“Hands Around the Plain” Opens

Our new store is now open! “Hands Around the Plain” is located beside “The Fruited Plain” on highway 75 in Sioux Center. This unique gift shop is an exciting opportunity for the women of The Bridge to gain employment and to build a good job history. And, equally exciting: all proceed from the store will go back into the ministry of The Bridge.

Hand Around the Plain will carry a variety of items including: jewelry, jams and jellies, oils, soaps and lotions, purses, cards, baby gifts, pet collars and leashes, used books wine glasses and racks, rugs and art on consignment from local artists.

Along with these made-in-the-Midwest products, HATP will carry Fair-Trade products made in Chile by struggling artisans. HATP will also carry a line of jewelry made by impoverished women in Nepal who have developed a business to help other women in similar situations. HATP hopes to develop several relationships with other international ministries in the future.

Another exciting thing happening at Hand Around the Plain, is a product line called “Beyond the Bridge.” These are products that are either made by the women of The Bridge or by friends of The Bridge. These products include: candles, grocery totes and bags, table scarves, goat soap, pottery, photography, quilts, baby blankets and scarves. We hope to expand this line as the store grows. The “Beyond the Bridge” line is exciting because the items are donated, so 100% of the retail price goes back into the ministry of The Bridge!

Nearly all of the remodeling of our building was done by volunteers from the community. We saved an incredible amount of money because of the help of others. Thank you!

Stop in and see us in Sioux Center on highway 75 across from Coop Gas and Oil. We’re excited to have you visit!

What You Can Do

  • Donate your books! Give your ‘very good’ used best sellers or classic books to HATP. All proceeds from their sales at HATP go back into the ministry of The Bridge!
  • Donate items that you’ve created, such as quilts, blankets, pottery, art or woodworking to HATP.
  • Volunteer to work at HATP a few hours each month (email or call 712.441.2528)
  • Join our Facebook page
  • Shop at HATP!!

Residents Contribute to Store

Arts and crafts shop is part of vision for group

by Keley Seligman
Staff Writer (Local Publication)

Sioux Center – The Bridge is taking its holistic approach to a new level.

The N’West Iowa faith-based transitional housing organization that provides a safe environment in Orange City for women and children in need has decided to take on a new venture to extend the ways it helps its residents.

“We’re going to open a gift shop that includes an artsy line of gifts,” said director Sandi Altena.

Hands Around the Plain will have fabric, pottery, photographs, paintings, cards and other lines of gifts donated to the shop from area artists.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be a fairly collaborative effort,” Altena said.

Volunteers will help the organization start remodeling a space on Highway 75 in Sioux Center next to The Fruited Plain Cafe this month.

“We want to bring it to Sioux Center for a variety of reasons,” Altena said. “We do serve northwest Iowa, but people make the mistake that because our facility is in Orange City, we’re an ‘Orange City facility.”

She said that setting up shop next to The Fruited Plain also was a good choice as the look of the shop will mimic the cafe next door, with an interior design of bricks and wood beams.

“I think it’s going to have a real organic, classy edge,” Altena said.

She added that The Fruited Plain Cafe owners, Laremy and Rebecca De Vries, share similar values with The Bridge.

“I think we’re a good match, and I think we both sense that,” Altena said.

When The Bridge is full, six women and their children live there. Altena said some of the women have jobs in local communities, but four to six of the women will work at least part time at Hands Around the Plain.

That work experience will provide valuable skills to the women. First, it will give the women, some of whom have never had steady work, transferable job skills.

“I think a lot of our women are excited about the employment,” Altena said. “Then there’s a responsibility aspect, you’ve got a job, and you’ve got to show up.”

The work also will provide the women with a reference when applying for future positions.

Since most of the residents come from broken relationships, Altena said they have diminished self-confidence.

“Coming into a public setting and working publicly with folks will increase their confidence,” Altena said. “I can’t underestimate the communication skills part of things.”

The women also will learn basic life skills like keeping a store clean and organized and working with money.

Some women will even get to contribute to the goods in the shop, like on of The Bridge’s residents who crochets.

“She’s already suggested she can submit that kind of thing,” Altena said.

However, Hands Around the Plain is not only for The Bridge residents to learn. The gift shop also will provide an opportunity for locals to get involved and learn more about poverty, homelessness and brokenness from the women of The Bridge.

Women in the region are invited to volunteer to work at Hands Around the Plain and will be partnered with one of The Bridge’s residents.

“That helps develop a relationship between the two, and I think that is beneficial to both sides,” Altena said. “It breaks down stereotypes.”

