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Thanks for joining us at Sleep Out Saturday!

November 5, 2018

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It was cold. It was rainy. And it was a meaningful, life-changing experience for hundreds of participants across DuPage County as they joined us for the 15th Annual Sleep Out Saturday!

The evening kicked off with a high energy Rock Out for Sleep Out Rally, held for the first time at the rally’s new location of St. Luke’s Church in Glen Ellyn. Hundreds joined us for a fantastic concert by the School of Rock Elmhurst teens, which then led to the program hosted by Patrick Fazio of NBC5 Chicago.

Patrick began the impactful program, which included a presentation and video perspective of a homeless child, led by Diane Nilan of HEAR US Kids. Patty Gustin, city councilwoman in Naperville, joined us on stage to present Diane with a proclamation of November as Homeless Kids Awareness Month. We are grateful for Patty and Diane’s work in raising awareness of homeless families in our community!

Tony DeRiggi of Compass Mortgage, a Gold level sponsor of the event, also joined the stage to talk about Compass’ support of Bridge Communities, and to announce the winner of the night’s raffle: 4 tickets to Illuminations at the Morton Arboretum.

And, the rally capped off with a video featuring the story of Cassie, an inspiring Bridge Communities graduate. Cassie and her family then joined us on stage to talk about the impact that Sleep Out Saturday participants and donors make each and every day for Bridge families like hers!

Sleepers all then headed to their respective sleep out sites, and participated in activities, talks and more before huddling in their tents and boxes for the night. And they woke up with a deeper connection to Bridge Communities and the families they’re helping by fundraising, volunteering and sleeping out.

We appreciate you joining us and connecting homeless families to a better future!

Thank you to our Sleep Out Saturday 2018 Sponsors

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A special update on a #GivingTuesday family

October 30, 2018
Bridge18 68Now that it has been nearly a year, we thought you might like to know about the progress made by a Bridge family rescued from homelessness on #GivingTuesday 2017.
Last fall, K came to Bridge Communities desperate and broken-hearted. After leaving a bad relationship, she and her daughter had nowhere to live.
A relative let little A stay in his home temporarily–but there was no room for K, so she slept in her car. Working part-time at a gym, folding towels for $9 an hour, K had nearly lost hope for being reunited with her daughter under the same roof again.
     And generous supporters like you changed everything for K when you donated to Bridge Communities on #GivingTuesday.
Donors in our community made #GivingTuesday donations to provide a year of housing for K and A, and they moved into a safe apartment before the cold snap. The family was matched with caring mentors, received a donated car, learned to cook at our nutrition workshops and got little A enrolled in a top-notch DuPage County school.
But one of the best things? K went through our employment workshop and career assessment, and realized she had strengths in both people skills and in computers. She’s now completed coursework in IT, and was recently hired at a local hospital in IT recruitment–and today, K is earning a salary of more than $40,000 per year!
None of this would have been possible without friends like you. Thanks to the support on #GivingTuesday, K and her daughter truly are living their best lives today–and they are so grateful.
Says K, “Looking back, it was so hard to go through everything before Bridge. Now, I am so thankful and so concrete in my future. I can’t praise you enough. Thank you!”
At Bridge, we have an opportunity to bring another family in from the cold next year–a family just like K’s. Please consider donating to Give a Tuesday in honor of #GivingTuesday once more, because you will save the next Bridge family from homelessness.

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 www.compmort.com. 

You gave Cassie’s family a new life!

September 18, 2018
DSC03253Cassie’s a bubbly, outgoing and kind mother-of-two living in the western suburbs. Her laugh is contagious, she lights up at the mention of her daughters Chloe and Cayden, and she’s passionate about her job helping cancer patients.
     You’d never know that, just three years ago, she and her girls escaped from a traumatic life of domestic violence, leaving them homeless.
     But your support made all the difference for Cassie and her girls when they found a safe harbor in Bridge Communities. Thank you!
     Read Cassie’s story in our Fall Connections newsletter, and you will be inspired by her family’s courage!
     In this issue, you’ll also read about the amazing professional and personal successes achieved by Bridge families; a Q&A with our resource closet volunteer; details on all of Bridge’s upcoming events; and more.
     Because of friends like you, 130+ Bridge families this year will be connected a better, brighter future. Please make a gift today, so that all Bridge families can achieve safety and success, just like Cassie and her daughters.
     Thank you for being a friend to the families of Bridge Communities.

Pearls of Wisdom: The Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ Committee

September 5, 2018

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When a group of Glen Ellyn friends and neighbors joined together in 2009 to launch a block party/barbecue in their neighborhood, they didn’t expect it would soon become the largest amateur barbeque competition in the state of Illinois.

They didn’t know that their lives would be forever changed by their involvement with a nonprofit, either. But all of us at Bridge Communities sure are glad that was the case.

