Although the Bridge Emergency Shelter has been a fixture in the community for 6+ years, it has had its first executive director for only the last two years. The Bridge was begun as an all-volunteer effort and while volunteers remain an essential need to the shelter, a paid staff is also needed to maintain safety and consistency. It has been an honor to serve as the Bridges first executive director
I started with the shelter as a part-time employee and quickly realized that this was no part-time job! It has certainly been a learning journey for all of us. We have undergone some major planning and program changes, grown to include the Day Labor Center and the Garden Project and to support a full-time executive director. Some of these efforts were rewarded with new funding from the Navajo Nation and new relationships with Axis Health System and Southwest Memorial Hospital.
The changes made to the shelter program were focused on increased safety and increased number of positive outcomes for clients. Overall, staff and clients enjoyed the changes made. They reported feeling an increased perception of safety, and the number of positive outcomes did increase tremendously! We were also able to add services, such as job searching assistance (thanks to a computer donated by the Montezuma County Sheriffs Office) and emergency food boxes to people referred to us through other agencies.
All of this has been made possible by the generous contributions of community members and agencies. Thank you to all of the fantastic volunteers who have helped with a shelter shift or a fundraising event.
A big special thanks to Graces Soup Kitchen and Hopes Soup Kitchen for providing our dinner meal service, and to all of their outstanding cooks and volunteers!
And thanks to all the agencies supporting the shelter: The Cortez Police Department, the Montezuma County Sheriffs Office, the Salvation Army, Axis Health System, Southwest Memorial Hospital, and United Way of Southwest Colorado. Together we really can make a difference!
As I transition away from the shelter over to Manna Soup Kitchen in Durango, I have had the opportunity to reflect on our work at the shelter and all the valuable lessons I have learned along the way. One of the most remarkable things I have been able to see is the amazing caring and sharing people in our community, their generosity and their heartfelt giving and the impact that creates! Thank you all so much for remembering the most vulnerable in the community and for supporting the mission of the Bridge.
Some ways to continue (or begin) supporting the Bridge are to go out to a participating restaurant on July 20th for a Night Out for the Bridge, volunteer in the garden at the Day Labor Center this summer or for a shelter shift this winter, send a donation to PO Box 56, Cortez CO 81321, or www.thebridgeshelter.org, or call 970-565-9808 to arrange a donation of food items or other shelter necessities (see website for a list).
Sara Wakefield has been the interim executive director at the Bridge Emergency Shelter.