The Bridge, whose mission is to connect people to hope, is an outreach ministry of Our Savior Lutheran Church in South Windsor, Connecticut.
Through Urban Alliance's Beyond the Basics initiative, Our Savior Lutheran Church has received training, tools, supplies and grant funding to offer a community resource center, community resource coaches and classes on financial literacy at The Bridge. By offering a community resource center, staff and volunteers at The Bridge are able to connect people who visit their pantry to additional local services and resources that match their specific needs. Community resource coaches provide case management services that motivate clients to set goals, connect to appropriate resources and take steps towards achieving their goals.
“Our pantry currently serves 37 families,” said Nancy Swiatkiewicz, who leads the efforts at The Bridge. “And of the 37 families, we have seven case management clients.”
The Bridge helps community members meet their basic needs by providing free food and clothing.
“When they come in, we greet them, and if it’s a new client we take them into the conference room and fill out the intake forms,” explained Swiatkiewicz. “At that point they go into our healthy choice pantry and they can choose the number of items according to their family.”
The Bridge has implemented the Supporting Wellness at Pantries System (SWAP) at their pantry, which was created at the University of Saint Joseph and is based on the Dietary Guidelines. The system provides detailed criteria for classifying foods as “green” (choose often), “yellow” (choose sometimes) or “red” (choose rarely). The SWAP system empowers people who visit food pantries to make informed decisions when selecting food and increases their knowledge about the nutrition of the food they eat.
34 volunteers at The Bridge serve 37 families from seven towns. Sue Albano is one of those volunteers.
“I help clients go through getting their food, getting their clothing and praying with them,” she explained.
The goal for volunteers at The Bridge is to greet the clients and build relationships with them.
“Our pantry is a little different than ordinary pantries, because we offer case management,” said Swiatkiewicz. “When a new client comes in, a community resource coach meets with them and asks them if they want to enter into our program where they pick two or three goals and then they work with the community resource coach for nine months to help meet those goals.”
The whole purpose of The Bridge’s program is to have clients become less dependent upon their services when completed.
Urban Alliance has partnered with The Bridge since 2015.
“Urban Alliance has helped The Bridge [by equipping] us with case management,” shared Swiatkiewicz. “They’ve been awesome. They provide all the case management services training to our case managers, all at no charge.”
She added, “They also offer monthly case management meetings, where all the case managers of various organizations get together and brainstorm.”
The Bridge provides material items like food and clothing to community members, while building relationships with them, but their ultimate goal is to give people hope and share Jesus’s love with them.
Staff and volunteers at The Bridge meet with clients by appointment several days a week. For more information, visit www.oursaviorct.org/groups/the-bridge, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860.372.4141.
Click here to learn more about Beyond the Basics and other Urban Alliance initiatives.