Says Chip Miller, Co-chairman of the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ, “We started the BBQ with the intention of bringing people to town, and we had to find a charity. Bridge was that charity, and I think it was about three or four years in that a lot of us decided that this was really a special place, and the work they do is incredible. And all the people that are on the committee are focused on the charity and want to make the best event possible, both to raise money for Bridge and to bring people to the community.”

Each year, the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ hosts approximately 60 teams competing in the ultimate barbecue cookoff, making ribs, chicken, side dishes and their own signature sauces. The event also welcomes thousands of attendees, enjoying the food and beer trucks, raffles, Piglet’s Playland kiddie area, and free concerts throughout the day and night.

Says Ralph Covert, who’s also a BBQ performer with his band Ralph Covert and the Bad Examples, “What Bridge has taught me is that the world is full of good people that are trying to help other people. That’s what they do at Bridge, and I’m honored to be able to help out through the BBQ event.”

Each year, the BBQ raises enough funding to house five homeless families for an entire year! “We’re really excited at the end of the day when we’ve realized we’ve raised $50,000 to $60,000 for Bridge to help the homeless families,” says Chip. “We’ve met some of the families, and they’ve spoken with us, and we’re always excited to get to know them.”

The 10th Annual Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ will be in downtown Glen Ellyn on Saturday, September 8—we look forward to celebrating 10 years of this philanthropy with you!

Thank you to our Pearls of Wisdom volunteers Lisa Sallwasser and Geoff Bevington, and to our 30th Anniversary Media Sponsor Compass Mortgage!

Join us at A Chair Affair – Hinsdale!

August 28, 2018

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Join us at A Chair Affair – Hinsdale from 6-9 PM on Friday, October 12!  This fall, A Chair Affair’s cocktail auction & gala will be held once more at the beautifully redesigned Community House in Hinsdale.

Click here to buy tickets now!

Starting in September, the one-of-a-kind pieces of chair artwork, designed by local artists, will be displayed throughout Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Oak Brook and Burr Ridge retailers. You’ll be able to vote for your favorite online, then bid and take it home on October 12!

At the event, you will also enjoy meeting a recent Bridge graduate, a 50/50 raffle, a wine grab, a jewelry pull featuring exclusive pieces from Kendra Scott, and a live artist, auctioning off his work at the end of the night.

The ticket includes an hors d’oeuvres and dessert buffet, plus an open bar. Proceeds of A Chair Affair go directly to support Bridge’s transitional housing program and the 130 homeless families served this year.

Bridge Communities is grateful to our outstanding community sponsors for making this event possible: Title Sponsor Hinsdale Bank & Trust; Auction Sponsors Enterprise Holdings Foundation, BMO Harris, and Kenna Builders; and Raffle Sponsors Crown Mortgage and Chef by Request.

Celebrate 30 Years of Homes and Hope With Bridge Communities!

August 10, 2018

PrintLet’s celebrate three decades of home and hope with Bridge Communities, and honor the retirement of beloved co-founder Mark Milligan!

Please join us at the Bridge Communities 30th Birthday Bash on Friday, September 21st. This unique & exciting night at The Planter’s Palette will feature cocktails, a buffet, and a raffle with a unique birthday twist. You will also have the chance to bid on amazing auction packages, including a starter wine cellar, a luxury trip to Arizona, and a private chef’s dinner. Last but not least, there will be music all night long, so wear your “dancing on dirt” attire.

Buy your tickets to the 30th Birthday Bash today!

Over the years, Bridge Communities has become an organization that has helped homeless families achieve their dreams of self-sufficiency, and that has only been possible because of community supporters like you. We thank YOU for being a friend to Bridge families!

Don’t miss out on the party of the year! Birthday Bash tickets are on sale for $100 per person–click here to purchase yours today! If you have any questions, you can call Margo at (630) 403-5091 or email margo.matthew@bridgecommunities.org. We can’t wait to celebrate 30 years of home and hope with you!

Pearls of Wisdom from the Bridge Builders

August 6, 2018

GEBBQ2015 222The Bridge Builders are a dedicated force to be reckoned with. They make things happen: great things.

In 2003, Glen Ellyn resident Stephanie Pierce wanted to give back to her community and help local families get back on their feet, so she gathered her friends and neighbors and founded the Bridge Builders, an auxiliary group of Bridge Communities made up of active and passionate women in Glen Ellyn.

In support of their efforts, the Bridge Builders have put on amazing fundraising activities enjoyed by all. Like the epic Garage Parties spearheaded by Deb Ritter – a middle of the winter freeze attended by scores of people coming out in the snow for a good cause. Deb remembers the thrill of the chill and raising a red solo cup to gather donations. Deb’s interest, from being in the housing industry, has always been to help other less fortunate to secure a safe home.

