Gordon and Rhonda’s Moment

Crisis Nursery Services Logo

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!

It Shouldn’t Hurt to be a Child

radiothon logoEach December, BL Broadcasting collaborates with local Child Protection Teams in our area to bring awareness to and raise funds for Child Abuse Prevention. The public service announcements during the on-air event state, “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child.” How true.

Child abuse is difficult to think about, but we need to think about it and we need to create a community where parents are supported and children are nurtured.

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, another time of year to bring awareness to the struggles parents and children in our community are facing. It’s a time to shine a light on the good work being done to strengthen families.

Here at Bridges of Hope, we are proud to partner with Crow Wing County in a state-wide program called Parent Support Outreach Program (PSOP). This is a voluntary program for families to engage in when the want to stabilize their struggles with basic needs and strengthen their parenting skills. Click here to read about how the PSOP program helped Cindy and her family.

biracial childrenAnother service in our community that aims to support parents and reduce child abuse & neglect is Crisis Nursery Services, which is free, short-term crisis childcare for children 0-12 in Crow Wing County and the surrounding areas. The goal of the Crisis Nursery is to provide a safe place for children during a family crisis like Kendra & her children experienced.

Crisis Nursery is made possible through the Crow Wing County Child Protection Team with funds that YOU donate during the Radiothon to End Child Abuse. THANK YOU!

As community members, there are many things we can do to support families around us. Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota makes the following suggestions about what to do if you see a parent who is “on edge” in public:

  • Divert the adult’s attention.
  • Start a conversation with the adult. Offer sympathy. For example, you could say, “Shopping with children can really try your patience, can’t it?” Talk to the child.
  • If the child is acting out or misbehaving, start a friendly conversation to distract him or her.
  • Praise the parent or child.
  • Find something positive to say about the child or the parent. For example, “That’s a pretty dress your daughter is wearing. Where did you get it?”
  • Offer to help.
  • For example, if a child has been left unattended in a grocery cart, stay near him or her until a caretaker returns.
  • Avoid negative looks or comments.This may only increase the adult’s anger, making things worse for the child.

There are many preventative efforts happening in our community, however it is important to state that if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected in our area, you should contact Crow Wing County Social Services at 218-824-1140. 

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, please take a moment to enrich the life of a child in your life and support the parents around you. It really does take a village to raise a child!

Pinwheel for Prevention

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…

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….anticipation…

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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.

A Fairy Tale Ending

Over the past two and a half years, I have had the privilege to work with 44 teen parents through our Teen Parent Outreach Program at Bridges of Hope. As the program comes to an end, I am saddened to not continue to work with such wonderful people; however, I am so grateful that our amazing community partner, Crow Wing County Community Services, will continue their great work with teen parents in our community. I’d like to share with you a story written by my counterpart and “good witch”–you’ll understand after reading the story (Kaylo Brooks, MFIP Outreach Worker at Crow Wing County). This story was shared at a graduation celebration for one of our teen dads, James, and is used with his permission:

James and Cat

James & His Girlfriend Catherine

Once upon a time a long, long time ago (well, okay, 8 months ago) in a village far far away (well, actually just in Brainerd) there lived a boy who had the magical superpowers of, um, playing video games. This boy was really skilled at “gaming” and could do it day in and day out, even in the nighttime! This boy was very bright, well-mannered, had a very kind heart, and was adored by all who knew him. This boy had a beautiful baby with fiery red hair and eyes like the ocean who was the center of his universe and he of hers. When you saw them together you knew that theirs was a bond that would forever remain. He also had a spectacular girlfriend who cheered him on and gave him courage and encouragement and knew all along in her heart that his potential was limitless.

But alas, as always in stories such as this, there comes along a witch–or in this case, three. They wrote a book of spells (also known as a Social Service Case Plan) which encouraged the boy to go to school and look for work and do good in the world. The boy, overcome by the persuasive witches, decided to follow the path the witches laid out in front of him. He took one step down the path, and then another, and another. The path was curvy, bumpy and often uphill, but before long the boy was sprinting down the path–fiery haired baby in one hand and holding his girlfriend’s hand in the other.

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James & His Three “Witches”

Despite their broomsticks and cauldrons, even the witches couldn’t keep up with the boy! He graduated high school months earlier than the school said was possible, he earned awards at school for perfect attendance, and he was the Area Education Center Student of the Month in May. He missed one day–and one day only–when the blizzard wizard created a snow storm so deep that even the good witch, Kaylo, could not keep her broomstick on the road and therefore could not get the boy to school. He was loved by teachers and staff alike. One teacher told the witches that in all her years of teaching she has never seen a boy with such tenacity, perseverance, or work ethic. She said that above all that he is one of the nicest kids she has ever worked with, and with tears in her eyes, she said she was so very proud of him.

