Q. Where is building bridges located?


We meet Thursday evenings at St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Interested participants and volunteers can contact Building Bridges staff to learn about the specific meeting locations and times.


Q. What do you look for in a building bridges participant?


Participants come from many different backgrounds. A Participant who will experience success in the Building Bridges initiative is someone who has his or her basic needs met but is still “stuck” in a place of limited resources and opportunities to move forward. Participants are usually at a stable place in life but are considered low income. They have taken steps to care for any personal needs or crises, such as substance abuse or mental illness, so that they are able to focus on long-term plans and changes to improve their financial stability and make other changes to reach long-term goals.


Q. What do you look for in an Ally?


Building Bridges has both Allies and Ad Hoc Allies. Allies are people who want to invest in a long-term friendship with another person and understand that change takes time. Allies are willing to listen, ask questions, and provide support and encouragement within their Network. Allies enjoy getting to know other people and have time to participate at least 6 hours per month.

Ad Hoc Allies are more task-oriented people who enjoy helping others accomplish specific tasks and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. They may be in interested in completing tasks like providing pro-bono work as a financial consultant, lawyer or mechanic, or they may be interested in teaching skills like budgeting or driving. Ad Hoc Allies may be people who are too busy to give a long-term commitment to being a regular Ally, but want to share their time and talent with the Building Bridges Participant.


Q. Isn’t an Ally just another name for a mentor?


An Ally is different from a traditional mentor because the focus is on reciprocal friendship with the Building Bridges Participant, rather than a mentor relationship in which a person with more expertise comes into a relationship focused on a one-way sharing and support. Allies will receive support and will learn from their Building Bridges Participant and the other Allies as part of the process. Allies and Participants are always matched in groups rather than as a one-on-one pair: each network is a group of at least three.


Q. How can I volunteer?


Call Building Bridges staff to schedule a meeting to discuss your volunteer interests. All Allies, child care, and resource team members go through an informal screening process with the staff to ensure that their volunteer placement is the best fit for their skills and personality.


Q. What training and supports are available to a building bridges volunteer?


We ask all volunteers (other than those providing meals) to attend a few basic training sessions before they begin participating in Building Bridges. Additional training opportunities are also available throughout the year for interested volunteers. Volunteer Allies and Resource Team members participate in a general orientation about the Building Bridges initiative. Allies also participate in follow-up training about forming healthy relationships with Building Bridges Participants, which covers stages of relationships, boundaries, and appropriate forms of helping one another. After being matched with Building Bridges Participants, Allies receive ongoing support.

Child care volunteers attend a general orientation to learn about Building Bridges and the roles of the child care volunteers. Rules and procedures related to the conduct of child care volunteers, behavior management, and addressing safety concerns are provided.


Q. How are Allies and building bridges participants Matched?


Allies and Participants are matched in groups of one Participant or one Family and 2 or 3 volunteer Allies. The allies are invited to join the Participants/Families for several meals towards the end of the Building Bridges Participant training. They are also invited to attend the Building Bridges Participant Graduation Celebration. Both of these opportunities allow Participants and Allies to begin forming more informal connections while sharing meals together. The graduation ceremony allows Allies to hear more personal stories from the Building Bridges Particpants as they share about what they took away from the Participant training and the types of goals that they have made for themselves.

After graduation, Allies are encouraged to attend at least four weekly meetings in a row for the matching process. During the first month of Building Bridges meetings, the group will do various Get-to-Know-You activities to facilitate conversations and connections between Allies and Participants. The Building Bridges staff focus primarily on matching Allies and Participants based on natural connections that are formed as everyone gets to know one another. Attention is also given to personal interests and the compatibility of Building Bridges Participant’s goals and Ally skills. Allies and Participants are also asked to give input into the matching decision. Building Bridges staff considers this input during the matching process.


Q. How does building bridges really make a difference?


We work to build relationships across class lines as a way to improve community conditions. The Building Bridges program reduces the number of families and individuals who rely on government programs and charitable aid. More importantly, it breaks the cycle of poverty as graduates teach their children how to get ahead, not just get by. The program can increase the number of educated workers in the community and also reduce the unemployment and incarceration rates. Building Bridges has already begun changing lives right here at home.