2021 November | By Ryan Lash
As the cold weather approaches and the holiday season nears the thought of family, friends, food, and presents is on all our minds. The season should bring all these wonderful things to every family in our community, but sometimes that is not the case. Times are tougher these last couple of years, as is evident in all economic aspects. Covid-19 has caused financial and unstable conditions for many families. Stimulus and unemployment checks have helped stabilize the need for assistance for many, but it is evident that more help is needed. The New York Times reported in an April 2020 that, “demand for food assistance is rising at an extraordinary rate, just as the nation’s food banks are being struck by shortages of both food and volunteer workers.”
Organizations like “The Bridge” seek to help those in need and help make the winter months and holiday season happy for all of those who may need a helping hand or just a little hope in their corner.
The Bridge is an outreach ministry of Our Savior Lutheran Church in South Windsor, CT. After doing extensive research about the needs of families in South Windsor and its surrounding towns, members from Our Savior Lutheran Church decided to open the facility in the fall of 2016. Located in South Windsor at 400 Chapel Road unit 1J, their mission is to provide food, gently used clothing, and case management services to individuals and families facing a temporary financial crisis. Members of the church and community provide donations so The Bridge can fulfill its mission.
The Bridge receives clothing and non-perishable food items. Due to limited storage space, the Administrative Assistant of The Bridge, Tammy Choleva said, “calling beforehand is always recommended, sometimes too many of a certain item can be overwhelming. By calling ahead, donations can be assessed and appropriately distributed.”
Shoppers call or email to register an appointment. A staff members assist shoppers in finding the products that they will require, determined by the size of the family.
Healthy food choices are a priority at The Bridge. The food is neatly organized on shelves and conveniently color coded according to sodium, sugar, and nutritional value. Clients are encouraged to select the healthiest foods for their families. The dry goods and household items are systematically organized. Clothing is folded and hung on racks, giving someone the sense of walking through a store.
Recent increased donations have called for people who are dedicated and devoted to helping others to help staff the center. Heather Yoreo and Kathy Pasakarnis are two of the fifteen volunteers and members of Our Savior who dedicate their time at The Bridge. They are considered essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides a few alternative safety precautions made to keep the staff and public safe, they have forged ahead making baskets and pre-packed boxes of donated items ready for pick up.
Heather Yoreo states, “The Bridge is different from other food pantries in the area. Although we are blessed to be able to provide food and clothing, the volunteers at The Bridge most enjoy the opportunity to build relationships with our clients and are happy to share our faith and pray with clients who are often going through very challenging personal, emotional, physical, and financial hardships.”
The Bridge has a case worker that is available for crisis support, housing services, building a resume, or guidance.
Tammy Choleva expressed, “The Bridge is not just a food pantry, we build a relationship and keep the relationship. The Bridge is hope connecting people with Jesus.”
Local businesses and groups also step in to meet the needs of thousands of clients of The Bridge, particularly during the holiday season. Carhartt is collaborating with a “Wish-mas” Tree and food drive. Other local businesses, including Evereve and PetSmart have also provided numerous items.
Neighbors who may need a shoulder to lean on are embraced with open arms by members of The Bridge as they carry out their mission of hope, dedication, and a profound love for God and the community. The staff and volunteers at The Bridge are cheerfully committed to ensuring that all families have the support that they require.