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“I am so thankful now”: Kristen’s Story

May 10, 2018

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Can you imagine what it would be like to be torn apart from your young child—leaving them night after night because you have no safe place to stay?

Kristen knows just how that feels — because that was how her life was, for months on end. Last year, Kristen was homeless and exhausted, out of money and out of steam. She felt hopeless.

Her brother offered to let her daughter Audrey stay with him, but there wasn’t room for Kristen—so she had to make the unbearable decision to separate from Audrey. “I felt awful to leave her night after night. There were times I slept in my car, in the parking lot, just to be close to her.”

Then, you helped bring Kristen and Audrey back together under one roof and welcomed them into Bridge Communities. Thank you!

Kristen is off to a great start—but she has a long road ahead of her, and lots to learn before she can make it on her own. And that can only happen with your support.

Recently, Kristen was an all-star at our employment workshop, and we saw her confidence soar. Then, she went through career assessment testing, and scored off the charts. She found that she has fantastic technical and math skills, and is now pursuing a career in IT. Kristen just started a course to earn Microsoft and Cisco certifications.

“Looking back, it was so hard to live through those months homeless and separated from Audrey, but going through that time pushed me to do better,” says Kristen. “I am so thankful now, and I have a concrete plan for my future.”

You can help Kristen and Audrey achieve that bright and beautiful future. Please make a donation in their honor today.

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Pearls of Wisdom: The Bridge Communities Staff

April 30, 2018

Bridge Communities is fortunate to have many longtime members of our staff–many of whom started as a mentor, program partner or volunteer. In our newest “Pearls of Wisdom” video, Bridge’s longtime staff members share what the organization means to them.

Paul Matthew: “Bridge Communities means an opportunity for families to get a second chance.”

Vicky Joseph: “What we do here at Bridge is life-altering. A family who’s been in their most precarious situation in their lives can come out of this program with a secure future.”

Tom Thiltgen: “Bridge provides so much hope for the families that come to us, families who may have felt that there’s nothing else ever that’s going to happen that’s good in their lives, and Bridge provides tremendous hope for their future.” 

Molly Howieson: “Bridge Communities has been my life’s work.”

Suzanne Thibeault: “Bridge Communities means to me relationships. That’s what our clients say. That’s what I feel.”

Amy Van Polen: “I believe deeply that the reason that Bridge exists is to bring persons of all different faiths and backgrounds together to create a stronger community.”

Margo Matthew: “Bridge means to me connecting people in our community to each other.”

Pearls of Wisdom: Sue Martin

March 30, 2018

Sue Martin fondly remembers the earliest days of Bridge Communities and the humble beginnings. Working in banking, Sue volunteered to become the first Treasurer for Bridge, eventually becoming a mentor and helping to nurture the organization during its early years.

When asked, “What inspires you most about Bridge?” Sue replied, “That two people – two regular guys, could see that something needed fixing. That something wasn’t right with people being homeless; that they could decide to make a difference and fix the problem, and then they actually did it.”

One of her favorite, earliest memories is of Mark Milligan coming to visit with her and sitting on her porch, during some of her most challenging and frustrating mentor moments. After Sue expressed frustration with her client’s progress, she remembers that Mark wisely told her, “It wasn’t about the change I could make in her – it was about the change she would make in me.”

Sue understands the solution is not an easy fix; that it takes a Village to help people succeed. And now she feels, because the organization is so well run, it helps many people at a time – not just one apartment at a time.

Sue knows first-hand, that Bridge brings all different kinds of people together to help those in need. Whatever your thing is – your passion or skill – there’s something to do.

Sue’s message to Mark Milligan:

“Thank you for what you have done for me. I love you. Mark changes lives. He does that…”

Thank you to 30th Anniversary Committee Volunteers Lisa Sallwasser and Geoff Bevington, and to our 30th Anniversary Media Sponsor Compass Mortgage!

Meet the Celebrating Women, Transforming Lives honorees!

March 22, 2018

We invite the community to join Bridge Communities on Friday, April 27 for our 8th Annual Spring Luncheon, “Celebrating Women, Transforming Lives.” Hosted at the beautiful Danada House in Wheaton, we will honor women and philanthropy in DuPage County. We hope you join us for this inspiring celebration.

