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Manager of Common Goods in Crosslake, Andrea Martin - photo by Bill Monroe
The staff of Common Goods, including volunteers, are (from left, Deb Pearo, Elizabeth Ready, Andrea Martin, Laurie Brothen, Sue Hemphill, JoAnn Maas, Sharon Grundyson, Margaret Dahms, Faith Swanson and Barb Rowe. Not pictured are Holly Smith and Stacey Koch. - photo by Bill Monroe

Bridges of Hope: Linking families to community resources

Web posted November 14, 2017
By Bill Monroe, Northland Press Correspondent

Imagine you are a newly single mom with a baby and a threeyear old. You feel like a stranger in a strange land facing life alone for the first time. You want to provide for your children but you don’t know where to turn. There are so many agencies to consider. So much red tape. So many bureaucracies. So much fear and confusion.

That’s exactly the situation Andrea Martin found herself in about seven years ago. Then someone in her church suggested she contact Bridges of Hope. In a video produced by Bridges of Hope and in an interview with this newspaper, Andrea told the story of what happened next. “These two angels came into my house…amongst my mess, and my chaos. The most important thing they asked me was ‘what do you need?’ And we talked and we cried. We talked about my fears, my hopes and what could help me get through a time in my life when I was feeling very unsure. At the end we hugged and they left,” she said.

Though she may not have known it at the time, that visit changed her life in a profound way.

The next day, a Bridges staff member gave her the information she needed to enroll her three-year old in Head Start and connected her with other helpful resources to get her back on her feet. “The most important thing they did was to show me the way. When you don’t know how to get yourself out of a situation that you’re in, to have somebody who can point you in the right direction is very important,” she said.

Bridges of Hope offers a variety of services including crisis nursery services, family support services, respite services for parents of children with mental health or behavioral challenges, resource connection services and mentoring.

The face of Bridges for Hope in Crosslake is Common Goods, one of the most popular retail stores in town. That store and the Common Goods store in Baxter provide 42 percent of the financial support for the programs of Bridges of Hope. And the Crosslake store is managed by none other than Andrea Martin who now lives in Crosslake with her husband and their blended family of four children. She knows from personal experience how important the store is to the mission of Bridges and how critical that mission is to so many women who need help. Bridges of Hope helps over 2,000 families every year.

The Crosslake store opened in 2015 and employs eight parttime staff members and relies on the help of seven volunteers. Martin is the only full-time employee. The store accepts donations of clothing, small to medium pieces of furniture, books, household items and a wide variety of other items. Once received, donations are sorted.

Those that are not selected to be sold are recycled or donated to support a scholarships for active military personnel through a Disabled American Veterans program. Several hundred items are placed on the sales floor each day. Since January, the store has sorted over 140,000 items.

People thinking about contributing to Common Goods should keep a few things in mind before bringing items to the store, Martin said. The business plan is not to collect items for those in need but to collect clean, sellable, usable items to turn into cash to support the mission of Bridge of Hope.

Items that can be contributed include clothing and accessories, jewelry, purses, belts, shoes, artwork, housewares, home furnishings, bedding, books, games, puzzles, small appliances, CD’s, DVD’s, tapes, musical instruments, craft items, baby equipment and seasonal items.

Items that cannot be accepted include large appliances, construction materials, mattresses and box springs, scratched, broken or chipped dishware or glassware, scratched or broken pots and pans, text or reference books or waterbeds.

The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. year around. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day the store is open Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

“I work here because I wanted to give back to Bridges,” Martin said. “I know that what I’m doing is more than just a job. I’m making an impact on the local community and directly impacting families in crisis in Crow Wing County. My hope is that other people will find Bridges of Hope sooner when they really need it so that they can get through a tough time and make it out on the other side, she said.

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