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Pearls of Wisdom from Bridge’s Mark Milligan

September 28, 2018

Mark_POWYou may know the story of how Bridge Communities came to be in the summer of 1988. But to hear co-founder Mark Milligan tell the story is truly something special.

“I was working in a homeless shelter, a place that people could go overnight and sleep, and I kept noticing in this homeless shelter a growing number of women and children who were there,” says Mark. “And to me, to have children in that, it just didn’t make any sense to me. Then, I had a moment of clarity that what I should have been doing was simply thinking about one family. I have the capacity to do anything to help one family, and put in those terms, certainly I did.” Mark then called his longtime friend Bob Wahlgren, had iced tea with him that afternoon, and by nightfall, they decided they would take action. They soon rallied their family and friends to raise money for one homeless family’s housing for three months–and what would become Bridge Communities had begun.

The Bridge Communities transitional housing program has seen a lot of development and transformations over the years, by adding more and more services, such as employment counseling, children’s programming, tutoring and more–but some of the biggest changes that occur are within the clients themselves. According to Mark, once a Bridge family has their mind set on long-term goals, and is committed to making changes and budgeting correctly to give their family a secure future, they’re on a great path to success.

One example Mark shares: “There was a family, a mom and two children, and she wanted very badly for her daughter to have dance lessons. But she had no money for it. So what’s she’d do in the mornings would be to get up, put her kids in the car, take one of her kids to a daycare center, take the other one to school, then she’d grab a cup of Starbucks, and then she’d go to work. And one morning, as she went through the drive-thru at Starbucks and handed her $5 out the window, she realized, ‘Wow. I’m drinking my daughter’s dance lesson.’ Her value was dance lessons for her child, and her reality was drinking Starbucks coffee. Once she understood that, her life got much less complicated and much easier to live.” As a result, the mom got a coffeemaker at home, and enrolled her daughter in dance classes–a dream come true!

This type of transformation in thinking has led 850 Bridge families to a better, self-sufficient future over 30 years. And seeing families succeed has been the greatest source of joy for Mark. “Seeing those kids turn around, seeing them thrive, seeing them head off to college, seeing their moms come out of our program and by a house for her and her family–that’s pretty remarkable stuff, and it is cause for joy,” Mark says with a smile.

Thank you, Mark Milligan, for being Bridge’s source of so many pearls of wisdom over the past 30 years! We all wish you well in your retirement, and know you’ll always be the heart of Bridge Communities.

Thank you to Compass Mortgage, our 30th Anniversary Media Sponsor and creator of the Pearls of Wisdom video series! To learn more, visit 

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