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.”
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.
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.