The Bridge also is working with local colleges to provide an internship opportunity for a student to manage accounts at Hands Around the Plain.

Altena said that The Bridge works on a $150,000 budget each year and needs community support to make this endeavor possible. Although the organization has received a $4,000 grand from the Sioux County Community Foundation, Altena said the organization is looking for four or more investors to pledge about $5,000 to the project, which will have at least $20,000 in inventory and rebuilding costs.

“It’s important that our women get immersed in the community,” Altena said. “This is an opportunity to serve a really vulnerable population – most of our women are single mothers – a really vulnerable population in our own backyard.”

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES:
People from all throughout the region can volunteer to The Bridge in a variety of ways. Invest in Hands Around the Plain, help with construction, volunteer to work in the store with The Bridge residents or even just stop by and shop to support the endeavor. To get more information on how to volunteer, call director Sandi Altena at (712) 707-9922 or (712) 441-2528.

FAMILY CIRCLE:
The Bridge also has taken over the Sioux County Family Circle program after its funding from the state was cut. A $5,000 grant from the Siouxland Community Foundation will help the organization keep the program going for all families in the community.

“You take all families who are struggling and hurting, and you put a circle of support around them,” Altena said.
Residents from The Bridge have taken part in the program, which also helps break down barriers.

http://www.thebridgehousing.org/

Residents Contribute to Store

This is an article from a Sioux Center newspaper:

Arts and crafts shop is part of vision for group

By Kiley Seligman, Staff Writer

SIOUX Center – The Bridge is taking its holistic approach to a new level.

The N-West Iowa faith-based transitional housing organization that provides a safe environment in Orange City for women and children in need has decided to take on a new venture to extend the ways it helps its residents.

“We’re going to open a gift shop that includes an artsy line of gifts,” said director Sandi Altena.

Hands Around the Plain will have fabric, pottery, photographs, paintings, cards and other lines of gifts donated to the shop from area artists.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be a fairly collaborative effort,” Altena said.

Volunteers will help the organization start remodeling a space on Highway 75 in Sioux Center next to The Fruited Plain Café this month.

“We want to bring it to Sioux Center for a variety of reasons,” Altena said. “We do serve northwest Iowa, but people make the mistake that because our facility is in Orange City, we’re an Orange City facility.”

She said that setting up shop next to The Fruited Plain also was a good choice as the look of the shop will mimic the café next door, with an interior design of bricks and wood beams.

“I think it’s going to have a real organic, classy edge,” Altena said.

She added that The Fruited Plain Café owners, Laremy and Rebecca De Vries, share similar values with The Bridge.

“I think we’re a good match, and I think we both sense that,” Altena said.

When The Bridge is full, six women and their children live there. Altena said some of the women have jobs in local communities, but four to six of the women will work at least part time at Hands Around the Plain.

That work experience will provide valuable skills to the women. First, it will give the women, some of whom have never had steady work, transferable job skills.

“I think a lot of our women are excited about the employment,” Altena said. “Then there’s a responsibility aspect, you’ve got a job, and you’ve got to show up.”

The work also will provide the women with a reference when applying for future positions.

Since most of the residents come from broken relationships, Altena said they have diminished self-confidence.

“Coming into a public setting and working publicly with folks will increase their confidence,” Altena said. “I can’t underestimate the communication skills part of things.”

The women also will learn basic life skills like keeping a store clean and organized and working with money.

Some women will even get to contribute to the goods in the shop, like one of The Bridge’s residents who crochets.

“She’s already suggested she can submit that kind of thing,” Altena said.

However, Hands Around the Plain is not only for The Bridge residents to learn. The gift shop also will provide an opportunity for locals to get involved and learn more about poverty, homelessness and brokenness from the women of The Bridge.

Women in the region are invited to volunteer to work at Hands Around the Plain and will be partnered with one of The Bridge’s residents.

“That helps develop a relationship between the two, and I think that is beneficial to both sides,” Altena said. “It breaks down stereotypes.”

The Bridge also is working with local colleges to provide an internship opportunity for a student to manage accounts at Hands Around the Plain.

Altena said that The Bridge works on a $150,000 budget each year and needs community support to make this endeavor possible. Although the organization has received a $4,000 grant from the Sioux County Community Foundation, Altena said the organization is looking for four or more investors to pledge about $5,000 to the project which will have at least $20,000 in inventory and rebuilding costs.

“It’s important that our women get immersed in the community,” Altena said. “This is an opportunity to serve a really vulnerable population – most of our women are single mothers – a really vulnerable population in our own backyard.”