The path also brought the boy to a job at Target where he sometimes walks eight miles round trip to keep his job. (Yes, really!!) And most importantly, on this path, he has committed to his daughter by attending weekly classes at TCC for parenting skills: not because he isn’t good dad, but because he is willing to do whatever it takes to be a great dad.

And so here we are today, at the end of the boy’s path but certainly not the end of his journey. And without any hocus pocus, magic wands or fire breathing dragons, the boy and hero of our story, right before our eyes, has turned into a man.  

PicMonkey Collage

What an amazing honor it has been to be a small part of Cat & James (and many others’) paths!

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Get Involved:

  • Learn more about our programs and services.
  • Financially support our work with children & families in the Lakes Area.
  • Refer someone needing assistance to call Bridges of Hope (218.825.7682).

Maggie’s Moment

Maggie is a 34-year-old single mother with a 9-year-old daughter named Yasmin. Maggie had been referred to one of Bridges of Hope’s Family Support Services programs, and I first met her at a local domestic violence shelter. Maggie wanted support during her transition from an abusive relationship to an independent, safe life for her and Yasmin.

Over three months of working together, Maggie and I met each week, and together we set several goals. The first was to find permanent housing so I connected Maggie to LSS HOPE Housing, and after three months of living at the shelter, she enrolled in a transitional housing program. This gave her the opportunity to live in temporary, affordable housing owned by LSS until she was able to locate permanent affordable, housing. It was a good in-between step for Maggie.

homeworkAnother goal set by Maggie was to address her daughter’s school performance; especially in the area of homework. With the challenges Yasmin and Maggie had been facing, Maggie was at a loss for how to help her daughter with school work. Maggie and I talked through several techniques and I encouraged her to try one at a time until they found something that worked. After about a month of trying new things, Maggie was happy to to tell me that Yasmin was keeping up with her homework and doing much better in school!

cookbook-color1Maggie also wanted to learn to be a better cook, as her ex-husband had done most of the cooking. That was a simple enough goal to work on together! We gave Maggie a couple of family-friendly cookbooks that had been donated to the organization and helped her enroll in a cooking classes through University of Minnesota Extension and she learned to prepare healthy meals on a modest budget.

Maggie started out this process clearly suffering from severe depression and anxiety, and often put herself down. As Maggie worked on each of these steps in the process, it was clear that her self-esteem, confidence and overall mental health was improving!

Maggie exited services a stronger person and recently shared, “when I first started working with Bridges of Hope, I thought things were a lot worse than they were. Working with you helped me see things in a different perspective.”

Please contact Bridges of Hope if you or someone you know is facing a challenging situation. We can be reached at (218)825-7682.

Thank you for helping us build Bridges!

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

The Spirit of Service

For many middle school and high school students, Spring Break is time to head out on a family vacation or to just take it easy for a week; but for about 20 youth from Brainerd Area Catholic Churches (BACC), this year it was time spent giving back to the community.

BACC Youth Volunteering

Back in September, Bridges of Hope sent a letter to our local church youth groups (as many as we could find names and addresses for), offering to have a representative come to speak to their group about social enterprise/thrift/volunteerism and inviting them to volunteer at Common Goods. In December, Erin (BACC Youth coordinator) contacted our AmeriCorps VISTA Natasha, whose year of service includes assisting us in developing our volunteer program at Common Goods. Erin pitched the idea of having the youth do some service over Spring Break. It was exactly the kind of project we were hoping to launch!

BACC Youth Volunteering

This was our first larger-scale volunteer project, but we had a sense of how much work there was to be done and had accordingly scheduled the students into smaller groups and into multiple shifts. However, during the first day, we quickly realized that these students worked FAST–and that there were more students available than we had shifts or capacity for, so we happily “shared” many of them with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore during the rest of the week.

Working in shifts of about three students and one adult, the BACC youth volunteers started out cleaning the back rooms where we process donations: organizing items, cleaning the walls, scrubbing floors, etc. Then they moved on to cleaning walls and dusting items on the sales floor, and finally assisted with hanging and steaming clothes, sweeping and mopping the floor, cleaning the windows inside and out, putting clothes away, reorganizing books and shoes, and other special projects as they arose.

BACC Youth Volunteering

By the end of the day on Wednesday, the youth were all finished and set to head out to a pizza party, and Common Goods looked GREAT.

All together, the youth from Brainerd Area Catholic Churches collectively volunteered at Common Goods for a total of 80 hours! Many of the projects the students worked on are the kinds of jobs that need to be done every week at Common Goods; and, as one of our staff put it, “it was awesome to be able to have the students really help spruce things up!”

Thanks, BACC Youth, for your spirit of service over Spring Break!

To learn more about Common Goods, visit our website, or contact Natasha at 218.825.7682 for more information about volunteering.