In addition to meeting our outstanding honorees, you will also have the opportunity to help 130+ Bridge Communities families achieve success this year. Thanks to a generous $20,000 matching grant supported by DuPage Medical Group Charitable Fund, you will double your impact for Bridge families recovering from homelessness!

MargieTarpeyPhoto_crop  Margie Tarpey, this year’s recipient of the Transforming Lives Award, worked in healthcare for 30 years. After retiring 17 years ago, she was a founding member of Naperville CARES and served as president of the board.  Among Margie’s many volunteer efforts are: the founding of St Raphael’s Catholic Church’s St. Vincent De Paul conference, a group providing person-to-person service to those in need of financial assistance; assisting clients at Loaves and Fishes applying for Medicaid, SNAP and Healthcare insurance; and helping to launch Moving UP at Loaves and Fishes, which provides a program for clients who want to learn how to live a financially and emotionally self-sufficient life. We are honored to recognize Margie Tarpey as a woman who is truly transforming lives.

LisaGarrowPhoto_cropAfter her difficult divorce in 2004, Lisa Garrow and her children found themselves without a home of their own. But, when she entered Bridge Communities, she began to turn her life around. Her years in Bridge provided safety and security for her family, and allowed them to get back on their feet. And, going through Bridge’s employment programs gave her the confidence to change her career. Through hard work and dedication, what began as an internship with Northwestern Medicine has led to Lisa’s current position of lead clinical recruiter for NM Delnor Hospital. Today, she’s giving back by assisting at Bridge’s employment workshops. Lisa is an inspiration and we are proud to honor her with the Life Transformed Award.

Judy Hsu    Returning to emcee the luncheon will be Emmy-winning journalist Judy Hsu. An integral part of the ABC 7 news team since 2001, Judy anchors the 11 AM and 4 PM newscasts for ABC 7 Chicago. In addition to her anchor responsibilities, Judy hosts a long-format interview segment on Sunday mornings called “Newsviews.” Judy hosted the Sleep Out Saturday rally for Bridge Communities in 2015, and warmly welcomed supporters of Bridge again at the 2016 and 2017 Spring Luncheon. Judy resides in the western suburbs with her husband and four children.

Tickets are $60 per person or $600 per table of 10, and may be purchased here or www.bridgecommunities.org. Additionally, select sponsorship opportunities remain for the event. A special thank you to our Ruby Sponsor DuPage Medical Group Charitable Fund, and to our Emerald Sponsors BMO Harris Bank, and the Wintrust family of banks, including Bolingbrook Bank & Trust, Glen Ellyn Bank & Trust, Naperville Bank & Trust, and Wheaton Bank & Trust.

To learn more about sponsoring, ask questions about the luncheon, or include an advertisement in the luncheon booklet, please contact Chad Pedigo at (630) 545-0610, ext. 19 or chad.pedigo@bridgecommunities.org.

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Welcome Home: The Bridge Communities 2017 Annual Report

March 8, 2018

Thirty years ago this coming October, the founders of Bridge rented one apartment to house a homeless family. Today, Bridge owns and operates 150 apartments in 23 buildings across DuPage County. And by our anniversary this October, you’ll have helped us connect well over 800 families from homelessness to hope.

To be sure, we couldn’t do what we do without the real estate, but I know I speak for all of our staff and volunteers when I say the motivating force in our work is the life transformations that take place under those roofs.

In this year’s annual report and accompanying video, you’ll have thorough, visual guides of exactly how you’ve made these transformations happen. I hope you will take a look to understand just what a difference Bridge’s bundle of resources – including committed volunteers, donors, staff, and partners – can make in the lives of homeless families.

Thank you for making these transformations possible.

Pearls of Wisdom: Steffi Reyes-Thomas

February 28, 2018

More than 10 years ago, Steffi entered Bridge Communities as a teenager with her mom and younger brother, after becoming homeless. At the time, their family was recovering from the deportation of her father as well as the death of her grandmother.