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES:

People from all throughout the region can volunteer to The Bridge in a variety of ways. Invest in Hands Around the Plain, help with construction, volunteer to work in the store with The Bridge residents or even just stop by and shop to support the endeavor. To get more information on how to volunteer, call director Sandi Altena at (712) 707-9922 or (712) 441-2528.

FAMILY CIRCLE:

The Bridge also has taken over the Sioux County Family Circle program after its funding from the state was cut. A $5,000 grant from the Siouxland Community Foundation will help the organization keep the program going for all families in the community.

“You take all families who are struggling and hurting, and you put a circle of support around them,” Altena said.

Residents from The Bridge have taken part in the program which also helps break down barriers.

The Bridge

The Bridge Summer 2009 Newsletter: Spring Fund Raisers Appreciated

The Bridge has a strong and passionate commitment – and our unwillingness to compromise that commitment – eliminates most of the funding available from state and federal resources. In that regard, the support of the church and the community is imperative for the survival of The Bridge and its opportunity to share Christ with the women and children who live with us. Our budget needs are met through your ongoing support, but special projects like The Playground Project (see article below) need special funds (nearly $20,000). Several fundraisers were done this spring to help meet the needs of the project. We thank you, on behalf of the children, for your contributions!

Women of God “Arise. Shine.” Conference: “Wonderful!!”

Nearly 300 women attended the first annual Women of God Conference held April 17 and 18 at the New Life Reformed Church in Sioux Center. Women were treated to several meals, worship, powerful speakers, beautiful art displays and outstanding workshops. The conference was organized to bring women of the community together for a time of encouragement, inspiration and rejuvenation. Women who attended agreed that, indeed, it was such an event.

Additionally, the conference served as a fund-raiser for The Bridge. With all thanks to God, the conference netted nearly $5,000! CDs of the keynote speakers Herma Williams, Michelle Christy, and Shari Kastein are available at The Bridge. (Call 712.707.9922 for more information.) Next Year’s conference will also be in April. Plan to attend!

The Playground Project

Money from the spring fundraisers will be used, in large part, to fund The Playground Project. The Playground Project will begin this summer and will include the construction of a protected “backyard” outdoor playground for the kids of The Bridge. It will eliminate a dangerous traffic situation for them and provide a safe place for them to enjoy healthy stimulating outdoor play. The project includes a gated chain link fence, safety surfacing and play equipment. Donations for this project can be sent to The Bridge, PO Box 323, Orange City, IA 51041.

The Red Letter Festival:

On Saturday, March 28, enthusiastic members of the Northwestern College community initiated a festival to raise money and awareness against domestic violence, poverty and homelessness. The event involved students from Northwestern and Dordt College, as well as members from the greater Sioux County area. Events included a sponsored run from Sioux City to Orange City, a bike ride, bake sale, concert, art auction and tamale sale. The event raised nearly $5,000 for The Playground Project!

Unity Box Social:

Each year, all the students of Unity Christian High School in Orange City participate in a box lunch social to raise funds for charities. This year, the proceeds were designated, in part, to The Bridge. Nearly $1,400 was grateful received by the staff at The Bridge. Thank you!

Vacation Bible Schools

Several vacation Bible Schools raised money and collected goods for The Bridge. A big thanks to the kids at Middleburg Free Grace Reformed, Newkirk Reformed and Sanborn Reformed and Christian Reformed Churches! We are humbled by your thoughtfulness and generosity.

The Neighborhood Kool-Aid Stand 

The kids of Nick and Sherri Lantinga of Sioux Center sold Kool-Aid for The Bridge because they ‘wanted to do something to help other people.’ The kids flagged down cars with great enthusiasm for several days with promo signs and irresistible smiled and managed to earn $40.51 for The Bridge.

www.thebridgehousing.org

Teamwork: How area agencies work Together for Those in Need

The people of Northwest Iowa are blessed to have multiple agencies that serve those in need. The question has been asked if all of these services are necessary. The question has also been asked if our agencies work well together. The answer to both questions is a resounding, “yes!” Women who are in need often come to The Bridge by way of Atlas, the Family Crisis Center, Mid Sioux, Bethany Christian Services, or the Department of Human Services. The Bridge in turn connects these women to area agencies, community programs, and churches. When the women move back into the community it is not uncommon for Justice for All to help supply their new apartment with basic furnishings. Although each of these agencies has their own Board and operates independently financially from one another, the collaboration is truly beautiful!