Rani McKee has been a Bridge Builder for 12 years, co-chair of the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ and a Bridge tutor. She tells of the Bridge Builders’ involvement in Bridge’s annual holiday party held for families at the DuPage Children’s Museum. This gathering’s highlight is Santa’s Closet, an effort where donated gifts are collected all year. This magical closet allows Bridge clients to pick out whatever gift they would like for their family and all the gifts are then wrapped by Bridge Builders that night. Rani remembers a special young girl named “T,” a 12-year-old who chose only what she needed each year and never more. Fast-forward six years and “T” returned to the party as a college student. That is the best gift “T” could give to Bridge, but she continues to give back. Now “T” attends the holiday party, helping others select and wrap gifts!

Carrie Morris has been a Bridge Builder since the group’s early days. Carrie speaks of the Bridge Builders as being an auxiliary that is all about assisting the families as they go through the program with activities like: babysitting, Christmas parties and giving moms a break as they juggle education and learning new skills. She feels the three most important things Bridge Builders provide is: keeping the families together, teaching skills for success, and educating the children so they can launch and be independent. Carrie eloquently and thoughtfully spoke of her Bridge experience, leaving us with this thought: most of all, to be kind to our neighbors and love one another.

The Bridge Builders plan to continue their hard work and efforts to support Bridge Communities, and we couldn’t be more grateful to have such amazing supporters in our community. We salute them and their dedication. Thank you, Bridge Builders!

Thank you to our video & blog volunteers Lisa Sallwasser and Geoff Bevington for their contributions, and to our 30th Anniversary Media Sponsor Compass Mortgage! 

Volunteer at the 10th Annual Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ!

July 18, 2018
BBQ 10 Years    If your idea of a great day includes smelling the aroma of mouthwatering barbecue, listening to non-stop music and meeting some of the greatest barbecue lovers in Northern Illinois and the Western Suburbs, then we have a job for you! Volunteer at the 10th Annual Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ on Saturday, September 8.
Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ
Saturday, September 8
12-10 PM
Glenwood Ave Parking Lot
Crescent Blvd. and Glenwood Ave.
Glen Ellyn, IL map
    We need over 200 volunteers to help make this event possible! There are many shift options between 6:00 AM – 10:30 PM, so everyone can find the perfect volunteer opportunity.

    Will you help out at one of our most important fundraisers of the year? The BBQ can only exist with the help of volunteers!

Sign up today www.glenellynbackyardbbq.org/volunteer-opportunities/

    For volunteering questions, please contact Kait Balsewicz at volunteer@glenellynbackyardbbq.org.

    For more details on the event, please visit www.glenellynbackyardbbq.org.

    Thank you for your continuous support, and we will see you on September 8!

Bridge Pearls of Wisdom: Steve and Nydia

July 11, 2018

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Steve and Nydia Paterkiewicz are some of the biggest fans and supporters of Bridge Communities around. And they know Bridge Communities better than most people—because they used to be clients in the program.

Nydia and her three daughters came into the safety of a Bridge apartment more than five years ago, after escaping domestic abuse. And when Steve, her friend from childhood, was losing his home with his two sons a few years later, she recommended that he apply for Bridge Communities as well.

The two credit Bridge Communities for changing their lives. “Coming into the program, I didn’t have good self-esteem,” Nydia remembers. “I had a degree, but I wasn’t able to take that degree and succeed with it. I didn’t have that confidence in myself, and they were able to provide that for me in order for me to succeed.”

What did they like best about the program? “I liked learning how to budget, and I liked the fellowship aspect,” says Nydia. “It’s exactly what it says: it’s a community. Bridge provides a lot of services and after school programs for the families, and we all get to come together as a family and fellowship. I’ve grown several really close relationships out of the program—including Steve!”

Indeed, the former childhood friends found love, and Steve and Nydia married in 2016, after they’d both graduated from the transitional housing program.

Besides Nydia, Steve says the best part of being in Bridge was his relationship with his mentors. “They gave me a sense of relief, and I know that a lot of things were finally going to be put into perspective and put into order. It was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” he recalls.

Steve reflects on what their lives were like while in the Bridge program, and how their lives have evolved since graduating. “Back then, I was able to be in a stable home and a stable environment. I got my kids into athletics and great schools. I just had a smile from ear to ear,” he says. “Now, I own my own home, and I own my own business. We both have amazing full-time jobs besides the business and our kids are going to great schools, all succeeding. We have travel baseball, soccer, softball, and cheerleading. We couldn’t be happier. Joy is just floating around this house all day long.”

What’s their advice for clients in the Bridge program? “There’s a lot of sacrifice, but it’s well worth it,” says Nydia. “It gets hard sometimes, because I know there’s a lot of issues with putting everything out on the table, but it’s very well worth it. The mentors and the program are there for us, and that’s a great feeling.”  Adds Steve, “You have to be strong. The reward is worth the sacrifice.”

Steve and Nydia’s message to their mentors and to Bridge: “Thank you for everything you have done. You truly are a gift from God that we owe all of our success to. Not only our mentors, but the Bridge program itself. And we are behind it 100% and do whatever we can to give back to this program.”

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