brainerd area couple saw just that in the hours, days and weeks following the July 12th storm that hit the Lakes Area this past summer.

Tom and Marlene Larson have called this area home for over 50 years. But never has the Brainerd couple witnessed a disaster matching the magnitude of the storm on Sunday, July 12, 2015.

During the storm, the Larsons had three layers of trees fall on the west side of two garages, leaving gaping holes in the roof and a daunting job of clearing.

Despite the irreplaceable damage to property and the emotional toll it took on so many, Tom and Marlene noted that it was an opportunity for community to come together and witness the generosity and giving spirit of so many willing to step forward in times of need.

“We were so thankful to have little damage to our home, but we hardly had a tree left on our property,” Marlene noted. “It took six of us to open our driveway.”

“Yes, it was severe. Yes, there was much damage. But this has brought neighborhoods together. We think of this as ‘people helping people.’”AmeriCorps

Within days following the storm, crews arrived to help cover the holes in the roof with tarps. Bottled water and snacks were delivered, and the Larsons reached out to Bridges of Hope for additional assistance.

Fulfilling the call, Bridges of Hope partnered with local emergency services personnel to provide volunteers and necessary resources to those impacted by the storm; as well as providing spiritual, mental and emotional support to individuals and families just like Tom and Marlene’s.

Marlene shared, “It’s an appropriate name, as they were ready to assist our needs – emotional and physical.”

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You can help ensure Bridges of Hope’s services are available for all who call; help us reach our $60,000 goal by year-end! As of 12/4/15, you have given ~$23,000 to help those in need. Thank you!DonateButtonOrangeLogo

Baptism by Fire

THolmesIHopeStarting a new job always comes with ‘first day jitters.’ However, Brainerd’s newest Fire Chief had a baptism by fire – no pun intended.

Tim Holmes’ first day on the job was July 13, 2015 – the morning after a devastating windstorm blew through the Lakes Area – changing the landscape, and countless lives, forever. There was no coffee and donut welcome social. Holmes’ immediately snapped into action, knowing the challenges and hardships being experienced by thousands of residents throughout his service area.

“My family had been out for dinner the night before,” Holmes recounted. “When the storm blew through, we started for home knowing I would be needed to assist with the devastation. But when we drove north along Highway 371, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Trees and power lines covered the roadway. Rooflines were shrouded by limbs. It’s certainly something I’ll never forget.”

After getting his family home safely, Holmes went to work as a volunteer with the Nisswa Fire Department. The crew spent hours making paths down impassable streets and assessed the situation to ensure there were no injuries. After only a quick night’s rest, Holmes switched hats and reported to work on Monday morning as the Brainerd Fire Chief.

tree down With much of a devastation lying within the Brainerd Fire Department’s service area, Holmes was one of several emergency management personnel who reported to the staging site at Timberwood Church in Nisswa. Together, with organizations and critical service providers throughout the area, the group strategized and quickly formulated a plan to help those in need. One of the partners at the table was Bridges of Hope – standing at the ready to help storm victims.

tree on car“Having lived in the area for some time, I had heard of Bridges of Hope; but I guess I never fully grasped the scope and reach of the organization. It didn’t take long that first day to understand how incredibly instrumental they are. Jana and her team were quick on their feet and eager to step in wherever needed. They remained right along side the first responders and emergency service workers to provide food, water and assistance to thousands of individuals who lost so much to the storm. They worked closely with emergency management to coordinate volunteer groups – providing assistance with everything from tree removal to mental health needs assessments.

Over a span of two weeks, Bridges of Hope worked with more that 140 households whose lives were impacted by the storm.

“I sincerely hope this area never again experiences devastation like we did in July; but I am proud to say I serve in a community that has amazing resources and caring individuals like those at Bridges of Hope who, regardless of the situation, stand ready to selflessly serve others.”

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You can ensure that Bridges of Hope’s services are available when the “storms of life” hit. Please help us reach our goal to raise $60,000 by year-end and share hope with the 300 householdI Hope buttons who will reach out to Bridges of Hope still this year. 

As of 11/16/15, we are just over $9,500–thank you!

Click here to make an online gift or your can  mail a check to PO Box 742, Brainerd, MN 56401. Your donation is 100% tax-deductible and will provide HOPE this holiday season.

Storm Response: Proud of our Community!

Many of our neighbors were hit by the storm that produced up to 90 MPH straight line winds on July 12th. While some of us had just a few tree branches to rake up, others are currently living in homes with a tarp of the roof, and at least three homeowners have homes that were considered total losses.tree on cartree down

Bridges of Hope is proud to be participating in a still ongoing effort to care for those in our community who were impacted by this storm. In the days following the storm, we participated in twice daily briefings at the Relief Center at Timberwood Church along with the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department, Highway Department & Community Services teams, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Nisswa Chamber, Minnesota Power, Crow Wing Power, Lutheran Social Services, multiple disaster response teams, and many others.

Many of the folks at these briefings had experience significant damage to their own properties, yet they still showed up each day to coordinate the response for the entire community. It was incredibly moving to see the care for our community that was demonstrated by all involved.

Early on, the Initiative Foundation, Crow Wing Power, individuals, and multiple churches stepped up with donations to the Storm Response Fund – – THANK YOU!

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People experienced power outages that lasted several days, and some up to a week. This, coupled with significant property damage, caused extreme stress for many of our neighbors. While our agency partners were attending to immediate needs such as serving meals and distributing water at the Relief Center, Bridges of Hope heard from more than 140 households impacted by the storm. 

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Volunteers from AmeriCorps

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 emergent tree removal and yard clean-up need. At least 38 of those had their needs met by these relief groups while some resolved their own situations or were referred to professional services.

After a week without power and the stress of storm clean up, a number of households also sought assistance from Bridges for mental health concerns, food, and other issues. We worked as quickly as possible to provide referrals and assistance in these situations. We will continue to work with those affected by the storm in the coming weeks. We know that with the huge impact this storm had on our local resorts and other businesses, some of you may have experienced lost wages or other issues.

If you or someone you know were impacted by the storm and need assistance, please call Bridges of Hope at 218-825-7682 and a staff will speak with you about your situation.

We want to take this time to say a special thank you to the following businesses and churches who partnered with us to feed volunteers for the past three weeks! 

  • Salvation Army
  • Church members at Trinity, Lord of Life, and Timberwood.
  • Nisswa Chamber who coordinated donated meals from: Raffterty’s in Nisswa, Wendy’s in Nisswa, Prairie Bay, Nisswa Legion, and Zorbaz.
  • Mid-MN Federal Credit Union
  • Donors to the Bridges of Hope Storm Relief Fund

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We’ve seen many messages of thanks over the past three weeks (here is one example from Tom & Marlene who were affected by the storm).

On behalf of the staff & board at Bridges of Hope, I want to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to everyone involved in the storm relief effort. We are truly grateful to be a part of this community!