MORE STORIES ABOUT THE BRIDGE:
The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)
Back On Her Feet
Every Gift is a Blessing
Organizing the Community

Volunteering at The Bridge

Shelter A Bridge to Independence

Here’s a newspaper article on The Bridge:

Shelter A Bridge To Independence

Organizing the Community

For a community to come together and effectively address problems in their neighborhood a community has to be organized.  This seems like pretty obvious logic, right?  But how exactly do you organize people in the community and how do you decide what the agenda for change will be?

In September of 2006 Rick Droog met with a RCA pastor who had been hired by his church to be involved 10 hours a week in community development work.  Rick talked to the pastor about the Communities First model of community development and they decided that it would be neat to get a group of people together over lunch to talk about their community.

So they got a group of community and church leaders together.  Rick asked the group, “What needs do you see in our community?”  The group framed the discussion around what they saw happening in their neighborhoods.  After talking with each other they came up with a list of things that they felt needed to be addressed.

However, Rick challenged the group to bring more people to the table to get a better picture of what more people in the community wanted the agenda for change to be.  “Some of the things on the list were the things we saw as church leaders and community leaders, and we didn’t necessarily have the voices or the focus [that we needed] at the table,” said Rick.

Taking the advice to heart, the leaders started trying to expand the group asking, “Who isn’t at the table that should be at the table?”  The best way to create an agenda for change is with diverse voices and so the group started inviting more people to talk with.  Over a period of time as more people came to the table the group prioritized the list of needs and narrowed it down to two or three possibilities.

“One of the things that kept coming up was transitional housing.  Particularly transitional housing for women and children,” said Rick.  To examine the need for transitional housing they invited people to the group with knowledge in that area.  They invited the director and some board members from the local crisis center, people from different social organizations within the community, as well as members from Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Getting representatives of these organizations together to compare their experiences was invaluable.  What they found out from the crisis center people was that if a woman came to them she could stay in their facility for thirty days, but then had to release her due to the grants and stipulations on the crisis center.  The HUD people discussed that their main function was to help people by providing housing and funding for lower income housing, but many times their grants and funding would not come through until about ninety days after their application.  “So the gap we saw was from about day thirty to day ninety,” said Rick.

With this information the group started to explore how they could address this need.  The group asked, “If we had some type of facility would it be full?”  The response was, “If you had a facility open today we could have six or eight folks [in it immediately].”

The group decided to pursue the idea of a facility to provide transitional housing and began looking for and organizing assets within their community.  First, they began looking for a building that was both accessible to the community and met the needs of the people who would be living in it.  It just so happened that the community hospital had just built a brand new 35 million dollar hospital on the outskirts of the town.  The old hospital building happened to be right in the middle of the community.

Rick and the others started meeting with the hospital and challenged them with the vision they had for a transitional housing facility and the women who would stay there.  They asked the hospital if would be possible to have part of the old hospital for their facility.  “We got the hospitals to agree to give us a wing, which is ten rooms and a community room,” Rick excitedly said.  The hospital was going to lease it to the group, but then they went back and asked the hospital if they would be willing to give them the wing.  After some consideration the hospital decided to give them the wing free of charge for the year!

Next, they started organizing people’s assets within the community to get the new facility up and running.  Electricians and other skilled labor volunteered their time to convert the hospital wing into a transitional housing facility.  The local college and other organizations pledged to help out and supply volunteers to run the facility.  A young woman volunteered to be the night resident for free as well.  More and more people were invited to join in to make the project happen.  “As we did this also a kind of buzz came out, what was going on?  What was happening?  Soon other people who also had passions and were like-minded began to come to the table and it really built a lot of neat community,” said Rick.

Groundwork for developing a 501c3 non-profit was starting and Rick knew a lawyer and asked him if he would be willing to use his gifts and abilities to help out.  The lawyer volunteered his time free of charge.

More and more people contributed their gifts and abilities until finally the transitional housing was ready to open.  “Many volunteers did not necessarily have the time to be involved at the same level that some of us were, but they were more than willing to give of their gifts and abilities,” observed Rick.

The transitional housing facility, officially called The Bridge, opened in September of 2007.  The Bridge provides a non-profit, faith-based, transitional housing for women and children.  “I think what has been neat is we’ve seen churches get involved, community folks getting involved, business people, social agencies, [all] getting together in the process.  So we’re excited about it,” smiled Rick.

So what’s next for this community?  “I hope we are not done listening,” said Rick.  “We need to convene some new folks from the community and do some more listening.  We need to do some more thinking, discussing, and dialoging about what is the next thing to make the community more like heaven.”

MORE STORIES ON THE BRIDGE:

Back On Her Feet

Every Gift is a Blessing

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing (Newspaper Link)

Volunteering at The Bridge

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing

Check out this newspaper article on The Bridge.