“At a young age, I was jaded,” Steffi remembers. “Well before I had any bills in my name, I was worried about how we were going to pay them. I grew up understanding that nothing was free, and that everyone wanted to nickel and dime us.”

 But, when they came into the safety of their Bridge apartment, and were connected to their mentors, that’s when her perspective began to change. “They constantly helped with the tedious parts of life,” she says. “Our mentor Sally really taught my whole family how to be adults and handle the paperwork that goes on behind the scenes. What I learned was invaluable. And Bridge made it possible for me to trust again.”

 Having the stability of Bridge was key for Steffi. She excelled in high school and after graduating, went on to earn a BFA in Interior Architecture and Design from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. A decade after their time with Bridge Communities, Steffi’s mom is still living independently, and Steffi has gone on to embark on an amazing career. “Today, I am a Designer of Sustainable Interior Architecture in San Diego, California,” says Steffi. “We practice commercial design, and we recently picked up a new residential business. My job is the perfect balance of creativity and technical ability. I live very close to the beach and I just started surfing, too!”

 Steffi carries the lessons forward with her and appreciates all that Bridge supporters have made possible for her family. “Bridge Communities is absolutely changing how people bounce back from financial and emotional pitfalls. They do it in the most sustainable method in that they educate the participants every step of the way. They also provide day-to-day emotional support.  Bridge never asked for us to repay them for anything during the program, and I thank all the donors for their support. Without them, I don’t know where we would have ended up.”

 In 2017, Bridge Communities honored Steffi with the Life Transformed Award at our Celebrating Women, Transforming Lives Spring Luncheon, in honor of her strength and success. “I couldn’t get through the thank you section of my speech without waterworks. After the speech, many of the women thanked me for being true to myself despite my tears. It meant so much to me to be honored, and I can guarantee that momentum will stay with me forever.” 

 

Special thanks to 30th Anniversary Committee Members Lisa Sallwasser and Geoff Bevington, and to our 30th Anniversary Media Sponsor Compass Mortgage!

Pearls of Wisdom from the Supporters of Bridge Communities: Jack Flowers

February 2, 2018

30Yearslogo2018 marks Bridge Communities’ 30th anniversary year, and we have lots in store to share with you this year. Alongside our special events and celebrations, we will also share “Pearls of Wisdom” stories each month, which will feature a different longtime friend, supporter, volunteer or graduate from Bridge Communities.

We are honored that our first “Pearl of Wisdom” story is of Jack Flowers. Read on to learn more about his journey with Bridge Communities!

Jack Flowers has been involved with Bridge as a program partner from St. Peter and Paul Parish Catholic Church in Naperville for the past 20 years. Jack has been a mentor, manager, believer, thinker, fundraiser, doer and champion of Bridge Communities’ mission, organization and families.

He attributes the 30-year accomplishments of Bridge to the driving forces behind the mission, in particular the work by Mark Milligan. According to Jack, “He and Bob had a vision. A lot of us have visions, but to carry it to the point that he did is successful. He’s an inspiration to me and it shows that given the time and dedication, people can achieve so much good. You can get things done. You can accomplish far more than you ever imagined.”

Jack still stays in touch and exchanges Christmas presents with former clients, and relishes in their accomplishments of independence, education and successes at supporting their families and learning viable skills. “My goal is that the children in the program end up in a better position than when they came in,” Jack says. “Two years of stability, two years of the Naperville schools, two years of having your own bedroom and apartment makes a huge difference. So my satisfaction and reward is seeing these kids growing up now.”

Most importantly, Jack feels that Bridge has given him the compassion, empathy and respect for those in need, that he didn’t have before he became a volunteer. “The major thing when I talk about being a mentor is compassion,” he says.

Jack’s 30th anniversary wish for Bridge:

“Continue the good work that you do. Continue with a great attitude. Life is all about attitude, and I think Bridge has the right attitude for what it does for people. Without that kind of attitude, the organization would fall apart. So keep up how you look at people, yourselves, your clients, your mentors, your program partners and just be accountable like you are in a very possible way.”

Special thanks to our 30th Anniversary Committee Volunteers Lisa Sallwasser and Geoff Bevington, and to our 30th Anniversary Media Sponsor Compass Mortgage. 

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