The shelter’s mission set to begin

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Bridge Emergency Shelter Manager Donna Boyd will be looking for more donations to stock the shelves for when the shelter opens on Oct. 15. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Bridge Emergency Shelter Manager Donna Boyd will be looking for more donations to stock the shelves for when the shelter opens on Oct. 15.

The American dream. It’s what every person strives for. The car, the home, the perfect family. A refrigerator covered with picturesque Christmas cards and gifts under the tree is what comes to mind.

But when trying to achieve this dream, some have fallen short. Missed opportunities, wrong choices or life-changing traumatic experiences — the reasons are not the same for everyone.

Thankfully, folks at the Bridge Emergency Shelter care about those who have lost their way. They see a new beginning where others may feel hopeless.

The Bridge will open for its seventh season on Monday, Oct. 15 and will keep its doors open through April 15, 2013. Clients can come to the shelter from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following day.

“Our mission is to provide shelter and hot meals for those in need,” said Donna Boyd, The Bridge Shelter manager. “We want to reduce unnecessary illness and death during the cold weather months.”

This is Boyd’s second season to manage the shelter. She helps implement and maintain a structured environment within the shelter so that clients can regain the life skills needed to get back on their feet. They are currently operating without an executive director, so Boyd shares the many responsibilities of the shelter with M.B. McAfee, Board Director for the shelter.

In the 2011 season, 224 individuals were served during the 183 nights they were open. The shelter averaged 20 clients a night.

“We expect to have 15 to 20 percent returning clients and 10 to 15 percent of our population will be full-time employed workers who can’t afford housing.”

Boyd says they served 40 clients in one single night last season and that trend continued for a week straight.

Two staff members stay at the shelter overnight, and volunteers work in the evening and morning. The goal is to someday build a kitchen in one of the rooms provided, but that idea is on hold for now. Boyd hopes to pick that up again in a few months to keep the shelter growing.

Currently hot meals are donated on a nightly basis.

The success stories of the bridge are growing as well.

Last year was very productive and the staff were directly involved with 19 clients. Out of those 19, they were able to help find permanent housing for three, get two individuals enrolled at Southwest Colorado Community College, two into the GED testing program, find permanent job positions for four and ushered seven back to their homes.

“Our focus is to help people get back on their feet but don’t know where to go,” Boyd said. “We help them get their IDs, get their GED, get enrolled in college or direct them to the resources needed for housing, health care and food vouchers.”

They also work with Axis Health System to provide mental and physical health screenings for individuals who are interested. A counselor is on staff and two Americorps workers will be joining the ranks. Volunteers and paid staff work to aid individuals who are tired of fighting the system or need help finding useful resources.

“We cannot help everyone,” Boyd said. “But we can provide them a warm bed and hot meals and keep them safe. And we can provide services to those who have simply lost those general life skills it takes to survive.”

The Bridge Emergency Shelter is always in need of volunteers and donations. A volunteer training is held once a month and volunteers are needed from 6 to 10 p.m. or 5 to 7 a.m.

The shelter currently needs a variety of items including plastic spoons, paper products such as towels and toilet paper, sugar and powdered bulk drinks like packets of Kool-Aid or Gatorade. They would also like to request used, small bookshelves or end tables. Any and all donations will be accepted.

For more information on The Bridge Emergency Shelter and their services visit their website at www.the or call 565-9808.