 

Every Gift is a Blessing

In the “Back On Her Feet” article we shared the inspiring story of one woman who left a painful circumstance and is seeking new life at The Bridge.  Every woman we’ve encountered has her own story to tell, but I want to take this moment to share another story: the story of this community.

Since The Bridge opened its doors on September 5, I have been blessed to see God at work through his people.  People have given to The Bridge without being asked or even prompted.  A group of young children set up a lemonade stand with all proceeds going to The Bridge.  When the kids presented their proceeds to me, tears came to my eyes.  They did what they knew to help.  Another young child presented a local pastor with four dollar bills and two dimes—a sacrificial gift of a child.  Every penny makes a difference.  Every gift received a blessing.  Thank you for giving.

Every week, I see this community in action.  One day I opened the newspaper to see that a hair salon was advertising “buy one product, donate one to The Bridge.”  Another time a church called to say their youth had collected canned food items at a nightly meeting, and they filled the hallway with their donations.

The Bridge has been so blessed by all of the small groups willing to clean on a Saturday morning, Heemstra Hall guys moving furniture, people handing out pledge cards on a Saturday afternoon, Vogel donating numerous gallons of paint, a local grocer’s pledge that no one who seeks refuge at The Bridge will go hungry, and the countless hours of volunteering by electricians, plumbers, designers.   Community Ownership means everything.  As Christians, we are called to help those in need.  My heart warms with each of these examples; I love when people are moved to help and they do it!  I want to thank each and every person for helping in whatever capacity they have to keep open the doors of The Bridge.

It is through our love of God that we serve in this broken, suffering world.  The women who come to The Bridge have experienced sadness, frustration and deep disappointment.  We hope to provide more than just a roof over their head—we desire to provide a supportive, encouraging and safe place to feel God’s grace amidst their pain.  The women who call The Bridge home are amazing.  They have the courage to start their life over with a new beginning.

Valerie Stokes

MORE STORIES ABOUT THE BRIDGE:

Back On Her Feet

Organizing the Community

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)

Volunteering At The Bridge

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

Volunteering at The Bridge

Marla Groeneweg spends five hours a week volunteering at The Bridge because she believes in its mission.  “I’ve been so blessed that I want to be a blessing to others,” she adds.

Marla is a full-time mom of four kids.  Although many of the volunteers come to The Bridge in the evenings, Marla wanted to reserve that time for her family but she still wanted to be involved.  She contacted The Bridge to see if she could help out in the afternoons, and it ended up being a great fit.

“This is a wonderful place,” Marla says.  “I love moms and children and The Bridge provides new hope and a new beginning.  It’s so exciting to see what God will do here.”

Marla spends her time at The Bridge assisting with office duties, talking with residents, providing transportation and cleaning.

As far as encouraging others in the community to volunteer at The Bridge, Marla says, “Just do it!  Don’t let fear hold you back—take a step of faith.  If God is prompting you, be obedient.”

MORE STORIES ABOUT THE BRIDGE

Back On Her Feet

Every Gift Is A Blessing

Organizing the Community

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

Back on Her Feet

Jody (not her real name) came to The Bridge to “start her life over again” after experiencing physical abuse by her boyfriend.  She has been living at The Bridge for two months.

“I’m here to make changes and get back on my feet,” Jody says.  “I’ve made mistakes in my life but I’m learning from them and I’m getting back on track with God.”

Jody says she feels safe at The Bridge, and that there’s a lot of support and encouragement there.

“What I want to do while I’m here is to reach out to other people—maybe telling my story will encourage other women.”

After coming to The Bridge, Jody found employment and works about 35 hours a week.  She is also learning to manage and budget her money.

Eventually, Jody would like to go back to school and earn a degree in business management.  Her long-term dream is to open a restaurant or store that caters to the Hispanic community.

“Someday I also want to return to The Bridge as a volunteer,” Jody says.  “I can really relate to these women, and I want to give back however I can.”

So what is life like at The Bridge?  It looks different for each resident, but Jody spends her mornings reading or in appointments and then works in the afternoons and evenings.  She meets with a therapist regularly and is hoping to be paired with a mentor soon.  On the weekends, Jody and the other residents often join together to watch a movie and share meals.

“The Bridge is a wonderful program that offers stability and support,” she says.  “It’s given me a new start.”

MORE STORIES ABOUT THE BRIDGE:

Every Gift is a Blessing

Organizing the Community

The Bridge Offers Transitional Housing  (Newspaper Link)

Volunteering At The Bridge

Teamwork: How Area Agencies Work Together

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