Bridges Out of Poverty merges with Goodwill Industries of Michiana
By Joseph Dits South Bend Tribune May 19, 2018
Bridges Out of Poverty
SOUTH BEND — Ten years after it formed, a charity that aims to “bridge” the gap from poverty to self sufficiency has merged with Goodwill Industries of Michiana.
St. Joseph County Bridges Out of Poverty moved into the Goodwill offices at 1805 W. Western Ave., a measure to save on overhead and expenses but also to expand Bridges’ reach across northern Indiana.
Many of Bridges’ clients worked but faced barriers to becoming self sufficient, but, through the program, have gleaned secrets to success from professionals. In 2017, Bridges reports that it reached 500 individuals through classes, plus trainings for employers, churches and agencies. That also includes clients who received help from its Employer Resource Network, which links them with services in times of crisis so they don’t lose their jobs.
Guy Fisher, Goodwill’s vice president of mission advancement, said the network, by helping employers to stem the high cost of replacing workers, fits with Goodwill’s focus on workforce development.
Also, he said Goodwill has hosted Bridges classes in St. Joseph County and supported the program since its early years. Now, Fisher said that Goodwill is eager to eventually bring the Bridges curriculum to Goodwill campuses and career centers in a half dozen cities, along with other classes, across the 16 counties it serves from Lake to Kosciusko counties.
“It’s a part of what Goodwill has embraced for many years,” he said.
Bridges Director LeRoy King said that, if Bridges had remained on its own in an office next to the Episcopal Church of St. James in downtown, it would still struggle to answer a long-held goal: “How do we increase our capacity?”
This will also solve a financial shortfall that Bridges has seen in recent years, officials say, since it won’t need to deal with building expenses and contract out for accounting. In 2016, Bridges’ revenue of $182,201 was $56,106 shy of expenses, according to what the charity reported to the Internal Revenue Service. The prior year brought in about $17,000 more than expenses, but it ran a deficit in years before that.
King said the current programs won’t change. and Bridges still has two staff members, plus five AmeriCorps workers and a handful of class facilitators who are contracted.
The merger was completed April 1. Bridges now goes by the title Bridges Out of Poverty Goodwill Industries of Michiana. Bridges can still be reached at its prior phone number, 574-246-0533, as well as Goodwill’s main line, 574-472-7300.
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