When crisis hits, chaos often follows.
A battered woman escapes from an abusive relationship with her long-time boyfriend. She and her three young children are suddenly homeless and have nothing but the clothes on their backs.
A middle-aged man unexpectedly loses his job. Rent was due last week and his landlord is threatening to evict him.
What should these people do? Where can they turn for help?
Tami Lueck, Bridges of Hope executive director, started Spirit of Kindness, a fund used to help people in need. Area churches refer many clients to Bridges of Hope, and some receive help through Spirit of Kindness funds. Brainerd Dispatch/Heidi Lake
Bridges of Hope, a nonprofit organization based in Baxter, supports people in crisis situations, connecting them to resources within the community.
Bridges of Hope keeps a database of which services the community, including area churches, have to offer, such as a food shelf or support groups.
Oftentimes all resources, such as social services and other government funding, have already been exhausted by an individual. It's those situations that spurred Bridges of Hope to start Spirit of Kindness last October.
Spirit of Kindness is a benevolent fund used to help people in need. Bridges of Hope is encouraging area churches to donate and refer people to the program. Of the 140 churches in Crow Wing County, so far six have donated a total of $4,000 to Spirit of Kindness.
Tami Lueck, Bridges of Hope executive director, said she hopes to see $20,000 allocated to Spirit of Kindness in the years to come. By pooling money and services from area churches, people can get the help they need more effectively.
"By having a coordinated fund we can help at a greater amount rather than just Band-Aid it," Lueck said. "It's hard for churches to know about all the resources in the community."
Before Spirit of Kindness, Bridges of Hope would contact churches individually to find help when a need presented itself. The collaboration of resources in Spirit of Kindness makes the process easier.
Spirit of Kindness
Individuals can donate to Bridges of Hope's Spirit of Kindness fund by sending a check to: Bridges of Hope, P.O. Box 742, Brainerd, MN, 56401. Be sure to write Spirit of Kindness in the memo portion of the check.
For information on other Bridges of Hope programs, go to www.bridges-of-hope.net.
"It's a services clearinghouse for people who are in need," said the Rev. Ray Larson of Crosslake Presbyterian Church.
Most often, Lueck said, the fund is accessed for rent, car repairs or a motel stay.
The Rev. Chris Meier, Lutheran Church of the Cross pastor, said his church, located in Nisswa, gets about two or three people each week asking for assistance. The hardest part about dealing with the walk-ins, he said, is deciding if their needs are legitimate.
Larson agreed. Formerly a pastor of a large church in Lincoln, Neb., Larson remembered a time when he got scammed out of $250 by someone who posed as a church member in need.
"In the church we tend to wear our heart on our sleeve," he said. "That's what the gospel is all about -- helping people who are in need."
By referring people to Bridges of Hope, pastors and other church staffers don't have to decide which cases are legit. Bridges of Hope uses a screening process to assure the person is really in need of assistance.
"There are a few people who make the rounds at area churches asking for money," Meier said. "(Spirit of Kindness) is a way to help people who are sincere, just in need of a break."
So far this year, 17 clients have been helped through the fund.
HEIDI LAKE can be reached at 855-5879 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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